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Trip to the Cirque of the Towers (Wind River Range, WY)

Dean on the first pitch of Pingora
picture of Dean on the first pitch of Pingora

We (Myself, Dean, Marty, and Gina) left Wednesday early, and hiked from Big Sandy Trailhead up past Big Sandy Lake to the Cirque. There was a lot less snow and bugs than the previous time I went in with Kirk. As usual there was a 3:30 mini storm to herald our arrival. (but with no lightning strikes).

Pingora as seen from Wolf's Head
picture of Pingora as seen from Wolf's Head

Dean and I got up at 5 am the next morning. It was still mostly dark, but we quickly got underway. We ended up not hiking the most direct way (lots of scrambling involved) to the base of the NW buttress of Pingora. Things went well for the first 5 or so pitches(rope lengths). Unfortunately the route map suggested that the route trended to the right for about an entire pitch. After doing that, and heading up what might have been the next bit, we were in unfamiliar territory. We wasted quite some time heading up into territory that quickly got beyond the 5.8 difficulty that the climb was supposed to be. At one point I peaked around the edge of an overhang to see a vast vertical blank wall. definitely not the route. Lost on the sea of granite, eventually I managed to flip the rope up over a horn with a rap anchor, and pull myself up. From there we rappelled back to easier territory and eventually got back on route. By then there were some threatening clouds and it was time to get up off the mountain. We rushed through the remaining pitches (10 in all). Rushed up over the top to the descent rappells. By the time we finished the raps, it was starting to rain.(about 3:30 again).

The next morning we were not able to get up so fast. We left camp around 8 am, and hiked to the intersection of Pingora and Wolf's Head. We started up the chimney between Pingora and a minor peak, (Tiger's Tooth or something like that). we quickly got to the top of that, and two very short raps took us to the start of the East ridge of Wolf's Head. (you probably could have just dropped by your hands).

Warriors I and II reflected in Lonesome Lake
picture of Warriors I and II reflected in Lonesome Lake

Then we were onto the East Ridge. Easy Climbing, but wild. It started out with a ramp about 2 feet wide tilted at 30 degrees with a lot of air on either side. I tiptoed across thinking "this is easier than a slack line, wider, and it doesn't wiggle". Then there was a steeper ramp 6-10 feet wide that we simul-climbed. (we both climbed at once, tied into the rope, and from time to time I would put in some protection). Then we walked along the top of the ridge (about 15 feet wide and flat). After that short easy bit, we dropped over the edge to traverse around a small tower. Easy but very exciting. Then through a slot chimney to a ledge on the other side of the ridge followed by an even airier traverse. At that point we caught up to a group that we had seen high on the ridge before we started. (they had trouble with the rope getting stuck through the slot).

A very cold morning on another trip to
the cirque with Andy and Reeve
picture of A very cold morning on another trip to the cirque with Andy and Reeve

Our pace slowed down a lot as we followed them for the rest of the climb. At the summit, we teamed up to rappel and downclimb the west face. Then we had a long dirty downscramble to the lake on the south side of Wolf's Head where we stopped for lunch. (we didn't want to stop up high, as there was the usual brief shower, this time at around 2:30).

That night Dean caught some fish (cutthroat trout I think), which Marty had mistakenly said "if you catch them, I'll clean them and cook them". Well, he cleaned them, but I ended up cooking. This was complicated by a rather small pan. But they turned out pretty tasty. The fourth day we hiked out. This was rather uneventful, and culminated in a very bracing dip in Big Sandy Creek.

link to someone's pictures of the cirque (not all labels appear to be in english)

Link to someone else's Pingora pictures