Adventures of Marc Toso and Willow Toso

Wind Rivers 2007

Written by Willow, Click on images for best viewing

Mount Temple from Jack Ass Pass, 20 July 2007

Day 1 – Reach Trailhead at ~2pm.  Somehow we manage to put our packs on (mine weights 65 lbs and Marc’s weighs 76 lbs).  It is a 6 mile easy (depending on how much weight is on your back) to Big Sandy Lake and then a another 2 miles over Jack Ass Pass (the actual and apt name for the pass) to get to the Cirque of Towers. The first six is a cruise, were feeling studly. And the last two miles, well… Not so studly any more.

We arrived at a nice camp site before you hit the nice upper meadow above Lonesome Lake.  It is close to 10pm when we eat something and crawl into bed.  We’re exhausted but we can’t sleep.  We don’t feel anxious for the following day’s route, we just can’t sleep.

Day 2 – 2am.  Marc and I take our pulses.  Mine is ~80 bpm, his is 75 bpm. This is after laying down for three hours. Sounds like someone is not acclimatized…   The elevation is just under 10,000 ft.  Normally I don’t think that the elevation would bother us so much, but the hike in took a lot out of us and we haven’t recovered.  Normally my heart rate is ~55 bpm, and Marc’s is about 50 bpm.  Right now, we’re laying in bed with the heart rate of a brisk walker. Nothing like brisk activity while your trying to sleep.  Eventually, we fall asleep but the alarm goes off at 4am.  Now my heart rate is ~70 bpm. Rested? No.

Mitchel Peak from across Lonesome Lake

In our hike to the base of Pindora, we chose to skirt the boulder field on the east side.  Later we read that this is not the recommended approach, and sure enough it takes significant time to get to the north east side of Pindora.  But we took some lovely pictures. Eventually we find the 1st pitch.

Mitchel and the Warrior Peaks early morning 21 July 2007

The climb basically follows a right facing corner system from bottom to top.  It is steep and defined where rated 5.7 and grassy where not rated.  The climb would have been awesome had we gotten some sleep.  I think we did it in 10 pitches and in 8 hours.  The descent took another 3 hours since we rope pulling was a nightmare at the rapels.  The rope was officially stuck on the 3rd rapel and I had to climb up and cut 3 inches off the end of the rope.  Good thing I carry a big sharp knife with me (also is great as a peanut butter spreader).  Marc is looking very debonair in  by the time we hit the trail back to camp around 8pm.

Snack time after Pingora

Day 3 – High time for a rest day.  We slept in, read and took a walk to Lonesome Lake.

Pingora - the queen of the cirque

Warbonnet to Pingora pano

Striking a pose in front of Pingora

Day 4 – Mitchell Peak is the plan, the North Face Center route (Ecclesiastes) IV 5.9

Ecclesiastes is a great climb, although it has some route finding issues at the start and some of the route was wet.  The 3 pitches of right facing corner is awesome.  It isn’t your typical corner, and you climb jagged flakes up to the offwidth crux.  You need a #3.5 or #4 BD Camalot to protect it – or you can use the #8 Hex that we left behind.  Marc cleverly managed get the #8 hex in there out of my reach.  Someone with long skinny arms has probably bootied it by now.  I was bummed, but then 4 days later I found a #8 hex laying at the top of a route on Mt Haystack. Give and take.

Getting ready at sunrise, Pingora in the background

On a ledge at the end of the corner system.

The final 3 pitches are not a part of the “awesome” clause I used for this route earlier.  It involves low class scrambling and chimneying and a final pitch of easy climbing up rock that Marc described as slightly better than kitty litter.  I think he was mightily exaggerating, but as he points out – I wasn’t leading.

Marc heading up the cat litter to the summit of Mitchell Peak.

a pano of the cirque as seen from the top of Mitchell Peak

Day 5. – Rest day again.  Our original plan of 2 days climbing 1 day rest doesn’t look probably at this point.  In addition to the approach, the full days of climbing is really tiring us out.  We’re very glad for the excellent weather however.  In fact, its too hot!  The sun just evaporates your energy away.

a pretty photos of Pindora

Our water source just below our camp site. Warbonnet Peak in the background.

The moon next to a spire on Warbonnet Peak.

Best friends at dinner.

