The East Ridge of Wolf’s Head rises above the Cirque of the Towers.
After seeing the East Ridge of Wolf’s Head route from the summit of Pingora, Randokitty and I decided to haul some bigger backpacks loaded for a couple nights in the Cirque of the Towers and give it a try. It is definitely a busy time of year back in the Cirque right now and although we saw fewer tents earlier in the week, there were now close to ten easily seen tents camped around the cirque. Luckily, we found a spot in some trees and with great views of the entire cirque.
The wind was ripping like crazy on the hike in and all through the night, but it died down quickly when the sun came up, giving us our window. Unfortunately, it looked as though most of the people in the cirque had decided today was the day for Wolf’s Head, and there were at least 5 parties gearing up to give it a go. After some initial scrambling to the base of the real climbing, we met a group from Alta and they nicely let us jump into the number two spot…behind a fast group from SLC. We knew the route was going to take most of the day, so we were psyched to get bumped up.
I was pretty nervous looking at the famous ‘sidewalk section’ at the beginning of the climb, but it had more bark than bite and proved to be one of the easier pitches of the entire route. Julia led the way up to the ridge, where a 1000′ of negotiating sharp towers brings one to the summit. Once up on the ridge, most of the other climbing parties spread out, so it really felt like you were having a wild experience.
The route finding on the ridge was difficult, but Julia consulted the topos and route descriptions to keep us on track. There were many times when the exposure was so great and the climbing difficult enough to make me truly scared. I think I was most terrified during the ‘piton pitch’, where the route leads out onto some sketchy face climbing on the north side of the peak. I was glad to get to the belay.
It was late afternoon when we finally reached the summit and with a rumored tricky descent to come, we spent only moments at the top. After a few rappels, mixed with some traversing and down-climbing on loose, steep terrain, we arrived at the col between Wolf’s Head and Overhanging Tower and happily swapped our climbing shoes for approach shoes.
Sardines in The Cirque of the Towers.
It was nice to be back at camp sipping Yager and eating sardines, but as night time came, we saw some headlamps just getting to the summit of Wolf’s Head…definitely running a little behind schedule. We hoped they would sit tight and not risk messing up the descent in their no doubt tired state. After not arriving back to camp by 10 am the next day, Julia was very worried for them, so we hiked back up toward the peak to do some light investigating. Luckily we finally saw them at the bottom of the descent gully. Their rope had gotten stuck three times on the raps, when finally they sat down and waited for daylight. For what I hear, this kind of thing happens on Wolf’s Head a lot, and thanks to Randokitty, it didn’t happen to us.