This is the story of my first alpine rock climb… one of three summits we stood on during our 10 days of backpacking in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. I’ve been climbing for only 6 months now but in that time, i’ve accumulated a proper trad rack and have jammed my way up as many granite cracks as possible. This trip was huge for me because my original visit of 7 days is what inspired me to start climbing in the first place. The presence of these immense walls was enough to change something about me. I gazed up… knowing i’d be back one day with a rope and a rack.

I have made my way to the top of  many alpine summits in the past but always by way of splitboard/axe n crampons… always thinking that the gateway to high-end alpinism would be to combine those winter climbing skills and endurance with technical rock prowess. This is me working on the rock part.

Exactly one year later… here I am. Cirque of the Towers.

After the long approach, we experienced the many moods of these walls… patiently waiting for our time.

The Wolf’s Head 12,165′. Our first objective.

From the snowfeild, a scramble/free-solo up slippery ramps leads you to the first pitch. Easy but enough to grab your attention… and hold it.

Mike Ewanowski and Mark Hammond.

On lead, I traversed these amazing knife-edge ridgelines… looking down on either side and laughing in disbelief. During the very best moments, it was impossible to reach my camera. Those images will remain in my brain.

Hey Mom look! No hands!

A number of fortuitous cracks broke up the face and were great for your hands or feet… not both. No protection means huge pendulums into a wall if you fall. Beautiful exposure.

“The speed of the ascent and the grade of the climb don’t tell a story. The core of the experience lies elsewhere.” – Katsutaka Yokoyama

Mark snapped this one of me on his iPhone.

On some of the final pitches, I started to become keenly aware about our exposure to lightning. We heard big rumbles of rock and ice fall… No thunder but it planted the idea in my head. Big dark clouds rolled in overhead and the wind started to pick up. Mike told me not to worry and that it was going to rain Skittles. We were traversing lightning rods covered in metal… I was gripped.

Ran up and got a quick summit photo… then ran away.

We rappelled the west face on slung boulders and flakes/horns.

Sucked it in…

And descended to the bottom of this massive chimney system on our 6th rap. With two 70m ropes, we could drop 230 feet at a time. The best part was coming over the top of this roof into a free-hanging, spinning rappel that deposits you into a snow cave.

One good pull and the ropes were hopelessly stuck… so were we. We talked of cutting what little we had left and extending/connecting all of our draws to make it out of there.  That was not acceptable… Mike rigged a prussik ascender and jugged back up 200 feet to make shorter single-rope raps on more anchors.

Mark n I waited and shivered as the sun went down and the backdrop of granite turned dark red. Luckily, Mike came flying down and hour or so later with both ropes in tact. One more long rap down the steep snow and we were outta there and back to camp.

Next up… Pingora.