5 miles

Elevation Gain

1700 ft

Route Type



Added by Kyle C

Climb one of North America's classics a short hike from basecamp.

This is one of North America’s 50 classic climbs and rightfully so. It involves easy route finding on a skinny, 5.5 ridge that can be accessed and seen from your base camp at the middle of the cirque. 

This climb is over 9 miles from the trailhead so the easiest way to climb it is to follow the Cirque of the Towers backpacking loop from Big Sandy trailhead over Jackass pass down into the cirque. From here,  you can camp in the western portion of the cirque at one of the many campsites.  Wolf’s Head is visible to your northwest (yes, it actually looks like a wolf’s head).

The next morning, hike to the bottom of the ledges that separate Pingora from Wolf’s head. Follow the path of least resistance up to the saddle between the mountains.  Getting to this point does involve some low fifth class, exposed climbing on sometimes wet rock. This was the hardest part of the day for us as roping up made little sense, and the easiest path is not always the most straight forward.

From the saddle, rope up and climb 3 pitches or so up a thin ridgeline until you can go left of the first tower. Anchor below a chimney and climb straight up that to a traverse across a thin face protected by pitons.  Work straight up after traversing right by the pitons to another ledge which you can then follow until you drop back down to the left side of the ridgeline. Traverse the exposed left side of the ridgeline by a handrail – either choosing the rail as a well protected but harder hand hold or more solid, unprotected shuffle. After this bit of excitement, go through another chimney under a chockstone to your anchor.  Then follow for one or two more pitches of low fifth to fourth class climbing.  If you stay on the ridge it is more exciting.

From the summit, you can look northwest to webbing. Follow the 5 or so rap stations down until you can traverse skiers’ left behind another ridgeline to an optional 6th rappel or walk further west and then south down a gully to meet with the bottom of the last rap.  You can then boulder hop all the way back to your tent.

This climb took us about 7 hours from tent to tent and we simul-climbed the entire thing which we found to be very manageable. What is the most time consuming are the raps down. Round trip from the tent was about 5 miles with 1,700 ft of gain. If you plan on going over and doing Pingora’s classic 5.8 – do not use this a rating gauge.  Pingora is much more committing and sustained.

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