Monday, August 17, 2015

Cirque of the Towers

Wind River Range

     This is hands down the most impressive place I have been, all of the mountains and all the peaks I have ever visited, do not hold a candle to these granite monsters. It is roughly 8 miles to Jackass pass, the gate way to the Cirque; backpacking heaven! The trip was planned six months ago and there were several people planning to go, however as the trip drew near, some of the participants had to bow out due to circumstances beyond their control and as of Thursday night, it was down to two! Tracy went to great lengths planning this trip and did a fabulous job.

     I ended up having work in Rock Springs, so this allowed me to head straight for the trailhead right after work and not have to spend the additional freeway time. The trailhead had more cars than the average Wally world, so I had to park nearly half a mile from the register box at the trailhead. I just slept in my truck and was up just after seven am. Tracy and I, shouldered the packs and hit the trail; our plan was to base camp at Big Sandy lake.

     A well worn trail greeted us.

     Big Sandy river

     Holy, Shiitake! Well okay, it isn't a Shiitake Mushroom, however in my defense, Tracy laughed at my pun! It was a big mushroom!

     The forest thickened.

     First glimpse of Big Sandy.

     At the top of the lake.

     The campsite.
     Here is the fire pit at camp, as you can see, it has had many fires and the soot reaches nearly all the way to the top. I wonder how many fires there have been over the years!

     We made it to Big Sandy around 11:30 am and managed to set up camp and have lunch, soon after, the clouds rolled in and began to threaten us.

     We did a little fishing and caught several Brook trout, it was fast fishing, just like most high county lakes with them. Those Wind river Brook trout are very aggressive and will absolutely destroy a large dry fly floated above. Dinner was made and we discussed the trip so far and our plan for tomorrow. Soon the stars made their entrance, followed by the Milky Way. I had a persistent cloud that just wouldn't go away. So I just shot a series of night shots and climbed into my Hammock, if you look close you can see some of the Perseid meteor shower.

     I tried to give my Hammock one more try and I just can't do it. I'm a side sleeper and that is nearly impossible for me. I would wake every couple hours either sore or cold from slipping off my pad, it was a rough night! I climbed out around seven and we had breakfast and were on the trail about nine.

     The first glimpse of War Bonnet peak, it is the one on the right. The shark fin shaped peak to the left isn't named on my Beartooth Publishing map. We even check the Forest service 7.5 minute map and there isn't a name there either.

     War Bonnet.
     I thought I had a tough and expensive hobby, we met a couple climbers on the way. Their packs were heavier than ours and they just passed us by on the way to climb Pingora peak. That has to be pretty tough to hike in eight to ten miles and then climb a granite monster.
     A little closer, the trail to Jackass pass is listed at about two and a half miles, however it took us just as long to hike the pass as it did to hike the five plus miles to Big Sandy.
     The unnamed lake under shark fin.

     Closer still, the trail at this point began to be hard to follow.
     First glimpse of Pingora peak.

     The first view of Arrowhead lake.
     A look back and Tracy, close behind.
     Arrowhead lake.
     At the bottom of Jackass pass and A great view of War Bonnet and Warrior peak.

     Pylon Peak is the next named peak.

     Then there is Block tower, Sharks nose, Overhanging tower, Wolfs head.

    Finally at the end of the Cirque is Pingora peak. All of this was visible from the trail just before beginning to cross over Jackass.
     Arrowhead lake behind us as we climbed the very steep pass.
     Once at the top of the pass, we had lunch and took a well deserved break. After lunch I climbed to the highest point nearest to me and took seven individual shots to later merge together into this!
     Lonesome lake, sits below in the basin below the Cirque. It is a beautiful lake and the Forest services has regulated camping in the basin to protect the beauty of the area. It should be protected due to the popularity of the area. We did not descend farther into the basin, the fishing is supposed to be good for Cutthroat trout, however we just planned on day hiking to see the Cirque and we lost all desire to fish after hiking in. The trail back was almost as steep as coming in, we new it was going to be tough and wanted to get back to camp. Our goal was to see the Cirque and we accomplished that by 11:30.
     There is a waterfall below the lake above as the water makes its way to Lonesome lake.
     It took us about the same amount of time to make it back to camp, about half way there, a storm rolled through and rained off and on. As we hit the final switchbacks down, the storm cleared and once back at camp, Tracy and I discussed our plan for tomorrows exit. There was nothing keeping us there and the last five plus miles wouldn't be to bad tonight. So we decided to head out, I was relieved to not have to spend another night in the hammock. So I took a parting shot and we were on the trail about four forty five and back at the trucks about seven pm. Twelve total miles today and about eighteen for the whole trip. We went in at eight am Friday and were out thirty five hours later.

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