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North America, United States, Wyoming, Wind River Range, Watchtower, Northeast Face, Cirque of Towers

Watchtower, Northeast Face, Cirque of Towers. On June 27, Matt Hale and I made the first ascent of this fine, though by no means extreme, face. Ours seemed to be the easiest line, though others were obviously possible. From Cirque Lake climb the couloir that leads to the highest col below the east ridge of Watchtower. Leave this couloir two-thirds of the way up it and scramble behind a separate tower on the right. The climb begins in the obvious wide chimney. 1st pitch: Up and over ceiling-like block in chimney; continue left over two tricky bulges to ledge. (F7). 2nd pitch: Walk left on ledge for better belay spot. Then up right-facing inside corner, diagonal easily right, then traverse thinly back left and up to top of the inside corner to ledge. (F5). 3rd pitch (the crux): Step left around corner, then up easy right diagonal, which becomes a hard, overhanging inside corner facing right. Two strenuous laybacks (the second avoidable by dropping a few feet to the right on a slab) lead to an exit left via good holds over the overhanging. (F8). 4th pitch: Up and right on easy stuff, then over loose left-facing inside corner. (F6). 5th Pitch: Easy scramble up and left to skyline ridge. 6th Pitch: Climb toward left- hand of the two left-facing inside corners, then hand-traverse to the right- hand one. Chimney 20 feet, step out left to ledge, then up to belay ledge. (F5). From here scramble up and right 350 feet to the summit. NCCS III, F8.

A few days later we put in the bottom three pitches of the apparently unclimbed southwest face of Pingora, including a superb thin F8 pitch that Hale led. Two more difficult pitches would probably conclude this excellent climb, which goes straight up the face slightly right of its center. A deceptive entry in that most confusing of all guide books, Bonney & Bonney, may have led climbers to assume this face had been done by Bell and Glover in 1947. In addition, a “Grade 6” label in the Bonney book on the direct south ridge of Pingora may have scared climbers off one of the nicest three-pitch climbs anywhere, which we would rate no harder than NCCS II, F6.

David S. Roberts