OverviewCirque of the Towers, Titcomb Basin is the premier backcountry hiking and climbing destination in the Wind River Range and one of the best in all of North America. In addition to providing outstanding scenery and mountaineering, it is also one of the two main approaches to Gannett Peak, the Wyoming highpoint and considered to be the fourth-hardest state highpoint after Denali (Alaska), Mt. Rainier (Washington), and Granite Peak (Montana).
Located deep in the range just west of the Continental Divide, Titcomb Basin houses four medium- to large-sized lakes (for alpine lakes) in a boulder-strewn tundra setting, and tall peaks, some rising more than 3000' above the lakes, guard this semi-hidden basin on all sides but its south. Although Titcomb Basin proper is the area between the uppermost lake and the east/west-oriented run of the Continental Divide to its north, most probably consider the "real" Titcomb Basin to begin just south of the lowermost lake, where the valley narrows and the mountains loom more and more with every step forward.
Titcomb Basin, as well as Titcomb Lakes and the Titcomb Needles, in name commemorates Charles and Harold Titcomb, brothers whose many climbing accomplishments in the area included the second ascent of Fremont Peak, Wyoming's third-highest and the highest of the peaks ringing this basin (some sources will lead you to think they made the third ascent, but some reading in Bonney's Guide to the Wyoming Mountains and Wilderness Areas may convince you that the person usually credited with the first ascent did not actually climb that peak but climbed the more challenging Mt. Woodrow Wilson instead). The Colorado Mountain Club named the Needles so in 1930; I am not sure if they or someone else named the lakes and the basin, and when.
For this page's purposes, the peaks of Titcomb Basin will be those named ones immediately surrounding it and usually or most logically approached from the basin itself. One major exception is Fremont Peak, which climbers can approach from Titcomb Basin but which is easier to approach from Indian Basin.
Reaching Titcomb Basin is no light undertaking. Depending on the source you consult, you will find that it is anywhere from 11.5-13 miles to what this page considers to be the beginning of the basin, which is shortly after a stream crossing and then a narrow trail squeeze through some rocks, following which is a view of the basin and the first of its lakes. Most parties seem to take two days to reach the basin, spending the first night somewhere between halfway or 2/3 in at Hobbs Lake or Seneca Lake, but if you're in solid shape, I recommend sucking it up and heading all the way in on Day 1 or at least getting to Island Lake; you will in retrospect be glad for the extra day of climbing, hiking, and/or exploring.
The peaks here are for mountaineers. Only one named peak goes at Class 2, and most are Class 4 or 5 by their easiest routes.
In general, it probably is neither necessary nor useful to make pages for every basin or cirque in a mountain range, but considering Titcomb Basin's significance and all the excellent climbing objectives clustered around it, it seems to make sense to offer this page, just as someone did for the Cirque of the Towers, to help with planning and logistics. (There is also a page for Indian Basin, Titcomb's sister basin and an alpine paradise in its own right and a place many climbers seek.)
Getting There-- Driving and Hiking InformationThere are all sorts of different approaches one can take, but by far, most people use the one from Elkhart Park.
Peaks and RoutesFollowing is a list of the named peaks of Titcomb Basin, going clockwise from the southwestern end to the southeastern. Included also are elevations and some notes on their easiest routes. There are also some unnamed peaks. My source for the named peaks is the Earthwalk Press map; some of these peaks are not named on USGS maps. The sources for route information are SP and the Bonney guide.
Peaks in bold have SP pages and are attached as children to this page.
- Titcomb Needles-- Class 4; Bonney notes that a traverse of all the needles is Class 4-5 and an all-day affair.
- Great Needle (Garnicks Needle)-- 12,710'-- Class 3 via south ridge; other established routes include Class 4, 5.1, and 5.6.
- Henderson Peak-- 13,115'-- 5.0 via SE ridge or east face couloirs; the former is impractical from Titcomb Basin.
