Cirque of the Towers

On July 25, 2012, Benjy flew out and we took a trip to Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range. Of course, for Benjy this was a climbing trip, but I convinced him to spend a couple of days backpacking with me. I had never been to the Cirque because I thought it was too crowded, so this was a good excuse to go see it. The trail to Big Sandy Lake was mostly flat, so it was a pleasant hike. From Big Sandy Lake we hiked up to Clear Lake. Clear was pretty, and there was only one other group camped at the lake, so that was really nice. We planned to hike on to Temple Lake, but Benjy’s pack was crazy heavy with all of his climbing gear, so we called it a day at Clear Lake.

The next day, Friday, we dropped back down to Big Sandy and then made the climb up to Jackass Pass. I really didn’t think the climb up to the Pass was that hard. It was kind of long, but it wasn’t terribly steep. A rain storm blew in as we neared the top of the pass, and the wind was howling pretty good. We made our way around the back side of Arrowhead Lake, and then dropped down into the Cirque of the Towers basin. We looked around for a campsite and found a pretty good campsite overlooking the cirque.

We then started worrying about how we would find Benjy’s friend, Ryan, who was hiking in to meet us in the cirque. The cirque wasn’t as crowded as I was afraid it would be, but it was still pretty crowded, and it was bigger than I expected. I hiked around the cirque making sure he wasn’t already there, and then went back to camp. Our camp was a few yards off the trail, so I tied a shirt to a tree on the trail to try to signal to Ryan where we were, hoping he would come into the basin the same way we did. Just 60 seconds after I tied the shirt up, Ryan came walking into camp carrying the shirt…that was lucky! We set up camp, which would be their base camp for the next three nights, and settled in for the night.

On Saturday I packed up and headed back to the trailhead by myself, and Ryan and Benjy headed out to climb for the day. I hiked along the backside of Arrowhead Lake, which involved a lot of large boulder hopping…not really a good idea when you’re by yourself with a full pack. Oh well, I lived. Then I just had a nice, pleasant hike down to Big Sandy Lake and then out to the trailhead.

This was a really nice hike, but I still think Titcomb Basin is nicer. The Cirque is definitely better for rock climbers, though. It wasn’t as crowded as I had expected, but like everywhere I’ve been in the Winds, it was more crowded than I prefer. I was also amazed how much gear Ryan and Benjy had to carry for alpine climbing…their packs weighed about 70 pounds each. Ouch. I was impressed. But I’m also confident I will never be a rock climber!

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