Matt and Joanne’s Page

August 24, 2008

A Couple Nights in the Wind River Range

Filed under: Climbing, Roadtrip — Tags: , , , — Matt Stamplis @ 7:25 pm

Our first stop in Wyoming was to spend a few days in the remote Wind River Range. This is definitely one of the most remote trailheads I’ve ever been to: from the town of Boulder, Wyoming, you drive East 30-some miles, the last 20 of which are dirt road. The dirt road was mostly decent but there were a few spots that were a little sketchy in our Civic: the last 10 miles of the drive took well over an hour to negotiate!

The weirdest thing is that after driving all this time into this remote wilderness, you suddenly emerge in this parking lot that is filled with cars. I counted over 100 cars while we were sitting! Hard to imagine so many people visit this place but I saw license plates from at least a dozen states. This is apparently grizzly bear country but we didn’t see any evidence of bears: I don’t know how badly they would want to hang out some place with so much human traffic.

To get even further away from civilization, we hiked 9 miles from the trailhead to reach the Cirque of the Towers, a beautiful alpine valley surrounded by steep granite faces. This is a very popular area: it’s easy to spread out in the cirque but if you start walking around you’ll probably stumble upon tents in every direction. Our plan was just to stay 2 nights and climb the classic routes Wolf’s Head and Pingora; most people hike in and stay at least a week. The long ridge directly above Joanne’s head is Wolf’s Head and to it’s right is Pingora.

When we get to our camp site, we were scouting for the NE Buttress route and from our angle, Matt said none of the routes look like it. We didn’t have any guide book on the area and our beta was pretty minimum. So instead of doing Pingora on the first day, we decided to do the Wolf’s Head first and scout the Pingora later.

As usual we woke up early and hiked in to get to the base at 5.30am. However, half way during the approach, Joanne realized she forgot her Ipod (our only beta information was loaded in it) so I had to turn around to get it. Even with this delay, we managed to start around 6.15am. Wolf’s Head is a really cool classic climb where you mostly traversing the ridge (lots of feet traverse and mostly easy low fifth class). This is a definite must do route. Unfortunately we forgot the camera so we have no pictures at all which is really too bad because there are many picture perfect moments, oh well….The descent for this route however is not that enjoyable with lots of loose rock section; small price to pay for such a fine climb.

The next day we did the NE Buttress route. Getting to the general area of the climb is pretty easy but finding the first pitch to get to the real fun stuff is pretty tricky. We ended up too high on the route and Joanne had to downclimb a few times to finally get to the 5.8 slab section (this is pretty wild because leader is looking at a pretty wild pendulum swing if fall, but once the move is made, there’s a sling to clip to protect the second). (Joanne comment) I think I took a while making the moves here, no hand, no feet, purely smearing, with scary pendulum potential. I was pretty relieved when I clipped that sling. The rest of the climbs are pretty easy and enjoyable, following obvious crack (even though we were not 100% sure we were on route until when we completed the crux pitch :)). The descent for this route is very easy and quick.

Joanne leading the crux pitch on the Northeast Buttress, Pingora.

Hooray! Posing on the summit of Pingora, after climbing the Northeast Buttress.

The Wind River Range is one of the most beautiful areas we’ve visited and certainly one of the most unique mountain ranges in the United States. I can’t think of any other similar range in the United States that is NOT a National Park. I think it might be a bad thing, though, to change this: making the Wind Rivers a National Park would increase visitation in an area that probably doesn’t need anymore abuse. We packed our waste out and would encourage other visitors to do the same to try to keep this area as pristine as possible.

One more thought: the mosquitoes here can be a nuisance. They weren’t out of control but I was sleeping in a bivy sack that doesn’t close completely so they kept flying into my nose while I tried to fall asleep: I would definitely bring a mosquito net next time!


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