On USGS topo maps, Turtle Rock is the whole "massif" that is the centerpiece of Central Vedauwoo, and it makes sense that the trail circumnavigating it is called Turtle Rock Trail.
However, climbers recognize several of the crags of this complex by individual names, which adds some flavor to the area but, more importantly, helps with the sorting of routes.
Hassler's Hatbox (no idea on the name origin) is one of the most distinguishable crags and has excellent views of the others. In addition to having a scrambling route to its summit, there are several good technical rock routes on it. An interesting feature of the summit is that it has several potholes which can make a scenic picture if it has rained recently.
If you're going to climb at Vedauwoo, you should get Heel and Toe: The Climbs of Greater Vedauwoo
, by Skip Harper and Rob Kelman. The Mountain Project page for Vedauwoo
is free to use and has a lot of information, but unless you already know Vedauwoo or know exactly what you're looking for, it's hard to navigate. But the book, with all its photos and diagrams, really helps make sense of the area.
Vedauwoo is famed for its off-width cracks (and larger than that) and its rough granite. Just about any source on the area that you find will warn you to use tape or be prepared to bleed if you are doing technical climbs. Quite often, people recommend kneepads and/or long pants and sleeves as well.
Please add route pages or detailed information about the climbing routes on this peak!
From I-80 between Laramie and Cheyenne, leave the highway at Exit 329, marked for Vedauwoo. This is about 16 miles from Laramie. Take Vedauwoo Road east and drive 1.2 miles before turning left onto a well-signed road for the Vedauwoo Recreation Area. Stop at the self-pay station and then proceed. Signs point you to the campground, picnic areas, and trailheads. The best trailhead to use for accessing the crags is Box Canyon.
Vedauwoo Road is usually clear of snow by May and sometimes as early as April.
Turtle Rock and Hassler's Hatbox
Head up the Box Canyon Trail. Hassler's will come into plain view to the left. Head over and up. Another way to access the formation, especially if you are headed for the technical routes, is to climb one of the lines up Walt's Wall
and then head over across the top of the formation.
There are 11 established routes, going from 5.6 to 5.12c. Particularly notable routes are Cave Crack (5.6), which involves cracks within a much larger one; Hassler's Hatbox (5.7), supposedly one of the best for its grade in the area; and Lucille (5.12c, but MP calls it d), reputed to be nearly impossible to climb, even on toprope, but still considered a world-class off-width crack. According to the MP page for Lucille, there have only been 5 ascents of this route.
These are single-pitch routes of about 50' in length.
This picture on Mountain Project shows Pamela Pack, the first woman to climb Lucille, on the route. Note the belayer; it's the climber who's inverted, not the photograph!
Here is a good topo
for the routes at Hassler's Hatbox.
I found a way up the north side of the formation. It utilized some faces and gullies, and I would put it at Class 4+. Descending, I went a different way and wound up reaching the Turtle Rock Trail near its eastern end, but that involved some Class 5 downclimbing, including through one steep, very tight gully that would be quite difficult to climb going the other way.
Turtle Rock from Hassler's Hatbox
Friction Tower and Old Easy from Hassler's Hatbox
The self-pay fee was, I think, in July 2014, $5 per vehicle per day. Passes are accepted.
There is a 28-site campground in the recreation area. It is first-come, first-served and fills quickly on weekends in good weather. Vault toilets and drinking water are available, though in July 2014 the water wasn't flowing or I was just at the wrong pump. The camping fee was $10 per night in July 2014. Closed during the winter, the campground is usually open by the beginning of June.
There is a lot of dispersed camping available nearby, with some restrictions (for example, postings prohibit camping too close to the turnoff for the recreation area.
