Wind River Range - Baptiste and Lonesome Lakes Loops

Jen

Formerly colefeet
.
Joined
Feb 7, 2012
Messages
163
I ended up with an unexpected week off after other travel plans fell through, and I couldn't think of anything more wonderful to do with my time than cross off a bucket list location - the Wind River Range. I had been reading trip reports on it and seeing gorgeous pictures for a while so decided to give it a try. Armed with fresh weather/bug beta from Nick and his gang who had been there the week before for his birthday trip, I hit the trails. I had read everyone's trip reports but just couldn't bring myself to sit down with a map and really route plan, but I found an awesome book at REI called "Backpacking Wyoming" by Douglas Laramie. He had a 5 day route in there called the Lonesome and Baptiste Lakes loop that sounded challenging, the right length, and really covered the areas that from my research i wanted to see, with little or not route planning necessary on my part. This route was awesome, his trail descriptions were super accurate, his advice was spot on, and his maps were so good i barely even needed my topo. And he's cherry-picked some of the best routes so lazy folk like myself can hit the highlights. Even though i was out by myself, i felt like Mr. Lorain was there leading the way the whole time. Look for the boot trail on the left marked by a cairn before the river crossing? Boom! there it is. Thanks, buddy.

So on the advice of Mr Lorain and @lostlandscapes trip report, i decided to do my trip counterclockwise to eventually approach Texas Pass from the steep side, which worked out really well. I started at the big sandy trailhead and trekked over the following figure-8 shaped route laid out by Mr Lorain (well, this was his ideal route. I adapted it as I went to include nap times and getting lost a bit...):

Big sandy trailhead->Skull lake (side day trip to Mae's and pyramid Lake) -> across Hailey pass to grave lake (home of the most beautiful private beach ever) with side trip to Baptiste Lake -> down bear's ears and washakie trail across washakie pass to loop back around to shadow lake -> across Texas Pass, down into the Cirque and past lonesome lake, across Jackass pass to clear lake -> day trip to deep and temple lakes -> out to Big Sandy. (hey @Nick, how do i embed a map?)

After passing a solo trekker on his way out and some fishermen at Dad's lake, I saw no one for 3.5 days until i got all the way to lonesome lake. It was a beautiful trip full of solitude, mosquitoes, spider webs, wildflowers, and not a bear in sight. I was glad to have done the first half of the figure 8 first, as i feel i would have been underwhelmed by the rest of it after seeing the cirque. As it was I appreciated the beauty of the entire range. The only thing I would change on this trip would be camping at Skull Lake. It wasn't all that pretty and the bugs there were TERRIBLE. As in, eating dinner with my (best purchase decision ever) mosquito head net on as they would not leave me alone. I'd rather stay at the slightly prettier and less populated Mae's lake. I took standard bear precautions everywhere but didn't stay in any heavily trafficked areas (Big sandy or lonesome lake), so never felt too worried and never saw any tracks. I used a 32F down sleeping bag with my 3/4 length z-rest and slept warm, regulating temp with hat, fleece and socks. I only had rain on the first two nights, never during the day, so I can't complain about the weather at all :D Water was plentiful (and tasty!), and i did ok on bug control with a small bottle of 100% DEET and my head net (that i really only had to use at skull lake, but was very grateful for). I did end up with a bit of sun poisoning and a couple of scary tick bites, so i'd say don't forget the long sleeves and do your tick checks out there.

and, i apparently suck at using computers as I deleted my post while trying to preview it with pictures, so for now take this picture, as mine are never as good at those fancy photographer's anyways :)

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also, the only other thing i want to say is that you should take the regular jackass pass that goes up and over the ledge above the lake. do not take the "climber's route" that runs over a shorter section of the pass and along the right side of the lake (in this picture below). You will end up pulling V3 moves on house-sized boulders with your pack on, staring down at 25 foot drops between rocks to the watery depths below, just waiting for you to slip and get stuck in. You will be covered in clouds of mosquitoes, and notice just at the most inopportune time that clouds of mosquitoes bring webs full of giant, black rock spiders. you will be thinking "they told me to be careful. this is the opposite of careful". If your significant other/mother/dog/cat/grandma loves you and told you to be safe on your trip, don't take this route. Follow the map, never the advice of CDT thru-hikers. Who are apparently way tougher than me.
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Aldaron

Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2012
Messages
1,485
Sounds great! Thanks for sharing!

also, the only other thing i want to say is that you should take the regular jackass pass that goes up and over the ledge above the lake. do not take the "climber's route" that runs over a shorter section of the pass and along the right side of the lake (in this picture below). You will end up pulling V3 moves on house-sized boulders with your pack on, staring down at 25 foot drops between rocks to the watery depths below, just waiting for you to slip and get stuck in.

Was this around Arrowhead Lake? Last year, I took the regular trail over Jackass Pass, and looked down at the lake and thought, "Hey, that looks faster." I was solo on my way out and hiked around Arrowhead. This is how I described it in my trip report: "I hiked along the backside of Arrowhead Lake, which involved a lot of large boulder hopping...not really a good idea when you're by yourself with a full pack.
Oh well, I lived."
 

Bob

Trailmaster
Joined
Mar 3, 2013
Messages
2,845
Winds never get crossed off. Looks like a nice trip. I've been over part of your route on one of our long trips.
 

