American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Wyoming, Wind River Mountains

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

Wind Rivers, various ascents. In the Cirque of the Towers, the south face of Wolf’s Head—specifically the striking crack left of the Beckey South Face route, splitting the upper half of the face and leading up to Darth Vader tower—recently caught the attention of several talented climbers.

In fall 2005 Dave Anderson and Jamie Selda established Canus (III 5.11c), which climbs the first three pitches (5.10c, 5.11c, 5.10d) of this new crack before traversing off right (but still left of the Beckey Route) into two more excellent crack pitches (5.10d, 5.10b) to the ridgecrest.

In July Greg Collins and Kent McBride started with the first two pitches of the Beckey route, then climbed a hard traversing face pitch (5.12d), placing three bolts and two pins on lead, to gain the upper crack. The upper pitches were thin hands and fingers, 5.11a and 5.11b/c. They fixed rap anchors on the descent, which can be made with a single 70m rope. Their route, White Buffalo (260m, III 5.12d), is the hardest reported route in the Winds.

Anderson writes: “The link up of the two routes—tentatively called the White Wolf— would be, in my opinion, the ‘Astroman of the Winds.’ It is a little shorter than Astroman, but with an enduro-like corner, a tough squeeze/offwidth pitch, a hard boulder pitch (that can be aided/pendulumed through), and other fine jam cracks up high, it is a great climb. The rock is good overall, but a wire brush might be recommended gear for the first two pitches until they get climbed more.”

Anderson also did the Cirque of the Towers Traverse (16 miles of trail, plus four miles of 3rd, 4th, and 5th class climbing, up to 5.9) in 13:25 car-to-car, and climbed Gannet Peak in 8:20 from Green River Lakes, 17 hours for the 36-mile round trip. Each time is about an hour- and-a-half faster than the previous record.

In mid-August on the fin-like feature of Ambush Peak’s far-right northeast face, Renan Ozturk and Cedar Wright climbed what they think to be a new route, Attack of the Killer Clowns (5.11+ R). The route climbs past bail ‘biners, steep cracks, and intimidating overhangs. At one point, some 800' up on sketchy 5.11 flakes, Wright was “shocked yet thankful” to find an old quarter-inch bolt inscribed “Banditos.” Just above, he yarded past a blank slab on a fixed bashie, and the pair continued to the top. Unsatisfied due to their 5' of aid, they rapped 600' back down and found steep climbing to the left of the Banditos passage; this comprised the crux pitch and led to the summit.

A couple of days prior, the pair headed toward Ambush’s intimidating and chossy-look- ing Northeast Face route (Arsenault-Young, 1971), originally rated 5.8 A4. Though unclear whether they climbed the exact line of the 1971 route, they made a one-day free ascent at 5.10+ R/X and, reports Wright, were “ecstatic to find that the climbing was actually superb, following a solid streak of glacier-polished rock through what appeared from below to be a sea of choss.”

Also climbing a possible new route on Ambush in mid-August were Jonny Copp and Matt Segal. They climbed a route farther left than Ozturk and Wright’s possible new line, starting with several easy pitches up a gully and continuing on steeper terrain (up to 5.11) for another eight pitches to the summit. They found a bail anchor low down but no further traces higher up—and atop a 5.11+ pitch that dead-ended they left their own bail anchor, rapped to a ledge, and found another way. Copp reports fun, roofy, and spicy climbing with circuitous routefinding, and notes that many excellent climbers have been active in the Winds over the years and not recorded their ascents in the climbing media. Wind River Mountains guidebook author Joe Kelsey reports, for example, that he’s received information on nine new routes on Ambush, most unreported elsewhere, since the second edition of his book. “It’s hard to say if it was new or not. It’s definitely adventure climbing though, regardless,” says Copp.

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