Day 6 – The plan is to hike over the pass between Wolf’s Head and Overhang Tower and climb the west face of Shark’s Nose Tower.  It appears that some clouds have moved in however.  We head up to the pass at 4am (after a 3am alarm) only to find that we made better time than anticipated and we don’t want to attempt the col leading to the pass before light.  So we wait for close to an hour in somewhat uncomfortable fashion.

waiting for the sun

looking back at Mitchel from the pass between Wolf's Head and Overhang Tower.

It was good that we waited until light, because there were massive slab we needed to walk around.  We finally reach the pass and begin skirting around Overhang Tower.  The clouds aren’t currently threatening, but the west face of Sharks’s Nose is very committing.  We decide against it.  Instead we take a look at a north face route.  Our guide book lives up to its reputation as being awful.  We are in full view of the north face and obvious features described in the route are NOT on the face.  So we finally decide to climb Overhang Tower – an excellent 4th class route with a super cool summit.  We got a great at the valley with the M Buttress.  We are planning our next trip to include the M Buttress.  If you’re bored, enlarge the next photo and look for the M in the distance valley behind and to the right of me that give the M Buttress its name.

Climbing to the top of Overhang Tower. The Valley with M Buttress behind me.

We get back to camp around 11am and decide that we should pack up and head to Deep Lake, where we will climb Mount Haystack and Steeple – and maybe bathe.

Arrowhead Lake below Jack Ass Pass. In the distance is Haystack, Steeple, East Temple and Temple Peaks.

Turns out that not climbing was a great decision, since the heavens opened up and poured rain on us.  Makes good rainbows though.


Day 7 –  The clouds part in the morning, but we’re pretty tired.  So we call it another rest day.

looking north at the Cirque of the Towers

Demonstrating proper rest day activities with proper head gear.

Day 8 – The day started out rough.  Millie had been amazing while in the Cirque.  She would stay at camp and wait for us to return without being leashed.  Our camp here (between Clear Lake and Deep Lake) sees more people passing by.  This is one theory.  Because we went to attempt the North Face of Haystack – a classic 5.6 route – and on the approach Millie showed up, forcing us to turn around.  It turned out ok, because clouds moved in again.  But still, we couldn’t trust her anymore and her days of freedom were over.  We really wanted to climb something however, so when the clouds looked pretty broken up by 2pm we ran up to Railroad tracks – a grass 5.8 climb up Haystack and a 10 minute approach from our camp.  The climb was ok, but the best part was that we were climbing.

Coming up the grassy cracks on Railroad Tracks

Deep Lake from the top of Haystack.

We didn’t get off quite in time however and it began raining again.  The rain wasn’t too bad and we easily descended the Grassy Goat Trail back to camp.

Descending the damp Grassy Goat Trail.

Haystack after the rain

No I don't want to get up and cook in the rain, and no I don't think this is why my hat is so trashed.

Day 9 – We climb the North Face route on Haystack.  A great quality 5.6. We got back to camp just as the heavens broke with 1 hour of solid hail!  It was the first time we weren’t sure that a tent without a bottom was such a good idea.  Actually, this trip taught us that if you know you’re going to be tent bound, the betamid is not the optimal tent.

Day 10 – An early rise gets us on our way to Steeple Peak.

the east side of Haystack as seen from Steeple

top of first pitch of Steeple

Marc checking out the "hallway" within the Great North Chimney on Steeple. The hallway, it turns out, is not the way to go - but its cool.

at the summit of Steeple Peak - our favorite climb in the Winds.

Day 11 – Hike out, get to car, change the flat tire, get to food, drive the 6 hours back to Fort Collins.

yahoo! Life’s too short.

3 responses

  1. Doug Robinson

    A very sweet trip, thanks for sharing!
    It’s been too long since I was in there.
    And Steeple was the best, eh?
    OK, on the list…

    April 19, 2010 at 7:18 pm

  2. Christoph

    Great story. Which guide book was that, if I may ask? (Is it really that awful? Are there better alternatives?)

    May 1, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    • Hey Christoph, we used the “Climbing and Hiking in the Wind River Mountains” by Joe Kelsey. It’s ok as a guide book. The pingora topo is dead wrong, describing a traverse that doesn’t exist. Look at for an accurate topo of that route. And we couldn’t recognize anything for the route on sharksnose.There is another guide just for the Cirque of the towers “Cirque of the Towers & Deep Lake. A Select Guide to the Wind Rivers’ Best Rock Climbing.” I haven’t seen this guidebook but I’ve heard good things. And now there is a reasonable amount of stuff on that should help you to piece together route info. If you want any specific beta on any of the climbs we did just let me know!

      May 3, 2010 at 9:02 am

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