Trip Report
If At First You Don't Succeed. Cirque Traverse, Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, WY
Sunday August 16, 2015 2:30pm
This has been an amazing trad and alpine season for my partner Bryan and I largely fueled by his enthusiasm and my never ending "Pata-stoke" I have been fostering ever since buying a flight to Chalten for this winter. One thing led to another and with confidence and ability high the plan was hatched to put an attempt in on the Cirque Traverse in the Cirque of the Towers in Wyoming's Wind River Range. The traverse includes a fair amount of technical climbing, a ton of time on trail, more sketchy rapping than you'd want, and a huge amount of terrain being covered as fast as you can. Never having been to the Wind Rivers all we knew was that you wanted to move quickly and the weather might not cooperate. That seemed like enough info for us to put an attempt in.

We decided we would hike in on a Saturday, take a look around and then fire it Sunday taking as long as we needed. Having never been to the Cirque and not knowing any of the trail beta or route beta we figured we had a good shot at doing it in a day from camp. However the weather had other ideas. At the trailhead on Saturday morning at Big Sandy we met some Scots who assured us that the rain that was beginning to fall was no big deal so we forged ahead into the wilderness, eternal optimists in running shorts we were not dissuaded. It rained the whole way in, which turned to hail at Jackass Pass, which turned to heavy snow in the Cirque. With the amount of unroped travel we intended on doing, this was essentially a non starter for our team. We ended up sitting in a cave staving off hypothermia by drinking coffee and eating a ton of food, all the while wondering "WWPCD" (What Would Peter Croft Do). Eventually we decided to drop some elevation and make camp in case the morning dawned clear and sunny, which was not what ended up happening at all. We woke to more rain and clouds, but by 8 am the sky was blue and the weather was again splitter. Knowing we were in no position for a proper attempt on the Traverse we decided to pull a page from my book of shenanigans and "Take a look" (note to the reader, if you ever hear me say that phrase, you are about to get sandbagged). We made it out to Pingora relatively quickly and were able to traverse all the way out to the Shark's Nose before route finding and the advancing hour forced us to bail. All in all we managed Pingora, Tiger Tower, Wolf's Head, and Overhaning Tower but at a brutally slow time of 7 hours from the base of Pingora. Rapping down the col beneath Shark's Nose we knew that the keys to success on the next round would be much faster movement (we pitched some parts out, we weren't aggressive about passing parties, we took a lot of rappels that led nowhere) and a familiarity of terrain (we had no idea where we were going or what the routes climbs like).

On the walk out of the Winds we decided that we were coming back in 3 weeks time to fire the Traverse, and that we were going to do it car to car, hopefully in less than 24 hrs.

Time to sit in a cave wearing all of your clothes drinking coffee and ...
Time to sit in a cave wearing all of your clothes drinking coffee and convincing yourself sunshine is just around the corner.
Credit: pazreal
This is not what we signed up for.  Bryan taking in the view of hopes ...
This is not what we signed up for. Bryan taking in the view of hopes dashed.
Credit: pazreal
We certainly thought July would be much more "Summer-ish"
We certainly thought July would be much more "Summer-ish"
Credit: pazreal


"A modern day warrior
Mean, mean stride
Today's Tom Sawyer
Mean, mean pride"

With those lyrics blaring from our stereo we made our way up north once again to tackle the Cirque Traverse. Working non stop the last 2 weeks around Outdoor Retailer has left me with a ton of enthusiasm and pent up energy, no better place than the Winds to capitalize on that energy.

The plan was as follows:

Leave Salt Lake mid day and drive to the Big Sandy Trailhead. Sleep for 2 hours and cast off at midnight towards the Cirque.
Bring a minimal rack (5 runners, 10 loose biners, 4 nuts, 3 cams, 3 lockers, 1 nut tool, and a 70m 8.1mm rope we would fold in half).
Carry little to no water on the approach and just pound water at every creek via a Life Straw (thanks Rick and Jesse for the ProTip)
Fill up at the Cirque for the water needed on route
Rally!!!

This time around we had a purported splitter weather forecast and some familiarity with the terrain. We met a couple of guys in the parking lot who had done the traverse the day before from their camp near North Lake. Seemed totally doable now and with that confidence we set the alarm for 11:30PM and crawled into our sleeping bags.

The alarm went off and we bolted upright. Pounded a ton of water, ate some food, crushed some Red Bulls, and hit the trail. Within 5 minutes Bryan was puking up a lot of that water and food. Not a great start as the strategy hinged on pre-hyrdation and constant motion. We told ourselves that no matter what we needed to maintain momentum and that would be the key. Bryan quickly recovered with some slurping from the next stream and we just flew down the trail in the darkness. Before we knew it we were in the Cirque and hoped we’d see our friends Greg (Grippa of ST fame) and his lady Kristin who were also going to attempt the Traverse this weekend but in our evening daze and fast pace we must have missed them.

