WY – East Torrey Creek, Northern Wind River Mountains, Fitzpatrick Wilderness

Cloud filled skies greeted me as I drove toward the Torrey Creek Trailhead. 

I’d passed through the Tetons earlier that day and witnessed Mother Nature’s fury. As the temperatures quickly plummeted 20 degrees, heavy rain, hail and winds blasted for a couple hours, I was reminded to pack accordingly for my upcoming trip. 

With 2.25 million acres and 110 miles to choose from, how did I decide on this trail as my first experience in the Winds? Well as most of you know I’m an opportunist. When friends needed help with a shuttle between trailheads, it made sense to start where I’d be meeting them especially as my goal is to hike more, drive less. 

The ranger station in Dubois was closed when I arrived so I headed out blindly hoping to find decent conditions. I’d recently seen a trip report of the loop I planned to hike which started on the Glacier Trail #801; I’d packed accordingly.

Based on Nancy Pallister’s book, Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, “the overall rating for this trip is EASY although off-trail navigation skills are critical.” Feeling a big pudgy and out of shape after abstaining from serious hiking the past couple of months, I figured EASY was exactly what I needed. And so it began . . . nice trail, beautiful bridge, perfect temperature, blue skies . . . 

Showcasing the power of snowmelt on West Torrey Creek. 

I was even welcomed with a rainbow.

I was ecstatic to be hiking this groomed trail in near perfect conditions. 

All too soon, I left maintained trail and followed the old trail to Bomber Falls, so named due to a WWII B-17 bomber crash site. According to Ron Adkison’s book, Hiking Wyoming’s Wind River Range, “expect to encounter faint tread, a tangle of fallen trees, and steep pitches.” I rate it a B+ for unmaintained trail conditions; it was pretty easy to follow, with not too many obstacles but the steep was really steep and could have used some nice switchbacks.  

The falls are hard to see in this photo but they were impossible to ignore with the constant pouring of an incredible amount of water. 

I was spent by the time I reached Bomber Basin, a mere 5.5-6 miles from the trailhead, albeit with 2400-2600′ of elevation gain. Looming thunderstorms helped cement the decision to spend the night next to this lovely stretch of East Torrey Creek. 

From a nearby bench, I had views of upper Bomber Falls, and was wooed to sleep by it’s lullaby. 

Route directions said to cross East Torrey Creek to avoid a “mass of horrible talus.” I found the cairns marking the crossing.

Slippery rocks with risky consequences were well beyond my comfort zone; the creek was much too high to cross safely in my opinion. I’d recently heard a saying, “no epic today is worth no epic tomorrows,” and this certainly applied here. 

I met a group the previous night who were returning from Bomber Lake. They successfully traversed the west side which made me feel “if they can do it, I can do it too.” I couldn’t help but remember the photos I’d seen of the beauty to be found ahead. All I had to do was get through a few miles of burned forest, deadfall, swamps and that mass of horrible tallus. 

I was tempted to turn around but I really didn’t want to repeat what I’d gone through, so onward I went. 

I found beauty along the way. 

I finally found snow around 9,500′. My route included travel in the 10-11,000′ elevation zone so I’d come prepared with microspikes and a Black Diamond Whippet. 

As I wandered through meadows, the wildflowers kept me somewhat distracted from the challenging terrain. 

This was the type of scenes I was expecting to find in the Winds. 

After hiking hard all day and not covering near enough miles to make Bomber Lake, I called it a night at the top of these lovely falls.

I was surrounded by beauty but also the never ending rubble. 

And enjoyed a night as queen of the lands. 

With morning came the decision to turn around. I knew what to expect by reversing my steps and the time it would take. With a commitment in 2.5 days, I sadly set forth to conquer those dreaded miles of boulder fields, mud bogs, down trees and so much misery. My body was really hating me. I was carrying a ton of extra weight with cold weather and rain gear, snow travel gear, and bear protection. 

With another thunderstorm threatening it was time to find camp. 

On my way in I’d marked a location as one with water and good views. I arrived just in time to quickly set up my tent and dive inside before the storm arrived with great furry. 

After a couple hours, the storm abated and I went out to gather water only to find these curious steps on the nearby sandbar.  

Upon closer examination, it was YOGI. Look again at the photo with the tent and the proximity. Would have you stayed or moved on? What do you think I did?

Earlier in the day, I found this fresh pile of scat. Maybe belonged to same bear. On this trip I also saw fresh moose scat and a day later saw a moose in the distance.

Other on-trail visitors. 

 

My favorite sightings were marmots and pikas. 

Extra credit was finding a couple of Big Horn Sheep near the trailhead. This area is winter home to a herd of 900. 

I can happily say I survived this trip. I feel humbled. The Winds won this time; I’ll win next time! 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: July 18-21, 2017
  • Mileage: Around 18 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Around 4,000′ ascent/descent
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: TONS
    • Overgrowth: Little
    • Signage: None
    • Terrain: EXTREMELY challenging boulder field and deadfall
  • Water: Plentiful
  • Camping: Plentiful
  • Solitude: Only saw the one group over the 4 days
  • Bugs: Plentiful
  • Precip: Afternoon storms
  • Temp: Lows of 45ish, highs 70-80
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 2 cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Be on your A game with fitness, prepared for multiple conditions, and good with navigational tools.

Links:

Resources:

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12 thoughts on “WY – East Torrey Creek, Northern Wind River Mountains, Fitzpatrick Wilderness

  1. Your photos are gorgeous! Wow! You have a splendid eye. Love the marmot and the exquisite flowers, and waterfalls and mountains and and and ….
    Are you using your phone or a dedicated camera? Which phone/camera?
    Thanks for posting your trip

  2. Pingback: WY – Deep Creek Lakes, Southern Wind River Mountains, Popo Agie Wilderness – Jan's Jaunts and Jabberings

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