Warrior 2 from Warrior 1
Running west along the Continental Divide between Warbonnet Peak and Wisconsin Couloir is a ridge that houses two notable summits known as the Warriors. Warrior 2 is the higher of the two and the closer to Wisconsin Couloir; it is also slightly harder to climb, with its easiest route going at Class 3 as opposed to Class 2 (although, depending on the approach, climbing Warrior 1 can easily be Class 4). Although it doesn't offer as good technical climbing as its brother does, it does have some technical routes, so this is a nice summit for scramblers and rock climbers alike. An added plus is that it does not seem to be climbed nearly as often as some of the other peaks in the famous Cirque of the Towers are, so in an area that can see a lot of traffic for a backcountry destination, this peak promises the near-certainty of solitude, and you can see all the major peaks of the Cirque from these ones.
For scramblers wanting to experience the Cirque without dealing with the descent to Lonesome Lake and the numerous other hikers and climbers likely to be encountered around there, climbing Warbonnet Peak and both the Warriors together in one outing makes for an excellent day from a base camp in the Big Sandy Lake environs. Consider tacking on Sundance Pinnacle as well, as it is just south of Warbonnet and you pass it on the approach.
If, though, for some reason you wish to do one or both Warriors without the other peaks mentioned, it is possible to approach them without climbing Warbonnet first. Please see the section on the route description for more details.
Some topo maps simply call these peaks the Warrior Peaks and do not distinguish between the two, but since they both have their own technical routes, I think it's appropriate to have separate pages for the peaks, and also because Joe Kelsey covers them separately in his indispensable Climbing and Hiking in the Wind River Mountains. Nevertheless, people into lists should take note that Warrior 1 does not qualify as a ranked peak. Although it does have the necessary prominence from its saddle with Warbonnet, the vertical rise from the saddle between the Warriors to the summit of Warrior 2 is only around 100'. Thus, Warrior 2 would be considered a ranked peak and Warrior 1 but a subpeak of it. These kinds of things matter not a bit to me, but they do matter to some, so I hope including this information is useful, since it means that although Kelsey calls Warrior 2 the "less elegant" of the two, it's the one you need to climb in order to officially "get" the Warriors.
Warbonnet and Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 from the Cirque Of the Towers-- by rpc
Warrior 2, Warrior 1, Pylon Peak, South Watchtower
Much is said, and little of it positive, about the drive to Big Sandy.
It is not as bad as you might have heard or read. Yes, there are parts of the last few miles that are rocky or rutted, but I had no trouble getting there in a regular passenger car and did not have to slow to a crawl while doing so. And it's not as confusing to get there as you may have been led to believe; there is good signage along the way.
There was only one section that was pretty iffy for me: a muddy stream crossing just before the trailhead. If it looks like a no-go for your vehicle, you'll find ample parking space nearby and can cross on foot. This adds literally only a couple of minutes.
There are three main starting points for an approach to Big Sandy: Boulder (11 miles south of Pinedale), Farson, and South Pass. Because of this, I'm not going to go into detailed directions on this page.
"From Pinedale, drive south on Hwy 191. At Boulder, turn left on Hwy 353 and drive 18 miles to the end of the pavement. Shorty after the pavement ends, go straight through the junction, and drive south crossing the Big Sandy River (Buckskin Crossing). At next junction, turn left (east) and drive 7 miles. Turn left at the following jct and follow the main road to the Big Sandy Campground and trailhead. This trailhead is remote, so be sure to have a full tank of gas."
Once you turn off the main trunk road, it is about 16 miles to the trailhead. Finding that first turnoff is critical, but there is a large sign indicating the junction. From Pinedale, it's between 50 and 60 miles to the trailhead.
From South Pass, directly across from Oregon Buttes Road, turn north onto the Lander Cutoff Road. This is a good unpaved road. Follow it until reaching the critical junction mentioned above.
From Farson, head east on WY 28 a short distance and turn north onto Farson-Little Sandy Road, which becomes Big Sandy-Elkhorn Road a bit after 5 miles. It pretty quickly becomes a good dirt road. Follow it to a junction with the Lander Cutoff Road. The turnoff to Big Sandy is nearby. Look for signs.
Expect 1.5-2 hours of driving from any of the principal access points. Note: there is no fuel at or near South Pass.
From the trailhead, it's about 9.5 miles to the summit of Warrior 2, with approximately 3400' of elevation gain. However, since you likely are going to climb an additional peak or two (or three), consider that the distance will be a bit longer (up to perhaps 11 miles in all) and the elevation gain greater. Climbing both Warriors with Warbonnet and Sundance Pinnacle as well will put you in the neighborhood of 4000'.
