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Cirque of the Towers

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Warrior 1 
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Cirque of the Towers  

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Elevation: 10,400'
Location: 42.772, -109.223 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 493,902
Administrators: Mike Snyder, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Ron Olsen on May 24, 2006
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Photo by Blitzo.


A superb alpine climbing area with some of the most stunning scenery in the Winds. Home of the classic Northeast Face on Pingora and East Ridge of Wolf's Head.

Summitpost.org has excellent information on the Cirque of the Towers.

Getting There 

An arduous hike in over Jackass Pass from the Big Sandy trailhead.

Note: people with recent experience climbing in the Cirque of the Towers, please feel free to add additional info on access, hiking, camping, and other logistics.

Climbing Season

Weather station 22.5 miles from here

33 Total Routes

['4 Stars',8],['3 Stars',15],['2 Stars',9],['1 Star',1],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Cirque of the Towers:
Northwest Ridge/West Face   Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c Easy Snow     Trad, Snow, Alpine, 450'   Overhanging Tower
East Ridge   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, Alpine, 10 pitches, 1000'   Wolfs Head
NW Buttress   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, Alpine, 5 pitches, 500'   Shark's Nose
East Face, Left Side Cracks   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches, 800'   Pingora
South Buttress   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Alpine, 4 pitches, 500'   Pingora
Northeast Face   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Alpine, 12 pitches, 1200'   Pingora
Direct Southwest Face   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches, 1100'   Shark's Nose
Northeast Face of Warrior I   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches, 1200'    Warrior 1
Southwest Face Right   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 4 pitches, 450'   Pingora
North Face Center (Ecclesiastes)   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 9 pitches, 1000'   Mitchell Peak
Weather Or Not...   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches, 750'   Warbonnet Peak
Northeast Arete   5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 3 pitches   Sundance Pinnacle
Right Crack   5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 5 pitches, 500'   Sundance Pinnacle
feather buttress   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R     Trad, Alpine, 8 pitches, 1000'   Warbonnet Peak
The Candy Shop   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Trad, Alpine, 8 pitches, 1200'    Warrior 1
Black Elk   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, Alpine, 8 pitches, 1000'   Warbonnet Peak
Browse More Classics in Cirque of the Towers

Featured Route For Cirque of the Towers
Pitch 3

Un-named 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c  WY : Wind River Range : ... : Warbonnet Peak
Start same as for Brown Cow.P-1 Climb the low angle ramp to a stance below the splitter corner and belay.P-2 Climb the obvious corner (left) via increasingly larger crack to some interesting moves around the large chockstones and up to a nice ledge and belay.P-3 Climb the steep and amazing hand crack through the small roof where it turns to hands/thin hands (crux). Continue up the amazing flake to a short traverse left and a 2 bolt anchor.Either rap or continue up numerous variations. The bes...[more]   Browse More Classics in WY

