Altitude 3000m a.s.l
Cirque of the Towers, Wind River, WY © jimorothy
The Cirque of the Towers is a world class climbing venue of almost Hymalayan beauty and drama. Situated in Wyoming's Wind River range, the beauty of the rocks and the scenery is breathtaking. The rock is bomber granite, offering excellent friction and generally superb protection. Nearly all routes are multipitch and they top-out properly, actually on the top of things! The climbing is all traditional. British visitors are few however, probably as a result of access, which is not easy: it certainly takes a lot more 'get go' than it does to bob into say, Zion, Yosemite or Red Rocks. However, there's a good chance many climbers will rate the Cirque of the Towers up with, if not considerably higher than, America's other climbing hubs. The weather can be tricky due to altitude. Snow storms in peak season are not uncommon, so British climbers on a limited timescale might want to bear this in mind. Generally the temps are very hot though.
The first of the towers to reveal itself after the lengthy approach (25 mile bumpy dirt road and then an 11 mile hike at altitude) is Pingora - the most magnificent and unusual of the towers, although the Shark's Tail gives it a run for its money. When seen in the flesh, there is something strangley alluring about Pingora and few climbers will resist its cliffs, coming as it does like some crazed vision from a climber's deepest cheese-enduced dreams! The towers house a plethora of sensational cliff faces, each holding breathtaking routes at a full spectrum of grades. Even low grades, often under-catered for in the US, are very well served here. The 5.4 (HVD-MS) of Wolf's Head reigns as one of the world's finest routes for example. At the other end of the scale a Dave Birkett would have plenty with which to fill his boots.
Black bears and Grizzly do inhabit the area. For British climbers unaccustomed to bear activity, prior research and knowledge is invaluable. The Wind River range is world famous for its salmon fishing which might give you a bear clue. It is not the fun 'carry on bear' stuff of Yosemite however. Have your wits about you and do not get yourself eaten! The Cirque in season will always have at least a few parties, but it will never be especially busy due to its remoteness (fishermen in the area outnumber climbers 20-1). Queuing and racing to routes is not something often found in the Cirque, there are just too many classics and not enough parties. Normally you will return to your tent and compare your world class route with that of the guys in the next tent - it's that kind of scene.
West Wyoming, south of the Teton range and Yellowstone. Involves 25 miles of driving on a bumpy dirt road and then an 11 mile hike at altitude, although fortunately without much height gain. Make sure you know what to do and what not to do in regards to both black bears (quite big here) and Grizzlies.
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