Climbing and Backpacking the Wind Rivers
The granite peaks of the Wind River Mountains provide both multi-pitch technical climbing and hike-up ascents. The Cirque of the Towers draws hundreds of climbers a year, though the Winds are full of hundreds of other unheralded, incredible climbs as well. The summit of Gannett Peak, Wyoming's highest point (13,804 ft.) is accessible via a technical trek after a 23-mile backpacking approach. Since the Wind River Mountains are a National Wilderness Area, there are no roads leading in. You must hike to your destination from one of the many trailheads that border the range.
Cirque of the Towers The Cirque of the Towers is the most climbed and most photographed area of the Wind River Mountains. For good reason: the jagged peaks are stunning.
Two of the "Fifty Classic Climbs" as designated by Steck and Roper are jewels of the Cirque: the northeast face of Pingora (IV, 5.9) and the east ridge of Wolf's head (III, 5.6). The other spires here (Overhanging Tower, Shark's Nose, War Bonnet, Mitchell Peak, Monolith Peak, Lizard Head...) offer more incredible routes than can be climbed in one trip.
To get to the Cirque, start at the Big Sandy Entrance in the south. The trail to Big Sandy Lake is approximately 6 miles, with an elevation gain of only 500 ft. From Big Sandy Lake, head up over the aptly named Jackass pass. The total approach is 9 miles. The summer climbing season for the Cirque of the Towers is short, lasting only from about mid-June to Mid-September.
Gannett Peak Gannett Peak, in the Northern Winds, is Wyoming's tallest mountain (13,804 ft). It is a beautiful alpine summit surrounded by jagged granite mountains, glaciers, and high plateaus.
Please note that a Gannett Peak summit attempt should be taken seriously. Glaciers on the mountain are pocked with deep crevasses that in early spring can lay hidden under a coat of shallow snow. Ropes, crampons, ice axes and alpine-climbing savvy are essential.
The most popular trail leading to Gannett Peak is the Glacier Trail, which starts outside of the town of Dubois off of HWY 20-26. From here, the approach is 23 miles over rather strenuous terrain. This is the main trail into the northern Winds, and is very popular in the summer months.
The Ink Wells Trail is the shortest approach to Gannett Peak, approximately 14 miles. However, its usage is governed by the Wind River Indian Reservation. A guide and a permit are required to access the trailhead. If you wish to use this trailhead, you must contact the Wind River Tribal Game and Fish Department at 307-332-7207.
New in 2016, Wind River Shuttle Company can transport you to and from the trailheads of your choice. For more information, call 307-438-9740 or visit them on the web at www.windrivershuttle.com .