Photos of Cirque of the Towers Slideshow Add Photo
Pingora doubled for twice the fun!
Pingora doubled for twice the fun!
The classic view of Warbonnet from the camping area.  For the same shot in the morning, check out this <a href='/v/105861678'>Photo</a>!  Which photo was taken first?  This one was taken in 1984.
The classic view of Warbonnet from the camping are...
Pingora and Wolf's Head in a watercolor by Mark Vinsel (see <a href='http://www.vinsel.com/082599.HTM' target='_blank' rel='nofollow' >vinsel.com/082599.HTM</a> ).  Curiously, this image appears backwards to me.
Pingora and Wolf's Head in a watercolor by Mark Vi...
warbonnet one cold stormy morning
warbonnet one cold stormy morning
cirque view past jackass pass
cirque view past jackass pass
another shot of Warbonnet in the late evening
another shot of Warbonnet in the late evening
warbonnet & warrior1
warbonnet & warrior1
Pingora across Lonesome Lake, Feb., 1980.
Pingora across Lonesome Lake, Feb., 1980.
Looking west from Pingora
Looking west from Pingora
the cirque, from lizard head peak.
the cirque, from lizard head peak.
A shot of the back side of the Cirque.  The Sharks Nose is the prominent center peak.
A shot of the back side of the Cirque. The Sharks...
taken from high up in the Deep Lake cirque
taken from high up in the Deep Lake cirque
Cirque sunrise.
Cirque sunrise.
Looking north toward Jackass Pass. Note Pingora and Wolfs Head in the background.
Looking north toward Jackass Pass. Note Pingora an...
Pingora in Cirque of the Towers
Pingora in Cirque of the Towers
the cirque
the cirque
Sunset in the Cirque. <br />Photo by Blitzo.
Sunset in the Cirque.
Photo by Blitzo.
Watch Tower from our campsite. Summer '98.
Watch Tower from our campsite. Summer '98.
Cirque of the Towers - north side
Cirque of the Towers - north side
The Watch Tower. <br />Photo by Blitzo.
The Watch Tower.
Photo by Blitzo.
Cirque of the Towers (USGS photo)
Cirque of the Towers (USGS photo)
My pan of the area from my campsite in the Cirque
My pan of the area from my campsite in the Cirque

Show All 48 Photos

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Comments on Cirque of the Towers Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 10, 2014
By Andrew May
From: Sandy, UT
Aug 15, 2006
The Cirque is a truly magical place with superb scenery and excellent climbing on solid rock. The climbing is excellent and takes gear well. Especially small nuts and hexes.
Be prepared to start early in the morning since afternoon storms are quite common. The are many great campsites within a few minutes walk of fresh alpine streams and soft places to pitch a tent. Bring sunscreen as the sun is quite intense.
Route finding can be quite tricky even with the Kelsey guidebook so plan on spending a little time finding your route.
By Armin
From: Glenwood Springs, CO
Aug 22, 2006
Some good info to know: ignore the first part of the three sets of joe kelsey's horrible driving directions to get to the cirque (Big sandy opening is your access point), from 191 in boulder take 353 towards the winds and just keep going until you see signs for big sandy opening/campground. Kelsey's guide mentions a left hand turn when the road turns to dirt, ignore that comment, just keep going on the dirt, its something like 40 miles to the big sandy opening from boulder. We tried the second and third options of driving directions and got lost until we asked the folks at the general store in boulder. 5$ a night camping at the trailhead, expect plenty of company there. No permit required at the cirque, very nice feature. Bugs were minimal mid-august, we brought ice axes and ended up using them to dig our latrine. No one else brought them either that we noticed.
By Blitzo
Sep 18, 2006
An awesome place, but the bugs are horrendous!
By Andrew May
From: Sandy, UT
Oct 2, 2006
Kelsey's directions did suck! We were lost for a while too. I personally felt that route-finding was super difficult, very vague even with the guidebook. We ended up having to bail about four pitches up on Sharks nose, not fun.
We didnt have any problems with bugs though, we were there in early August. Perfect time to go IMO.
By Steven Lucarelli
From: Moab, UT
Jun 28, 2007
I don't see any problems with the guide book, it keeps the area adventurous. You just need to have the experience to know how to compare the book to the rock. Supertopos are great but only for certain areas.
By Andrew May
From: Sandy, UT
Nov 5, 2007
I was simply voicing my opinion that the guidebook was a little vague. Do you think that a place that requires an hour on a dirt road and a 13 mile hike will make the Cirque less wild?
By Dave Stewart
From: Boulder, CO
Feb 5, 2008
Are there any routes that go up the obvious buttress on Watch Tower? I was in the area last fall and the face looks amazing. The guide book mentions a route around to climber's right but not much else. Any FA potential?
By Lynn S
Aug 17, 2008
Spent last week in the Cirque, great weather until early Thursday evening and then some snow. The bugs were pretty minimal prior to that so the cold weather Friday and Saturday may knock them way down.