We were tied in and starting up Pingora at 4am, having dispatched the 10 miles of trail quickly, we turned our attention to the climbing. The technical climbing on the Traverse keeps on you until you are off of Block Tower, about half way in. Our strategy this time around was that we would climb each tower in a single simul block, swapping leads at every tower. With our rack of 7 pieces we didn’t really have to place much gear (nor could we), allowing us to climb the towers in roughly 30-45 minutes each. Our only real delay this day was when we topped out Pingora at 4:30am it started to rain pretty hard, which did not work with our strategy at all. We ended up rapping down and then waiting for the dawn to see how extensive the storm cell was. We also had to do this because the lichen on the slab start of Wolfs Head was super slick and did not bode well for simuling or soloing those pitches. So much for that splitter weather. We waited it out for about 20 minutes and with the rising sun and some wind, we were back in action. The rapping ended up being a time suck and took about 1 hour per tour. On this round we arrived at the base of the Shark’s Nose (our previous high point) in around 4 hours instead of 7. Familiarity with terrain is irreplaceable. The next few towers went just as quickly and then we were done with the technical climbing. Only the slogging remained.

And there was a lot of slogging. One summit after another after another. We were running low on energy and very low on water when we arrived at the summit of Warrior thinking we were on Warbonnet (note this is where unfamiliarity with the terrain beyond Shark’s Nose hosed us) only to look further down the way and see Warbonnet still a ways off. For the honest tick we had to slog on. We arrived at the summit of Warbonnet happy but still fully aware there were many miles still to go for us, and not really sure how to get back to trail. After endless amounts of scree scrambling and dirt gullies we popped out near North Lake and began the trudge back to the car. Sucking out of streams with the Life Straw was a much needed boost in morale as darkness came once again and we found ourselves running low on energy, conversation, and stoke. The Cirque Traverse behind us, we rolled into the parking lot, 22 hours 47 minutes and 32 seconds after we had departed. We pulled off our shoes and threw our sleeping bags on the ground, but we didn’t dare pass out before clinking the bottles of our celebratory beers.

We were light, hoping it made us fast!
We were light, hoping it made us fast!
Credit: pazreal
As a former catalog Life Straw model, I knew it would be crucial to ou...
As a former catalog Life Straw model, I knew it would be crucial to our success.
Credit: pazreal

Finishing up Pingora, stoke is high.
Finishing up Pingora, stoke is high.
Credit: pazreal
Top of Pingora, the rain is starting, spirits still high, energy dippi...
Top of Pingora, the rain is starting, spirits still high, energy dipping a little.
Credit: pazreal
Rapping in the rain, at night, in the mountains.  God we hate rapping.
Rapping in the rain, at night, in the mountains. God we hate rapping.
Credit: pazreal
Tiger Tower.  The coming of the dawn, we really need it to stop rainin...
Tiger Tower. The coming of the dawn, we really need it to stop raining or this will be too sketchy to keep on going.
Credit: pazreal
Wolf's Head at dawn.  With wet lichen this is essentially a no-go zone...
Wolf's Head at dawn. With wet lichen this is essentially a no-go zone for us until it starts to dry off. Waiting is not our strong suit.
Credit: pazreal
Warbonnet at first light. So. Far. Away.
Warbonnet at first light. So. Far. Away.
Credit: pazreal
Pingora in our rear view.  1 down, 11 to go.
Pingora in our rear view. 1 down, 11 to go.
Credit: pazreal
The Cirque Traverse, a whole lot of terrain.
The Cirque Traverse, a whole lot of terrain.
Credit: pazreal
Back in action, heading up Wolf's Head.
Back in action, heading up Wolf's Head.
Credit: pazreal
Kiwi Coils.  Key to the operation.
Kiwi Coils. Key to the operation.
Credit: pazreal
Wolf's Head has probably the best climbing of the whole Traverse.  Bry...
Wolf's Head has probably the best climbing of the whole Traverse. Bryan sending another hand traverse.
Credit: pazreal
With sunshine comes stoke.  Top of Wolf's Head
With sunshine comes stoke. Top of Wolf's Head
Credit: pazreal
...and more rapping.
...and more rapping.
Credit: pazreal
Petzl Cordex Glove.  Alpine traverse and scrambling necessity.  ProTip...
Petzl Cordex Glove. Alpine traverse and scrambling necessity. ProTip courtesy of Grippa
Credit: pazreal
High on the Shark's Nose.
High on the Shark's Nose.
Credit: pazreal
Last pitch of technical climbing, Block Tower.
Last pitch of technical climbing, Block Tower.
Credit: pazreal
Loose gully heading up to Watchtower.  Bryan at the bottom in blue, Pi...
Loose gully heading up to Watchtower. Bryan at the bottom in blue, Pingora in the background beyond the notch. We've come a long way.
Credit: pazreal
Warbonnet, not even remotely close.
Warbonnet, not even remotely close.
Credit: pazreal
Still slogging...you're killing' me Warbonnet.
Still slogging...you're killing' me Warbonnet.
Credit: pazreal
Quick break to take it in, have a sandwich, and sign the register.  Wa...
Quick break to take it in, have a sandwich, and sign the register. Warbonnet of course remains in the distance...
Credit: pazreal
Despondency and fatigue kicking in hard.  Still no Warbonnet, but the ...
Despondency and fatigue kicking in hard. Still no Warbonnet, but the slog continued.
Credit: pazreal
Great view of East Temple.  Plans are of course brewing to "take a loo...
Great view of East Temple. Plans are of course brewing to "take a look"
Credit: pazreal
And that's a wrap.  Nothing left to do but down this beverage and let ...
And that's a wrap. Nothing left to do but down this beverage and let sleep take hold.
Credit: pazreal

  Trip Report Views: 4,866
pazreal
About the Author
pazreal is a trad climber from Salt Lake City, UT.

