Earlier this summer, I visited my hometown, Pinedale, Wyoming, to see family and ski a peak I’ve been eyeing since I was a kid. The second half of this blog shares helpful guidelines to recreate responsibly during the pandemic.
The Wyoming Range is nestled between the famed Teton Range and the massive Wind River Range. The Winds are protected by three separate wilderness areas and host the tallest peak in Wyoming, Gannett Peak reaching 13,804 feet. While the Winds and the Tetons are awe-inspiring, this was a perfect time to hit a more conservative zone. The Wyoming Range is not wilderness, so you can drive right to the base of the peaks on remote dirt roads. It’s one of my favorite places to rip my snowmobile in the winter.
Photo credit: Jeremy Lato
My family homesteaded in the Wyoming Range outside of Pinedale in the early 1900s. They utilized skis as a necessary mode of travel around the ranch and surviving winter in the coldest part of the country. Over the past two years, I’ve been working on a film project retracing family roots in winter sports. This summer ski mission was to cap off the project and ski an iconic peak in my family history.
Along for the ride was Jeremy and our dog Boss. After driving through miles of the “open range” covered with cattle and antelope, we reached the base of the mountain. We stared at the milky way with zero light pollution for miles. The Wyoming night sky is absolutely incredible.
Before sunrise, I strapped my Nia Pro skis to my backpack and began the bushwack to the snow. Starting early is key to avoid to the effects of the sun on snow stability. I climbed up the southeast ridge until the final push that required boot packing to the top.
I took in a short moment of glory on top before radioing to Jeremy I was ready to ski down. He and Boss hiked over to meet me at the bottom of the run. From the summit of the peak I chose to ski, you can actually see the Grand Teton (100 miles away) and the entire 100 miles length of the Wind River Range.
Dropping in wearing shorts, looking across the valley to see lush green hills with the remaining narrow strips of snow was quite invigorating - especially after months of staying home.
After another night camped out, exploring, and swimming with our dog, Jeremy and I drove back to Pinedale.
Photo: Jeremy Lato
My dad had just reopened his restaurant for the summer. Pitchfork Fondue Western Cookout is the prime spot to kick back with wide-open space, outdoor seating, views of the Wind River Range, and authentic cowboy cooking. Imagine cooking a steak on the tines of a pitchfork in a cauldron of hot oil heated by a wood fire. . . that’s it (or trout or chicken). It’s a good reminder that spending time outdoors with the people we love is what really matters through all this chaos. Let’s do more of that and help others do the same.
Working as a backpacking guide for Sawtooth Mountain Guides, I’ve adopted the standard procedure for recreating responsibly on personal trips during COVID-19. Here are a few suggestions on how to enjoy the sport you love while keeping others in mind. Take every common-sense effort to mitigate risk for yourself and others.
- Studies show being outdoors, fresh air, and sunshine are lower risks for transmission. Time to get outside!
- Social distancing even outdoors is key. Bring a mask in case you need to be closer than 6 feet. (Carpooling, climbing belay stations, etc.)
- Pack hand sanitizer and use it often. Or even better, bring soap and water for full hand washing.
- Add face masks and extra gloves to your first aid kit. Just like you’d wear gloves when dealing with another person’s blood, toss a face mask for treating someone in close proximity. This is the standard procedure for guides and rescue professionals - might as well make it part to of your recreational process, too. If not your group, you may need to help another party, and a mask will come in handy.
Make an emergency plan as if no external resources are available. How will you self-evacuate if shit hits the fan? On this trip, I was able to drive my truck to the base of the mountain and had radio comms, a contingency plan with my partner, and quick self-evac ready based on Wilderness First Responder training. Not sure why this applies? Read this report of What Happens When You Need a Rescue During a Pandemic. And get your WFR training!
- Risk versus reward is a common discussion deciding the level of hazard you’re willing to take. Now more than ever, take into consideration the consequences of the outcome to those outside of your group. Know your boundaries and stay in them. Eliminating the need for first aid or rescue is the best mitigation.
- Playing with friends outside of your household? Bring your own food, don’t share snacks/drinks. Imagine everyone has serious cudies.
- Recreate Responsibly. No matter how you like to get outside, we are all united by the love we share for our parks, trails, and waterways. The need to #RecreateResponsibly will continue even after the pandemic is behind us. We have a shared responsibility to care for one another and these places to ensure they remain for future generations to enjoy. Learn more: https://www.recreateresponsibly.org/
#ReturnToNature #Icelantic #NiaPro105 #RecreateResponsibly