This was my first trip into the Cirque and it is stunning! Took my 15 year old son in for his first real taste of alpine climbing, he loved it. Wolf's Head is one of the coolest 5.6's I have ever been on, massive exposure for sure, a must do.
By Alec
Jul 13, 2009
I would recommend an ice axe for any parties w/ goals of climbing routes in the Wolf's Head / Shark's Nose / Overhanging Tower area. This (2009) season is unique (snowed through much of June), but there is a TON of snow up there, and any descents down any of those gullies will be quite hairy when there's snow. You don't want to have to make snow bollards in bullet-hard snow for rapping couloirs in the middle of the night...
By Kurt Montgomery
Jul 19, 2009
Alec was there still significant snow in and around the camping area's and do you have any pictures from your recent trip. Thanks for any help you can give.
By mark felber
From: Wheat Ridge, CO
Jul 28, 2009
For Kurt Montgomery, I got back from the Winds today, an ice axe no longer looks necessary for Wolf's Head (I was on Pingora). That part of Wyoming had an impressive heat wave last week that reduced the snow pack to an insignificant level.

For all, there is a new (2008) guide book to the Cirque of the Towers and Deep Lake by Steve Bechtel: firstascentpress.com/cirque-gu... . Very detailed and well written.

The Big Sandy/Cirque of the Towers area seems to have been discovered by the masses. Walking out yesterday I must have passed at least 100 people hiking in to Big Sandy Lake or the Cirque, including at least one group of a dozen or so in matching shirts, like some kind of uniform. The Big Sandy parking area was packed, 50-60 vehicles. Most of them were probably camping at Big Sandy Lake and fishing or doing day hikes from there, but anyone planning on stopping for the night somewhere on the way to Cirque of the Towers would have had some competition for a campsite. The Cirque itself was pretty full over the weekend, but I was still able to find a secluded spot. Yesterday's parade may have been a bit anomalous, but I was told by a long time regular that the crowds have definitely been increasing lately. Definitely brush up on your low impact travel and camping techniques if you go to the Winds.

I was instructed to move "another 10 feet" off the trail by a horse packer after I had already moved off the trail to let his string of 6 horses pass, which didn't sit too well with me. Shouldn't he train his animals better?
By Chris Owen
From: La Crescenta and Big Bear Lake
Jan 13, 2010
Got rained on for a week straight back in the early 90's, but had a great campsite complete with cave, where I sat and read "Lord of the Rings" - surrounded by mist wreathed towers of dark, wet rock, and the booming o thunder, I almost felt like I was in Mordor, huddled in a cave waiting for the weather to clear - it eventually did.
By flatlanderonholiday
Jul 14, 2010
I am heading to the Cirque in late July, any word on the snow and bug conditions. I am also looking for an easy alpine route for me and my 14 year old son, any ideas?
By Jim Lamancusa
Aug 31, 2010
Can anyone update me about the wag bag situation in the Cirque? Is it required to pack out your poop? Do they have wag bags at the trailhead?

I read in a guidebook that it is manditory, but it seems really unlikely that the "masses" that go to the Cirque are all packing out their poo.

Any advice would be very welcome.

Thank you,

By fossana
From: Bishop, CA
Mar 17, 2013
I just received my Winds topo maps from Beartooth Publishing. The south one south one (1:50,000) covers the Cirque. It's nicer than the Earthwalk Press one. Shipping fees are nominal from Beartooth directly.
By Lee Jenkins
From: Buena Vista, Colorado
May 15, 2013
Can anyone provide details on where to camp in the Cirque? Maybe even GPS data? Heading there in July for the 1st time.
By Nick Stayner
From: Billings, MT
May 16, 2013
Lee- the camping options are obvious once you descend into the Cirque.
From: Boulder, Colorado
Jun 10, 2014
Does anyone have current beta/conditions in the cirque. Cheers!