These numbers mean it's possible to do this as a day trip from the trailhead, but most people are going to prefer to backpack in, especially since there are many other fine day-trip destinations out here, so my suggested route takes that into account. I'm also going to assume you are climbing Warbonnet and am taking that into account as well.
Hike an easy 5.5 miles to Big Sandy Lake; you only gain 600' of elevation during this. Trail signs say it's 6 miles to the lake, but most other sources call it 5.5. I think the 6 miles is the distance to the trail junction at the head of the lake, where one can head north for Jackass Pass and the Cirque or east to Black Joe Lake or to Clear and Deep Lakes (and beyond those lakes on an unmaintained route to Temple Lake and Temple Pass). This junction was unsigned in July 2014, but it was impossible to miss.
I recommend camping near Big Sandy Lake, but you can find some more sites as you climb from the lake to North Lake. The trail steepens considerably after the junction, though, so why not spare yourself hauling a heavy pack up it unless you plan to head over the pass?
Kelsey says to leave the trail after North Lake and scramble up the talus to the notch just south of Warbonnet, but there is a faster and easier way, and it also puts you in position to climb Sundance Pinnacle. Having done both approaches, I prefer the alternative one I am describing, for it has less boulder-hopping and avoids the rough, winding trail in the vicinity of North Lake.
From the junction, hike north toward Jackass Pass. Before you reach North Lake, the trail crosses the stream draining it. Just before the crossing, which is between half a mile and a mile from the junction, leave the trail and clamber your way up to the saddle on the south side of Sundance Pinnacle. (It's Class 4 up the pinnacle on either its west or south side, though technical routes exist as well.) You're at about 10,600' now, around 900' higher than Big Sandy Lake.
Whether you climb Sundance or not, make an easy traverse along its west side and reach the notch between Sundance and Warbonnet. Climb the 1600' up Warbonnet's south ridge to its summit. This does not have to be harder than Class 3, and it is not exposed.
Kelsey says it is Class 2 from Warbonnet to Warrior 1, but I found it to be harder than that because of an intervening ridge and subpeak on Warbonnet. (This subpeak is well worth summiting for the very airy perch and the great views.) Maybe there is a Class 2 route over that ridge and I just didn't see it, but my way over it was Class 3 with a touch of Class 4. You could definitely Class 2 it by dropping way down into the basin south of the peak, but that would add significant extra distance and elevation gain.
Subpeak of Warbonnet
Past the ridge, it really is just Class 2 to the top. The summit has a very remote feeling.
Now descend an easy (and short) grade to the saddle between the two Warriors. Then scramble up to the top (Class 3, no exposure unless you're making it that way or just doing it really bady).
Near the Summit of Warrior 2
Summit Block of Warrior 2
Just Climbing the Warriors?
From the saddle on the south side of Sundance Pinnacle, cross-country it west across the basin and then ascend the steep south slopes of Warrior 1. There was a lot of snow here in mid-July of 2014, so I strongly recommend having an ice axe. I did not have (or need) crampons, but pack them if you want that extra assurance.
East Face of Warrior 2
For specific details about the routes, see Kelsey's guide. This book is available as a digital download from Google Books and from Amazon and likely some other sources as well, so it's a great idea to have it on your phone and take it with you when going out. It beats the hell out of carrying the book, copying pages, etc.
- Northeast Face-- 5.5-- Kelsey says that this face is "tall but broken" and that there is "much scrambling"; you have to access this route from the Cirque.
- North Face-Northwest Ridge-- 5.8-- Kelsey calls this a "lost" route and says it begins from between Warrior 2 and Wisconsin Couloir.
Spire on Warrior 2, Cirque of the Towers
Camels Hump and Lizard Head Peak
Camp 100' from streams and 200' from lakes. You will probably see some lame people camped right beside the trail, but please don't follow suit.
Black bears have been a problem around Big Sandy Lake and Lonesome Lake. Proper food storage is mandatory. Bear canisters are recommended, but if you don't have one, hang your food and other scented items well. Some campsites by Big Sandy Lake have food lockers nearby.
If a black bear attacks you, fight back. When black bears attack, they attack to kill. Playing dead is what you're supposed to do when grizzlies attack. Grizzlies have come back to the southern Winds, and although it's highly unlikely that you will encounter one here, you have to be aware of the possibility.
When to Climb
Summer and early fall are the best by far both for access and for conditions.
If you're doing this as a day climb, you can stay at Big Sandy Campground (fee) or use one of many dispersed sites near the trailhead. Big Sandy Lodge is close by and open in the summer, and it's nice but it isn't cheap.
For backcountry camping, staying around Big Sandy Lake is the best choice.