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North America, United States, Wyoming, Wind River Range, Climbs in the Monolith-Dogtooth Cirque

Climbs in the Monolith-Dogtooth Cirque, Wind River Range. Intrigued by scant glimpses caught of the Monolith-Dogtooth cirque on a stormy day last summer, Angus Thuermer and I swore to return to attempt some of the elegant lines that caught our eye in this seldom visited area. During our seven-day visit in the third week of August, we completed three new routes and made what we believe to be the second or third ascent of the striking Hudson-Gran-Tompkins line on Monolith’s north face. (See A.A.J., 1964, pages 72-74). Since much of the latter climb is moderate fifth-class, a competent party could climb Monolith’s 1800-foot north face in a long day by avoiding the tedium of hauling and jümaring. (In the 16 pitches we used only five points of aid, which could be avoided by F10 climbing.) From our camp at the cirque mouth a long, pretty, easy-looking ridge rose some 1500 feet to the west, separating Monolith from Dogtooth Pinnacle. The ridge does not appear on the USGS Mosquito Lake quadrant. We climbed it in an enjoyable day. Mostly third-class climbing with a few F6 pitches made this Grade III and good fun. We descended a south-branching couloir at the junction of the ridge with the main cirque wall. To the right of the Dogtooth lie four prominent 1500-foot towers. We set our sights on the third tower north of Dogtooth, which we later found that Chuck Pratt had called “A-Frame Buttress” after its sharp pyramidal shape capped by large overhangs at its pointy summit. We completed a fine route on this face in one long day. We followed the huge dihedral in the face’s center to a third of the way up. There a clean, tapering crack branched left to a sloping ledge, which we followed left to the south corner of the face. Pitch 4 went up steep cracks around the corner before we emerged again on the main face. Steep cracks and beautiful flakes on the face’s left side led to the summit overhangs, which required strenuous climbing, thus completing a potential classic. (NCCS IV, F9, A2; 10 pitches). To the east of the Monolith lie three smaller but distinct prominent towers. The central one is split through its bottom half by a large chimney, visible from miles away. The chimney suggested an obvious line. The otherwise flawless line reminded us of a giant tombstone. In the company of Glenn Randall, we gave the “Tombstone” a try and climbed a beautiful six-pitch route. After chopping 100 feet of steps in a snowfield and climbing an F7 pitch, we reached the immense vertical chimney, which proved quite easy. Due to its depth, two huge, difficult-looking chockstones were passed on the inside (F5 and F7). Glenn led the crux pitch (F10), which followed a thin crack in a wall graced with fine face holds. Two more interesting pitches on the tower’s left side brought us to the top of a highly recommended climb. (NCCS III, F10).

Peter Metcalf