Yvonne

I lava it!!!
Joined
Jan 19, 2012
Messages
3,664
what a wonderful trip!! Looks like you had a fantastic time!!
And just looking at your pictures let me get so excited about my first Winds trip coming up in August.
Originally planned for next year it somehow will get crossed off my bucket list this year. I'm definitely not unhappy about the fact :)
 

Nick

-
.
Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,934
Awesome!!! Sounds like a fantastic loop! So glad you got out there and knocked it out! Now time to head to the northern Winds! :)

hey @Nick, how do i embed a map?

Short answer - make a map in your Google Maps (My Places). Click the link button, copy link, paste into the post editor on BCP, map appears automatically. No need for embed code or anything.

Long answer - http://backcountrypost.com/forum/threads/embedding-maps.1281/

also, the only other thing i want to say is that you should take the regular jackass pass that goes up and over the ledge above the lake. do not take the "climber's route" that runs over a shorter section of the pass and along the right side of the lake (in this picture below). You will end up pulling V3 moves on house-sized boulders with your pack on, staring down at 25 foot drops between rocks to the watery depths below, just waiting for you to slip and get stuck in. You will be covered in clouds of mosquitoes, and notice just at the most inopportune time that clouds of mosquitoes bring webs full of giant, black rock spiders. you will be thinking "they told me to be careful. this is the opposite of careful". If your significant other/mother/dog/cat/grandma loves you and told you to be safe on your trip, don't take this route. Follow the map, never the advice of CDT thru-hikers. Who are apparently way tougher than me.

I have to disagree on this, but with a caveat. As we were heading into the cirque, it seemed half the people were adamantly against the 'climbers route' and half loved it and said the other way was a joke. We decided to go in via the climbers route and planned to go out via the standard Jackass Pass route.

After picking along the side of Arrowhead Lake, we got to the now infamous boulder pile. It looked pretty nasty down low so we walked up about 1/3 of the way and noticed a cairn. It led to another and another, making a pretty easy crossing of the boulder pile that popped out alongside the steep trail on the other side. We were going to go back via Jackass but we liked that route so much that we just went back out the same way. I highly recommend it, assuming you go up about 1/3 of the slide and follow the cairns. It sounds like the low road is pretty freaking scary!

EDIT - If you're hiking with a dog or any other scrambling-challenged travelers, definitely avoid the climbers route, even if you find the easier cairned part.
 

slc_dan

Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Messages
1,686
excellent. Thanks for sharing!

I can't wait to get up there.
 

ogdendude

Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2013
Messages
86
I did a version of this trip (but shorter) about 10 years ago. I had read about how bad the mosquitoes can be. To my pleasant surprise I saw virtually no bugs at all. It may have been due to it being a very dry year. It increased my enjoyment immensely. I also was amazed at how great the fishing is. I am not a fisherman by any standard, but I was getting a hit on every cast.
Another memory from the trip was the herd of prong horneds sitting in the middle of road on the way to Big Sandy.
 

baltocharlie

Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Messages
324
I love your 3rd pix. It really captures an alpine meadow. Did it alone, well done. Often solo trips are my favorite.
 

Laura

freespirittraveler
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
Messages
957
Fantastic trip, and it looks like you did it solo-you go girl! I especially love pic# 7, with the reflection and curving shoreline. And of course the one of you with the huge grin-says it all! :D
 

TannerT

Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
Joined
May 15, 2013
Messages
589
The Winds never disappoint. What an amazing bucket list trip. Thanks for sharing and those photos are beautiful.

Salud
 
Joined
Oct 20, 2013
Messages
20
Very nice report and photos. Congratulations on completing a great route. A couple of my friends and myself completed a similar route during the week of August 12-16 of 2013. Though we had been often to Big Sandy Lake and the surrounding area, this was our first trip up the west side of Laturio Mountain on the trail to Grave Lake. After leaving Grave Lake, however, we continued up the Bear's Ears trail to where the Lizard Head trail heads to the Cirque and then we traveled to the Cirque and hiked out through Big Sandy Opening-a very nice 52 mile loop!

Just a couple of pointers. I found Skull Lake a nice place to camp and great fishing (13 fish on 17 casts!) but you are right, it was pretty busy. I think Pyramid Lake would be a great place to camp-very beautiful and not very crowded at all. Didn't get a chance to fish there because the weather was turning ugly and we wanted to get over Hailey Pass before it got really bad.

The other item has to do with the Climber's Pass into (or, in this case, out of the Cirque). If you take the Climber's Pass into the Cirque, stay up as high against the cliffs as you can till you get past the boulder field and you will find it very easy. Then once you are past the boulder field you are finished-you will pick up a nicely traveled trail all the way to the Cirque and some great camping. Remember though that the Cirque is very popular and very crowded. If you are headed south out of the Cirque and wish to avoid Jack Ass Pass (it isn't called that for nothing!) then, again, stay as high up against the rocks as soon as you get into them (the trail seems to go down-but go up instead) and you will find it quite easy and not at all dangerous. I won't ever go over JAP again!!

Anyway, I hope you get another chance to return to the Winds. They deserve their reputation as a premier wilderness destination. Happy Hiking!!!
 
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