Friday, November 9, 2012

Thursday Adventure: Cirque of the Towers, Wyoming

Whew! This last week's been an incredibly busy one, between the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto and a business trip I had to do immediately afterward.  Feels pretty good to be back in Colorado again, and settling back into a normal routine.  (If anything is ever "normal" with a crazily energetic three year old in the house, heh.)  It also feels good to be writing again - real fiction writing, that is, not just interviews and guest blog posts!  I'm only about 5,000 words into The Labyrinth of Flame's first draft, but I love being back with Dev and Kiran.  It's so fun to figure out exactly how their day can go from bad to worse.

Before I get to talking about this week's Thursday Adventure, one quick note: today is my "Ask Me Anything" day over at Reddit r/Fantasy.  Stop on by and leave me a question! I'll be answering the questions live at 8pm CST.  

Okay, on to the mountains!  Specifically, the Cirque of the Towers in Wyoming's Wind River range, the second of three spots that helped inspire The Tainted City's Cirque of the Knives.  (The first was Canada's Cirque of the Unclimbables, featured on last time's Thursday Adventure.)  

The Cirque of the Towers, as seen from approach over Jackass Pass
The Wind River Mountains are a remote and rugged subrange of the Rockies, not too far east of the Tetons but far less visited than their National Park neighbors.  There are no permits, no quotas, just a few trailheads accessed by long miles of rutted dirt road and a vast expanse of incredible wilderness.  The Cirque of the Towers is the most popular destination in the range, thanks to the multitude of excellent alpine climbs it affords the technical rock climber.  The continental divide runs along the crest of the major peaks, which include such luminaries as Warbonnet, Pingora, Shark's Nose, Lizard's Head, and Wolf's Head.  To reach the Cirque, you first drive 55 miles from Pinedale, Wyoming along rough roads to the Big Sandy trailhead.  From there, you hike about 10 miles, first in a level but sandy slog along a broad valley, then steeply up and over Jackass Pass into the Cirque.  

Me on the trail into the Cirque
My husband and I visited the Cirque back in late August of 2007.  We didn't bring our technical rock gear, intending it to be more of a scouting trip - we thought we'd spend a few days camping and exploring, maybe doing a few fourth-class (ropeless) ascents, and scope out which alpine climbs we'd most want to attempt the next time.  Unfortunately, just after we reached Jackass Pass, my husband sprained his ankle while crossing a talus slope, so badly he could barely walk.  We bound up his ankle to keep it from swelling so much he couldn't wear a boot, and instead of scrambling around the peaks, spent a day or so relaxing and enjoying the views before the arduous hobble back out.  (Thank God for trekking poles.  Not sure my husband could've made it out without them.  As it was, I had to carry all our gear, which made the exit hike one I won't forget any time soon either.)   

Oh, it was painful to be surrounded by so many beautiful mountains and be unable to climb a single one!  The views within the Cirque almost made up for it...

View of Pingora from our tent
Robert relaxing on a boulder and surveying the Cirque's Towers
Waterfall amid willow bushes
Warbonnet Peak
I could've spent weeks here, not just a few days...
And for good measure, here's a link to another climber's picture of a sub-cirque beneath Shark's Nose peak that's relatively close to my mental image of the basin in the Cirque of the Knives where Dev and Kiran fight Vidai.  The cliffs are somewhat smaller in scale than I imagined for my Cirque, but tight semi-circle of peaks and the mix of snow and granite slabs over the little basin lake is right.  

As for the real Cirque of the Towers, my husband and I hope to revisit it one day, this time with technical climbing gear in tow, and summit some of those glorious peaks we drooled over back in 2007.  It's always good to have future trips to anticipate.  

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