Badlands Peak *
What is awesome about Wyoming’s Snowy Range is that trailheads start between 10,400’ and 10,800’, the highest point is a little over 12,000’, trails are short, and there are many rock faces and snow-filled couloirs. For mountaineers that enjoy technical rock, snow, or both, this means that the Snowy Range is a virtual alpine paradise-- all the fun and challenge but without the long, hard approaches. And even though the area is popular, you don’t see too many people off the maintained trails.
One of seven named rock features on Medicine Bow Peak (all are south of the summit), Pillar Buttress is quite prominent (not in the peakbagging sense) though not as spectacular as ones like the Diamond and Old Main.
The formation is named for its notable pillars, especially the easternmost one, which is known as Petite Marie. This pillar currently has the only developed rock routes on the formation; there are three of them, and they go at 10a, 10b, and 10c/d. More information
(This site sometimes goes down; if it does, try a little later.)
The broken face itself offers possibilities for scrambling (maybe) and technical (definitely) ascents. Other ways to reach the summit (actually, the summit is a talus mound slightly past the top of the cliffs) include hiking over from the Medicine Bow Peak Trail (obviously the easiest way) and climbing one of the Lookout Couloirs (see attached route page, and it is also my understanding that these couloirs are called, from left to right as you face them, First Street Couloir, Second Street Couloir, and Airline Couloir) and then clambering to the highpoint. Return by following the trail down to Lake Marie or by taking it up to the summit of Medicine Bow Peak and then hiking down to Mirror Lake or Lake Marie.
Weather changes are always a concern in alpine environments, but note that because of the island-like nature of the Snowy Range, weather can deteriorate here much more rapidly than you may be used to. It is not uncommon for summer thunderstorms to hit well before noon. Although car-to-summit distances are short, you nevertheless should still get a very early start and never forget that you will be high and exposed about the entire time you are out.
You are looking at a one-way distance of no more than two miles, with about 1500' of elevation gain.
From either parking area (see next section), pick up the Lakes Trail, which climbs to a saddle between Medicine Bow Peak and Sugarloaf Mountain and is one of the three primary routes hikers use to climb Medicine Bow Peak.
As you approach Lookout Lake and the unnamed lake just south of it, begin looking for a way across to the face and the Lookout Couloirs. Ideally, you should leave the trail and cross over to the western side of the lakes before you reach Lookout Lake's southern neighbor.
Now what to do is up to you.
If there weren't a popular trail on the backside, Sundial Slab would be pretty formidable to reach. Going up the face is obviously a technical undertaking, and on either side, a steep couloir (Second Street on the left and Airline on the right, which I refer to as two of the three Lookout Couloirs) guards the flanks.
At the time of this posting, there were two rock routes on the face:
- Long Haul (5.8, 7 pitches)
- Middle Cut (5.7, 5 pitches-- note that this route uses the last 3 pitches of Long Haul to reach the top, so getting to the top is really 8 pitches)
Sundial Slab also sports a tundra ledge known as University Avenue between its lower and upper slabs.
On WY 130, park at the Lake Marie East parking area. This is about 27 miles east from the intersection of WY 130 and 230 south of Saratoga, and it is about 14 miles west of Centennial.
Alternatively, park a very short distance east at Mirror Lake. This actually makes the hiking approach shorter, but I have seen this spot closed by snow several times.
Note: WY 130 is closed in winter and usually does not open until around Memorial Day; it usually closes in October.
No official red tape. Take care on the fragile tundra and stick to the drier, rockier areas as much as possible. The area is a haven for mosquitoes, so bring DEET or prepare to do a lot of swatting and scratching.
There is a campground at Brooklyn Lake, the turnoff for which is a few miles east, and the fee is $10 a night (or was in 2008). Reservations can be made at recreation.gov. In heavy snow years, the campground may not open until August if at all. For example, in 2009, it was still closed as of July 8.
There are also some campgrounds off WY 130 to the west.
Some dispersed camping is available in the area.
Backcountry camping is free and does not require a permit. Please try to camp on previously used sites or in spots that are more durable (i.e. not on the tundra).