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Cirque of the Towers

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Cirque of the Towers Rock Climbing 

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Elevation: 10,400'
Location: 42.772, -109.223 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 253,629
Administrators: Mike Snyder, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Ron Olsen on May 24, 2006
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The classic view of Warbonnet from the camping are...


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. 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

50 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',14],['3 Stars',21],['2 Stars',13],['1 Star',2],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Cirque of the Towers

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Cirque of the Towers:
Northwest Ridge/West Face   Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c     Trad, 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
Cirque of the Towers Traverse   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Alpine, Grade V   Pingora
Northeast Face   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Alpine, 12 pitches, 1200'   Pingora
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
South Tower Summit    5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 120'   Shark's Nose
Northeast Face of Warrior I   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches, 1200'    Warrior 1
South Face, Right   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, Alpine, 4 pitches   Wolfs Head
Weather Or Not...   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches, 750'   Warbonnet Peak
Right Crack   5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 5 pitches, 500'   Sundance Pinnacle
Northeast Arete   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 3 pitches   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
Brown Cow   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c     Trad, Alpine, 10 pitches, 1000'   Warbonnet Peak
Red Cloud   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches, 400'   Wolfs Head
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Cirque of the Towers

Featured Route For Cirque of the Towers
Rock Climbing Photo: View from the rap anchor on the North summit of Sh...

South Tower Summit 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a  Wyoming : Wind River Range : ... : Shark's Nose
The start of the route begins after 1 rap down from the North Summit of Shark's Nose to a small ledge/ramp beneath. Then move up and over southeast to a huge ledge to begin the traverse to the South Tower.P1 - Belay from the large ledge and traverse across the ridge connecting to the South tower. You should find yourself on the west side of the ridge as you hit the crux an exposed burly boulder problem (2-3 moves). After these moves you gain access to a higher ridge with a...[more]   Browse More Classics in Wyoming

Photos of Cirque of the Towers Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Pingora doubled for twice the fun!
Pingora doubled for twice the fun!
Rock Climbing Photo: warbonnet one cold stormy morning
warbonnet one cold stormy morning
Rock Climbing Photo: another shot of Warbonnet in the late evening
another shot of Warbonnet in the late evening
Rock Climbing Photo: cirque view past jackass pass
cirque view past jackass pass
Rock Climbing Photo: Pingora and Wolf's Head in a watercolor by Mark Vi...
Pingora and Wolf's Head in a watercolor by Mark Vi...
Rock Climbing Photo: Warbonnet. Photo by Blitzo.
Warbonnet. Photo by Blitzo.
Rock Climbing Photo: the cirque, from lizard head peak.
the cirque, from lizard head peak.
Rock Climbing Photo: warbonnet & warrior1
warbonnet & warrior1
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking west from Pingora
Looking west from Pingora
Rock Climbing Photo: Pingora across Lonesome Lake, Feb., 1980.
Pingora across Lonesome Lake, Feb., 1980.
Rock Climbing Photo: A shot of the back side of the Cirque.  The Sharks...
A shot of the back side of the Cirque. The Sharks...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pingora in Cirque of the Towers
Pingora in Cirque of the Towers
Rock Climbing Photo: warbonnet
Rock Climbing Photo: Cirque of the Towers (USGS photo)
Cirque of the Towers (USGS photo)
Rock Climbing Photo: Cirque sunrise.
Cirque sunrise.
Rock Climbing Photo: taken from high up in the Deep Lake cirque
taken from high up in the Deep Lake cirque
Rock Climbing Photo: Beauty.
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking north toward Jackass Pass. Note Pingora an...
Looking north toward Jackass Pass. Note Pingora an...
Rock Climbing Photo: Cirque of the Towers - north side
Cirque of the Towers - north side
Rock Climbing Photo: Watchtower to Pingora (L-to-R), from the meadows b...
Watchtower to Pingora (L-to-R), from the meadows b...
Rock Climbing Photo: Warbonnet
Rock Climbing Photo: Watch Tower from our campsite. Summer '98.
Watch Tower from our campsite. Summer '98.
Rock Climbing Photo: The Watch Tower. Photo by Blitzo.
The Watch Tower. Photo by Blitzo.
Rock Climbing Photo: sunset from the top of the feather buttress / warb...
sunset from the top of the feather buttress / warb...

Show All 65 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Cirque of the Towers Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 11, 2017
By Andrew May
From: Westminster, CO
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 Colorado
From: Boulder, 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: Westminster, CO
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: Westminster, CO
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 LaLonde
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: . 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: 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: leeds, ut
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: Tucson, Arizona
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: Wymont Kingdom
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!
By Michele Evans
Nov 12, 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
By Nate Solnit
From: Bath, NH
Oct 10, 2015
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.
By dana eyde
Aug 13, 2016
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.
By Gee Double
Mar 8, 2017
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.
By greg rosselol
Jul 11, 2017
Looking for another party to share expenses for gear drop by pack horse into the cirque. Sometime around mid August 2017.

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