Fun climbing in the Cirque of the TowersThe Cirque of the Towers as seen from Jackass Pass.
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|Sept 3, 2007||EAST RIDGE OF WOLF’S HEAD (III, 5.6, ~10 pitches, 12,163 ft) |
|Sept 4, 2007 ||NE FACE OF PINGORA (IV, 5.8, 11 pitches, 11,884 ft) |
All summer, my cousin Lisa and I had been trying to get together for some climbing. Finally, on September 1, with the summer nearly over, we headed out on a 10-day road trip to Wyoming. We spent a few days climbing in the Cirque of the Towers, and then climbed the Grand Teton before heading back home.
The following page details our climbing in the Cirque of the Towers. To see a trip report and photos for the Grand Teton, click here.
It took us 20 hours to drive to Big Sandy Opening, which is the closest trailhead to the Cirque of the Towers, being an easy 9 mile hike in. We hiked into the Cirque and established a base camp on Sept 2. We planned on having three days to climb, during which we wanted to climb the two Fifty Classic routes in the cirque: (1) the East ridge of Wolf’s Head, and (2) the NE Face of Pingora. Weather permitting, we would climb more.
On Sept 3, Lisa and I headed up the East Ridge of Wolf’s Head, a "warm up" for the NE Face of Pingora. The East Ridge of Wolf’s Head was a fun climb, with lots of fun routefinding along the ridge. We got back to our camp just before a brief September afternoon thundershower moved in.
On Sept 4, Lisa and I decided to take advantage of another day of promising weather and climb the NE Face of Pingora. This was an awesome climb with lots of varied climbing.
On Sept 5, we woke up to rain and wind (good thing we had decided to climb Pingora the previous day!), and decided to wait a bit to see if the weather would improve. By 10am it looked like it was clearing so we headed for the fun-looking West Ridge of Overhanging Tower, which I had climbed in 1994 with my dad and mom on a family backpack trip in the Wind Rivers. However, it soon started to rain again, so we hiked back to camp, packed up, and hiked out to the car. Although we were disappointed not to be able to climb on more peak in the Cirque, Lisa and I were happy with our two enjoyable and successful climbs. Anyway, leaving the Cirque a day early gave us an extra day to be tourists in Jackson and/or wait out bad weather for the Grand Teton, our next climbing objective before heading back home.
Overall, Lisa and I had a blast climbing together in the Cirque of the Towers. It’s always fun to climb with a cousin!
Scroll below for trip reports and photos from our two climbs in the Cirque; (1) East Ridge of Wolf’s Head; and (2) NE Face of Pingora.
(Update: In 2014, I returned to the Cirque twice, in July and in August, to climb several more routes in the area, including a second climb of the NE Face of Pingora. Click the links to see these trip reports.)
Sept 3 – East Ridge of Wolf’s Head
III, 5.6, ~10 pitches, 12,163 ft
Our main objective in the Cirque was the NE Face of Pingora, but when we were looking through the guide book, we noticed that the East Ridge of Wolf’s Head looked like a fun climb as well. We were not aware that it was a Fifty Classic route until after the climb. It certainly was a fun climb, with great exposure and tricky routefinding. A majority of our time on the route was taken traversing the upper ridge. There was one other party that had started the route a couple of hours before us, but they were far enough ahead that they were always out of sight. I enjoyed being able to lead the whole route, and Lisa did a great job following (ridge traverses can be precarious for the follower too!).
|Our route on the East Ridge of Wolf’s Head. We gained the ridge via the 5th class ledges below.||A helpful illustration from summitpost.org showing how one weaves around the towers on the ridgeline. We did not have the benefit of a topo or beta for the route, but this is the general route we followed as well. There is a great description of the route on summitpost.org where I found the above illustration. ||Luke, I am your father….("Darth Vader" formation on the ridge of Wolf’s Head as viewed from the Cirque Basin).||A nice perspective of the thin East Ridge of Wolfs Head, taken from the summit of Pingora the next day.||Very short and easy approaches to the climbs in the Cirque.|
|Lisa ascending the 5th class cracks and ledges to gain the Wolf’s Head Ridge.||A fun 30° 3-ft-wide sidewalk up the East Ridge.||A fun 30° 3-ft-wide sidewalk up the East Ridge.||Once you climb up the East Ridge of Wolf’s Head, you have to traverse around the towers on the ridgeline for several pitches. We did not have any route information for this climb, so I just climbed where it looked good. We took some fun 5.8ish variations.||Lisa at a belay on the north side of the ridge before a fun hand-crack traverse. Great exposure on this route!|
|Lisa making an airy traverse on the south side of one of the towers on the ridge. Great exposure on this route!||Typical September afternoon weather moving in over Lizard’s Head. At this point, we were almost at the rappels down the west face. Fortunately, the storm did not materialize until we got back to camp a few hours later, and it only lasted a couple of hours before it cleared for another beautiful starry night.||Lisa on the ridge just before reaching the first of the rappel anchors down the West Face of Wolf’s Head. The descent requires about 4 single-rope rappels and some scrambling down the west face, and then a traverse to the Overhanging Tower col.||The view to on the west side of Wolf’s Head.||Looking over at the Overhanging Tower Col after making 4 rappels down the West Face of Wolf’s Head. There is a Class 3 traverse to the col, with a short Class 4 section at the headwall above the col.|
Sept 4 – NE Face of Pingora
IV, 5.8, 11 pitches, 11,884 ft
Our main objective in the Cirque was the classic NE Face of Pingora. Pingora is a massive spire of granite on the northeastern end of the Cirque. We started early at to avoid the afternoon thundershowers (we left camp at 5:30am and arrived at the base of the climb just before 7am). There were two other parties that arrived at the base of the route at about the same time we did. We started up second, but ended up passing the first party after a couple of pitches, and from then on had the route to ourselves (we moved quickly - Lisa is quite the efficient partner to have as a follower). The climbing was great: steep, sustained 5.7 and 5.8, lots of bomber flakes and cracks, and clean and solid granite. Plus, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. The descent down the South Ridge involved about 5 rappels and some Class 3 downcliming down the East Ledges. We made it back to camp in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to escape the afternoon thundershower that never came.
