I was pretty psyched about bagging Pingora last week in just under 13 hours CTC (car-to-car) and it was my first time on that particular summit. Here is a run down and some photos from the trip.
Though the Cirque of the Towers looks rather benign from the view from Pinedale, it ‘s got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. The summits aren’t all that high, mostly 12-13,000’, but they are packed into a very tight space.
Randokitty and I got out of Jackson around 6pm, and made the dash to Big Sandy trailhead to spend the night. The drive was relaxing with how busy I’ve been lately and the sunset helped ease my nerves.
4:05 AM. Start time! Summer’s winding down quick and now that most of the bugs are gone from the Wind River Range, you have to take advantage of days off and good weather when you can. Hence, the endurance push for the summit of Pingora in a day.
6:16 AM. We got off to a quick start and were making great time. About halfway between Big Sandy lake and Jackass Pass, we passed by Warbonnet on the left in the twilight of morning. Pingora teases us still a couple miles away.
7:00 AM. Dropping down into the Cirque of the Towers as the sun shines on the east sides of the peaks. Our route, the South Buttress…is more or less the line between sun and shade. Another classic peak, Wolf’s Head, still in the shade to the left of Pingora.
The most exciting pitch of climbing on the South Buttress route is the last pitch, referred to as the ‘K-Cracks’ and where a series cracks forms a ‘K’ in the rock. We were going for the 5.8 line, the crack on the right that trends to the left going up the face.
7:45 AM. We are re-energized now that we are in the sun and we scramble up the south shoulder to access the start of the climb. Warbonnet and Warrior I enjoying it as well, with Haystack and East Temple Peak WAY in the distance.
The South Buttress Route consists of three pitches of technical climbing, with most of it in the 5.6 range, and with me not being much of a rock climber, just steep enough to get the heart-rate going.
10:27 AM. The Kitty’s a very solid climber and tackled every pitch with the up most of confidence and I felt safe in her wake. Here…she starts up the bottom of the ‘K-Cracks’ on pitch three.
10:55 AM. We make the summit and the views of the surrounding peaks is classic Wind River…with lots of granite. Click on the photo for larger image!
One of ‘America’s 50 Classic Climbs‘, the insane East Ridge of Wolf’s Head is in full view from the summit of Pingora. Though only rated 5.6, it has tons of exposure and the route finding on the the summit ridge can be very tricky as you make your way around at least five towers on the way to the top.
About the only time I look cool rock climbing is at the top. Note the tape gloves. I’m feeling so hardcore!
11:42 AM. We rested at the summit for a while. Though it felt good to stop for a moment, getting down the peak and the remaining 10 mile hike back out to the car was still very much on my mind. We had one 70M rope with us and made multiple rappels on the way back down to terra-firma.
2:26 PM. We took another long needed rest in the grassy meadows of the Cirque and I ate a ProBar to power me up for the hike out. We stopped again at Big Sandy Lake for a swim and it really felt great, finally making it back to the trailhead at 5:00pm. With only the 2.5 hour drive back to Jackson ahead of us, we knew we had made the most out of the day.
Though I feel a sub 13 hour time is respectable, I think a fast party (or soloist) willing to omit all stops, could probably do it in 10. Also considering that the record for the Cirque Traverse is 13:25 and summits the 11 peaks that make up the Cirque of the Towers (Pingora, Wolf’s Head, Overhanging Tower, Shark’s Nose, Block Tower, Watchtower, South Watchtower, Pylon Peak, Warrior II, Warrior I and Warbonnet).