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[TR] Wind River Range, WY - Cirque of the Towers 7/14/2007

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Trip: Wind River Range, WY - Cirque of the Towers


Date: 7/14/2007


Trip Report:

Spent three nights near Hidden Creek Falls below Warrior Two in the Winds. Weather was perfect in the mornings (after climbing at City of Rocks, the Cotton Wood Canyons, and *gasp* Moab), but turned into hailing thunderstorms everyday between 3 and 5.


This was my fourth time in the Winds, but my first for climbing. We kept our route choices pretty mellow to accommodate our short weather windows (leaving plenty to return for!).


Drive to Big Sandy TH



8.7 mile hike in.



First views of Warbonnet and the Cirque







Pingora Peak, South Buttress.

This is the route that everyone feels they must do while in the Cirques. We were the only ones on the route, but we ran into two other parties on our descent (down the route, in a snow storm).


As seen from Hidden Creek



As seen from the top of Shark's Nose.



Jojo coming up the first pitch.



The route starts with an interesting approach up switch-backing ledges. This takes you to the start of the technically climbing. We continued straight up the shoulder, but saw two parties off to the right on the original Pingora route (Diagonal Ledges, or something like that). With about 20 feet of simul climbing I lead us to the base of the k-cracks. Jojo took us to the top via the left hand-most crack just as lightning started to crash on peaks to the north. Despite our better judgment, we each ran to the 11,884 foot summit for a quick peak (pun intended) before hurriedly descending via two 60 meter raps and one short rap (in hail/snow).




If you are trying to get back to the base of the route, make sure you rap in that direction; following the most webbing and obvious fall line will take you to the west side of the buttress (this entails an additional rap or two, but will take you all the way to the ground, eliminating the switch-backing ledges).


By the time we reached the ground, it was blue skies again.




Shark’s Nose, Overhang Tower.

The weather had done the same thing for two days: not a single cloud in the sky until noon, then hail and lightning between 3 and 5. We were still craving summits, but weren’t willing to risk the bad weather, so we settled on an exciting 4 pitcher up the NW corner of Sharks Nose, with a 5.2 simul climb up the west face of overhang tower on our way back to camp. Indeed, the day was beautiful until 4PM when we returned to camp and were pounded by penny-sized hail.


We left camp at 7:30 and climbed to Cirque Lake(?). We skirted it on the North side, climbing towards a notch between Wolf’s Head and Overhang Tower. From the notch we enjoyed a new view, then traversed along the west side of Overhang, following exciting ramps to the notch between it and Shark’s. The route follows obvious ramps and weaknesses, with plenty of variations (as Jojo took advantage of leading us out right for the final pitch, bumping the grade a bit).


From east side of Cirque Lake. Shark's in the center, Overhang on the right. Ascend the talus on right side of pic, then around backside.



Same view as above, but from peak of Pingora. The classic east ridge of Wolf's Head is on the right.



Another shot of Wolf's Head east ridge from Pingora and one from Cirque Lake showing a party on the route.





View from the west side of Overhang.



Summit shots on Shark's.




**camera battery dies at this point**


The descent, as the guidebook says, is non-trivial. We made three 30 meter raps, always trending back towards the Shark/Overhang notch. The last of these had a rope eating crack, which required me to climb 30 back up for a rope-opsy. We then made a full 60 rap down a very low angle slab to the end of the first pitch, followed by some 3rd class back to the first belay, and one more 30 meter rap to the notch.


The weather was still looking good at this point, so on our way back around Overhang Tower we ran up it’s mellow west side. This side is the antithesis of its namesake east face. 2-3 short raps and some down climbing had us on our way back to camp.



We did not make our way to the top of this one, descending before reaching the Plume because of threatening clouds. Despite the allure of Black Elk, we knew that this was not a wise time to attempt this gem. We opted instead for one of the two 5.7 II routes that ascend the north face above the Plume.

We planned on doing this climb, then hiking out to the trailhead, so we broke camp in the morning and descended from Jackass Pass to the west side of Arrowhead Lake via a climber’s path. We stashed out heavy pack near the southern outlet of the lake since this is where we planned to ascend rightward trending ramps to the Plume/Warbonnet notch. The plan was to descend the 2/3 class south side of the peak, coming down the final talus within close proximity of our packs.


Do not underestimate the climb to the Plume/Warbonnet notch. It was much longer than it appeared from the deck and had plenty of airy moves. The weather this day was different from the rest, with large cumulus clouds already forming in the late morning. Knowing what this meant the three previous days, we turned around just before reaching the notch, retracing our path with a rap thrown in for good measure.


Next time.


Gear Notes:

We used two 60 meter half ropes for everything; good for rope drag, weight, and rappels. Our rack consisted of 12 light runners, a set of nuts, and selected cams up to 3 inches supplemented with hexes.


Approach Notes:

We used the quickest trailhead: Big Sandy. We drove to it from the south, which entailed 40+ miles of awesome gravel road where we only saw a couple of other cars. We didn’t start to hike until 3:30, but made it the 8.7 miles to camp before sunset, slowed down by thunder and hail.


At the southern end of Arrowhead Lake the trail splits. We followed the “real” trail up and to the right. This way is graded for backpackers, but requires you to descend and re-ascend in order to reach the meadow below Hidden Lake. On the other hand, the left fork takes you around the west side of Arrowhead, but requires some delicate boulder maneuvering (tricky with a basecamp on your back). This way will take you straight to where you want to go, but is steeper.



Edited by devinejohnny

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Very nice TR!


Do not underestimate the climb to the Plume/Warbonnet notch. It was much longer than it appeared from the deck and had plenty of airy moves.


I thought so too when we did it 3 or 4 years ago. Also, we did one of those routes and it sure seemed fun for a "II 5.7".

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Nice trip! Fun times!


The weather sounds like typical Rocky Mountain summertime patterns, i.e. short thunderstorms in the PM sandwiched between stellar weather in the AM and evening. Often if you are unable to summit before the thunderstorms, you can simply wait it out on a ledge for 20-30 minutes then continue on your merry way (the rock usually dries quite fast). The danger, of course, being that either a.) they don't subside quickly enough, or b.) you get hit by lightening.

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