- The Buttress-- 12,205'-- Class 2-3 via NW ridge and 5.2 via chimney on NE ridge
- American Legion Peak (Buchtel Peak)-- 13,205'-- Class 4 via NE ridge; a Class 3 route via the west ridge exists but would not be practical from Titcomb Basin.
- Winifred Peak-- 12,775'-- Class 3 via north ridge, Class 4 via SW ridge; both are accessible from Titcomb Basin.
- Twin Peaks-- 13,185'-- Class 4 via east couloir; other Class 4 routes exist, but the approaches are not from Titcomb Basin.
- Mount Woodrow Wilson-- 13,502'-- 5.1 via south couloir
- The Sphinx-- 13,258'-- Class 5-5.6 via various routes approached via Dinwoody Glacier, which is north of Titcomb Basin and separated from it by the Continental Divide, meaning climbers approaching this way would have to go over Bonney Pass first. Some routes go up the southeast ridge from the col between the Sphinx and Skyline Peak, but there is no mention of the col being accessible from Titcomb Basin.
- Skyline Peak-- 12,800'+-- Bonney mentions that the first ascenders used the peak to review their route on the Sphinx, but he makes no mention of difficulty. One might assume this minor bump is easy to climb since it's unlikely one would make a technical ascent just to review a different route. It is between the Sphinx and Bobs Towers.
- Bobs Towers-- 13,040+'-- Class 4-5.2. Bonney calls the traverse of the Towers Class 4 and the west gully 5.0, but I climbed three of them, including the highest, and found the highest to have a crux of 5.2-5.4.
- Miriam Peak-- 13,080+'-- Class 3 from Bonney Pass. Some accounts put the summit block at Class 4, but having been there myself, I agree with the Class 3 and feel the Class 4 rating comes from the exposure, not the difficulty.
- Dinwoody Peak-- 13,540'-- Class 2 from Bonney Pass
- Mount Warren-- 13,722'-- Class 4-5.6; all routes approach not from Titcomb Basin but from the glaciers and moraines on the other side of the Continental Divide. Because of this and the fact that the peak is just off the main crest making the walls of Titcomb Basin, one might argue Warren is not truly a "Titcomb Peak." However, I include it here because of this: it can be climbed from Bonney Pass via a Class 5 traverse (the Triple Traverse) that includes Dinwoody Peak and Doublet Peak.
- Doublet Peak-- 13,600+'-- 5.0 via ridge between it and Dinwoody Peak
- Spearhead Pinnacle-- 13,200+'-- 5.3 via north ridge; this route can be approached from the Dinwoody-Doublet col or via a traverse from Bonney Pass to the col south of the peak.
- Forked Tongue Pinnacle-- 13,200+'-- 5.3 via north side
- Mount Helen-- 13,620'-- Class 4 via SE couloir and east ridge (approach from north of peak), or Class 4 via Sacagawea Glacier (approach from south of peak); these seem to be the most popular route even though they require glacier travel after dropping down from the ridge crest. A beautiful Class 4 snow couloir exists on the north side of the peak and is accessible directly from Titcomb Basin.
- Mount Sacagawea-- 13,569'-- Class 4 via south ridge, which is accessed from the Sacagawea-Fremont saddle (from below, the way up there does not look easy to find). 5.0-5.2 routes exist on the north side and are also accessed from Titcomb Basin. Fred Beckey established a 5.5 route on the west face; while the most challenging of the routes mentioned here, it appears to be the most direct from the basin.
- Fremont Peak-- 13,745'-- Class 3 via SW buttress. Bonney calls it Class 4, but it is not unless you make it so. In my opinion, it is really Class 2+.
Other DestinationsMountain climbing is not all there is to do here. After all, the majority of backpackers who visit Titcomb Basin are not there to climb.
In the basin are four principal lakes:
- Upper Titcomb Lake
- Lower Titcomb Lake
- Lake 10,548 (the lowest and southernmost of the Titcomb Lakes)
- Mistake Lake (almost a stone's throw from the trail but not visible because it is higher and because of an intervening ridge)