Comments
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COT

climber
Door Number 3
  Aug 16, 2015 - 03:11pm PT
Strong effort! Did you find any temporary melt water pools on the second half? I was hallucinating by War Bonnet! Took me a couple of attempts as well, way to persevere! You might know this but Royal Robbins and crew were the first climbers to do the traverse, as a warm up for their FA of Hooker!

on the way to War Bonnet
on the way to War Bonnet
Credit: COT




Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Aug 16, 2015 - 03:31pm PT
nice!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Aug 16, 2015 - 07:30pm PT
Great report, enjoyed reading it. Mega pata stoke! :)
ground_up

Trad climber
mt. hood /baja
  Aug 16, 2015 - 07:39pm PT
Hell Yeh !
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Aug 16, 2015 - 09:58pm PT
Nicely done....good account!
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Aug 16, 2015 - 10:04pm PT
Love it! Stay fired up!
johnboy

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
  Aug 16, 2015 - 10:13pm PT
Super TR, thanks.

WWPCD, first time I've heard that one,
LOL
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Aug 16, 2015 - 10:45pm PT
Beautiful terrain, holy shit! Thanks for sharing!

What's the total mileage and elevation gain on the day? Seems monster.

Hardest day you've done in the mountains?
steveA

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
  Aug 17, 2015 - 04:40am PT
Great TR!

I'm heading into the East Fork Valley Sept. 2nd, with a much younger rope gun, ( my daughter's partner). He will love the wildness, just as you do.
pazreal

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Author's Reply  Aug 17, 2015 - 06:26am PT
My GPS was a bit erratic in the Cirque but it clocks in around 10,000 ft of vert and maybe 25+ miles all in.

This is definitely my biggest day in the mountains for sure. Hoping to keep building skills and eventually nail some bigger days and harder climbs in the mix.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Aug 17, 2015 - 06:33am PT
Cool report.
TFPU
Tad
Timid TopRope

Social climber
the land of Pale Ale
  Aug 17, 2015 - 07:02am PT
I like how you contrasted the 1st outing with the second. Great photos too.
mcreel

climber
Barcelona
  Aug 17, 2015 - 07:25am PT
Thanks for the TR!
noriko nakagawa

Trad climber
sin city
  Aug 17, 2015 - 09:42am PT
Congrats on the traverse and thanks for the great write-up and photos! This just reaffirms that I really need to get out to the Winds.

-Michelle
Psilocyborg

climber
  Aug 17, 2015 - 09:47am PT
F*#k yes
W.L.

climber
Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
  Aug 17, 2015 - 09:48am PT
RAD!!!!!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Aug 17, 2015 - 10:45am PT
Be heck Of a beautiful place, great TR!!!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Aug 17, 2015 - 11:14am PT
Hoping to keep building skills and eventually nail some bigger days and harder climbs in the mix.

Team pazreal Evolution late 2015, Care Bear early 2016 confirmed! Get 'em, boys!
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Aug 17, 2015 - 02:40pm PT
Awesome
Crag Q

Trad climber
Louisville, Colorado
  Aug 17, 2015 - 04:18pm PT
Nice work boys!
WyoRockMan

climber
Grizzlyville, WY
  Aug 17, 2015 - 05:07pm PT
but at a brutally slow time of 7 hours from the base of Pingora

Great work. I need to go work on my cardio...
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Aug 17, 2015 - 06:45pm PT
Good job guys. Excellent photos. TFPU
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Aug 17, 2015 - 06:53pm PT
Next time your in the area looking for a more leisurely pace do Black Elk on Warbonnet.
Grippa

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Aug 18, 2015 - 07:12am PT
fuuucccckkkkk yea!!! So glad we got to trade HOOTS across the cirque with you and b.goode!

http://i.imgur.com/d3Os2lG.gif
larryhorton

Trad climber
NM
  Aug 21, 2015 - 12:49pm PT
Nice writeup!

I remember crossing Jackass Pass with 100+ pound packs in mid-July around 1973. We glissaded most of the way to Lonesome Lake!
melski

Trad climber
bytheriver
  Aug 26, 2015 - 03:00pm PT
hey paz,,way to maintain,,could;nt agree more ,,best rock, wolfs,,best beer,,sierra,,watch out for red bull,,not so good .,,
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Aug 26, 2015 - 04:06pm PT
Woo-hoo!
TacomaDome

Trad climber
Tacoma, WA
  Aug 26, 2015 - 04:14pm PT
NIce! This is an area I need to get to.
phylp

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Aug 26, 2015 - 05:59pm PT
Good Lord! I can't even imagine having that much energy. Great read.
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