Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cirque Traverse Report - Part One

The Cirque of the Towers in Wyoming's Wind River Range is one of the premier alpine rock climbing zones in the lower 48, and I'm lucky enought to live about 5 hours from the trailhead. Although the ideal trip to the cirque would be packing up a week's worth of stuff on horses and heading in for a long trip, sometimes the need for a fast, surgical mission comes up.

One such occasion came up recently and I asked a good friend to head out for a weekend trip to try and do the entire Cirque Traverse, car to car. Not a light mission, but do-able, and somewhat necessary given the demands of life in the city. We left the office around 4:30 on a Friday and punched it to Wyoming, getting to the trailhead around 10 or 10:30 pm. We put together some sandwiches for the next day and crashed out.

Up at 3:30 am, ate some breakfast, and began the eight or so mile hike into the Cirque. The trail in is very well traveled so hiking at night was straightforward, and before we knew it we were rounding Arrowhead Lake and saw the sun's first rays were hitting peak #1, Pingora.

After a little soloing up the south buttress of Pingora, we tied in and pitched it out to the top since neither of us had climbed this section before. Didn't see many folks up that early in the Cirque, but a few were already on route.

Next up, the uber classic east ridge of Wolf's Head. That's Ari walking across the ridge to the start of the route. For gear, we had lightweight Black Diamond packs, about 4 camalots, a handful of stoppers, and a Petzl Dragonfly 8.2 mil rope. The route involved some easy climbing up to about 5.7 and a few rappels off of each technical peak, so this was about as light as we wanted to go. To the left you can see the Overhanging Tower (peak #3), the Shark's Nose (peak #4 and #5), and part of Block Tower(#6).

Here's Ari nearing the top of the ramp section on Wolf's Head. Lots of exposure, perfect rock, fun climbing and sick location. About this time we were surprised to run into Adam and Trent, friends from Salt Lake City already on the route. It was their first trip up there and they were psyched. We stopped long enough to look around and agree on how awesome it was to be up there, and on we went.

Maybe the sweetest pitch of the day - the hand traverse on Wolf's Head.

Pinogra sure looks small from the top of Sharks Nose. At this point it was mid afternoon and we still had a long way to go...

To be continued....Check back in a few days for Part 2.

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