Elevation: 10,400 ft
GPS: 42.772, -109.223 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 380,724 total · 2,440/month
Shared By: Ron Olsen on May 23, 2006
Admins: Lauren Heerschap, Mike Snyder, Jake Dickerson, Taylor Spiegelberg


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.

51 Total Climbs

Route Finder - Best Climbs for YOU!

Location: Cirque of the Towers Change
Type:  to 
Sort by:   then:

Classic Climbing Routes at Cirque of the Towers

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
East Ridge
Trad, Alpine 10 pitches
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
East Face, Left Side Cracks
Trad, Alpine 11 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
South Buttress
Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Cirque of the Towers Traverse
Trad, Alpine
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Northeast Face
Trad, Alpine 12 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
North Face Center (Ecclesiastes)
Trad, Alpine 9 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Northeast Face of Warrior I
Trad, Alpine 7 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Southwest Face Right
Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
South Face, Right
Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Weather Or Not...
Trad, Alpine 6 pitches
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Northeast Arete
Trad, Alpine 3 pitches
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R
feather buttress
Trad, Alpine 8 pitches
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Black Elk
Trad, Alpine 8 pitches
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
Brown Cow
Trad, Alpine 10 pitches
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
Col du Ane
Trad, Alpine
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
East Ridge Wolfs Head
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad, Alpine 10 pitches
East Face, Left Side Cracks Pingora
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad, Alpine 11 pitches
South Buttress Pingora
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
Cirque of the Towers Traverse Pingora
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad, Alpine
Northeast Face Pingora
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad, Alpine 12 pitches
North Face Center (Ecclesia… Mitchell Peak
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad, Alpine 9 pitches
Northeast Face of Warrior I Warrior 1
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad, Alpine 7 pitches
Southwest Face Right Pingora
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
South Face, Right Wolfs Head
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
Weather Or Not... Warbonnet Peak
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad, Alpine 6 pitches
Northeast Arete Sundance Pinnacle
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Trad, Alpine 3 pitches
feather buttress Warbonnet Peak
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R Trad, Alpine 8 pitches
Black Elk Warbonnet Peak
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Trad, Alpine 8 pitches
Brown Cow Warbonnet Peak
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c Trad, Alpine 10 pitches
Col du Ane Warbonnet Peak
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b Trad, Alpine
More Classic Climbs in Cirque of the Towers »

Weather Averages

Days w Precip
Prime Climbing Season


Andrew May
Westminster, CO
Andrew May   Westminster, CO
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. Aug 15, 2006
Armin climber
Westminster, CO
Armin climber   Westminster, CO
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.
-Armin Aug 22, 2006
An awesome place, but the bugs are horrendous! Sep 18, 2006
Andrew May
Westminster, CO
Andrew May   Westminster, CO
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. Oct 2, 2006
Steven Lucarelli
Moab, UT
Steven Lucarelli   Moab, UT
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. Jun 28, 2007
Andrew May
Westminster, CO
Andrew May   Westminster, CO
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? Nov 5, 2007
Dave Stewart
Boulder, CO
Dave Stewart   Boulder, CO
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? Feb 5, 2008
Lynn S  
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. Aug 17, 2008
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... Jul 13, 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. Jul 19, 2009
mark felber
Wheat Ridge, CO
mark felber   Wheat Ridge, CO
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… . 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? Jul 28, 2009
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
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. Jan 13, 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? Jul 14, 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,

Jim Aug 31, 2010
leeds, ut
fossana   leeds, ut
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. Mar 17, 2013
Lee Jenkins
Tucson, Arizona
Lee Jenkins   Tucson, Arizona
Can anyone provide details on where to camp in the Cirque? Maybe even GPS data? Heading there in July for the 1st time. May 15, 2013
Nick Stayner
Wymont Kingdom
Nick Stayner   Wymont Kingdom
Lee- the camping options are obvious once you descend into the Cirque. May 16, 2013
Boulder, Colorado
Dr. VARMENT   Boulder, Colorado
Does anyone have current beta/conditions in the cirque. Cheers! Jun 10, 2014
My husband John Evans & I had a very successful trip this past August at the Cirque. Here's a little video I put together of our trip. Wind River 2014 Nov 12, 2014
Nate Solnit
Bath, NH
Nate Solnit   Bath, NH
I'm looking to get a trip in here but don't have time late summer. What's the snowpack etc. like in late May early June? Does it affect approaches and descents primarily or the the routes as well? What's the general wisdom on trying to run a trip here in early summer? I've only been up there in late August and can't swing that timing for a year or two. Oct 10, 2015
The sign-proper marking the start of the trail up to Jackass Pass from Big Sandy Lake ....... is no longer. But there is still the 1.25-meter-or-so-tall signpost still sticking straight up: Hey, getting 50% of what you want isn't that bad, right? Just look for the (sign)post where Big Sandy Lake's outline makes the well-defined 90-degree bend located at the north of the lake. The trail up to the pass is quite worn-in, and then, later, after making the turnoff for the climbing-area/higher-up camping meadows in the Cirque, for the last bit above the second lake (Arrowhead Lake) changes to talus-and-cairns as it hugs the side of Warbonnet Peak. Aug 13, 2016
For best and fastest approach, I recommend the crossing the outlet of Arrowhead Lake and hiking west shore, then up to and along the East Face of the Plume, easiest along the base of the wall. Mar 8, 2017
Greg R
Durango CO
Greg R   Durango CO
Looking for another party to share expenses for gear drop by pack horse into the cirque. Sometime around mid August 2017. Jul 11, 2017
It absolutely IS mandatory to pack out human waste. Wag bags are easy and efficient. The effects of bad bathroom etiquette has had a very noticeable effect on camping in the area, especially the Cirque. When we visit Eden, we must be responsible. Take care. Aug 4, 2018
Ben Thuss
Boulder, CO
Ben Thuss   Boulder, CO
Does anyone know what the typical conditions would be like for the first week in October? Hoping to climb Pingora then but weary of early-season snow potential. Aug 24, 2018
Daniel James
2018/19: Bristol, England
Daniel James   2018/19: Bristol, England
You can take the regular trail up to Jackass Pass but here's info on the climber trail that's a bit better for climbing purposes probably (as Gee said):

Topo map picture posted mountainproject.com/photo/1…

Take obvious trail fork a bit past North Lake - cross over the stones to the left
Follow trail, go along North Creek and cross it at outlet of Arrowhead Lake
Hug shore of lake following trails/light boulders
Follow cairns a little above lake through boulders
Exit to trail going uphill to left (going right I believe will bring you up Jackass Pass)
Follow mesh of climber trails down into the Cirque

Many camping options will be obvious, just please be appropriately far from water

+1 to definitely wag bag it and help avoid this special place being loved to death Sep 17, 2018