|Pingora from the meadows in the Cirque. The NE Face is on the right skyline, and the south ridge is the closest ridge.||The route up the NE Face of Pingora. I found this nice route topo on summitpost.org. ||I took a series of "Alpine Start" photos which turned out pretty cool. This is one of my favorites. Click here to be directed to my webpage devoted to night photography. ||Lisa just before the fun crux 5.8 traverse on the first pitch.||A fun 5.7-5.8 crack on Pitch 2. |
|A smelly surprise at a belay station. I suppose if you didn’t have a route topo you could use the one that was left here….it’s only a tad dirty…. ||Looking up at some fun and steep 5.8 climbing! On the left skyline is the "crux" of the route - a flaring 5.8 crack. It was a bit burly, especially with a pack on, but it wasn’t as hard as I had expected it would be.||Lisa having a blast on the NE Face – warm sun and great granite make for some stellar climbing!||Not sure if I would call that last chimney "easy"…..||Traversing the East Ledges to the summit of Pingora.|
|360° panorama from the summit of Pingora. The false summit is on the left of the photo.||The Cirque of the Towers peaks from the summit of Pingora.||Rappelling down the South Ridge of Pingora. There were about 4-5 single rope rappels to reach some Class 3 ledges to the base.||A somewhat manky anchor on the rappel down the South Ridge of Pingora. It was backed up with a couple of pretty bomber nuts.||We descended down the East Ledges after making the rappels down the South Ridge of Pingora. Warbonnet and Warrior are in the distance, and our camp was in the green meadows below.|
MORE PHOTOS FROM THE CIRQUE OF THE TOWERS
The Cirque of the Towers is a beautiful area, and we were lucky to have such good weather that made it even more enjoyable. I took several photos, some of which I have posted below.
|Autumn colors in the Wind Rivers on the 9 mile hike into the Cirque of the Towers from Big Sandy Opening.||Arrowhead Lake below Jackass Pass. There is a climber’s trail that goes around this lake and into the upper Cirque to avoid having to hike all the way up to Jackass Pass.||The Cirque Peaks from Jackass Pass.||Warbonnet and Warrior Peaks to the south (we ended up moving our tent due to the afternoon winds).||Mitchell Peak to the east.|
|The Cirque of the Towers peaks from the summit of Pingora.||Lizard Head Peak in cloud shadows from the summit of Pingora.||Our campsite in the Cirque of the Towers, Wolf’s Head and Pingora in the background. We camped up and west of Lonesome Lake. There are plenty of streams in this area.||Our campsite. We had to hang our food to keep it out of the reach of snafflehounds, so I devised a solid hanger by slinging a log to a heavy rock and hanging the other end over the edge of a boulder.||360° panorama from our camp in the Cirque. The peaks from left to right: Mitchell, Warbonnet, Warrior, Pylon, Watchtower, Wolf’s Head, Pingora, Mitchell.|
|The Cirque is a great place for night photography. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much! This photo shows star streaks above Pingora (30 minute exposure). Click here to be directed to my webpage devoted to my night photography.||The Big Dipper above the Cirque of the Towers. Click here to be directed to my webpage devoted to my night photography.||This photo shows star streaks above a moonlit Pingora (72 minute exposure). Click here to be directed to my webpage devoted to my night photography.||This photo shows stars above the moonlit Warbonnet and Warrior Peaks. Click here to be directed to my webpage devoted to my night photography.||Our camp at night. Click here to be directed to my webpage devoted to my night photography.|
|The Cirque is a great place for night photography. This photo our camp in the moonlight, with Pingora in the background. Click here to be directed to my webpage devoted to my night photography.||Reading in the tent at night. Click here to be directed to my webpage devoted to my night photography.||Reading in the tent at night, Pingora in the background. Click here to be directed to my webpage devoted to my night photography.||Lisa and I planned on climbing Overhanging Tower (a pretty cool looking peak), but we woke up to rain on our third day in the Cirque, so decided to forgo the climb and hike out. I had climbed the West Ridge (Class 4) of Overhanging Tower in 1994 with my parents on a family backpack trip in the Wind Rivers. This photo shows me on the left, my dad in the middle, and our friend Matt on the right. I was 11 years old at the time, and this was my first technical alpine climb. I loved it!||Lisa’s "summit photo" for our aborted attempt on Overhanging Tower.|
THE ADVENTURES CONTINUE….
The Grand Teton from the Highway through Teton National Park.
Next stop: The Grand Teton. (Click link for trip report.)
More on my websiteThis trip report is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere: http://www.stephabegg.com.
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