As I pulled my way up into the anchors, my mouth was so dry I couldn't talk. I was worked. A summer of travel and work had taken its toll on my climbing. It was in this moment that I realized that I hadn't paid my dues to be where I was. I was being dragged up a route I wasn't fit enough to swing leads on. I was still stoked to be there, but it was a moment of realization for me. I need to climb more.
We had walked into the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind Rivers the day prior. The place is other worldly. The drive through the flats of Wyoming and the first few miles of our hike in kept the real beauty of the Wind Rivers hidden.
The original plan for the trip was for my friend Pitt and I to do the South Buttress of Pingora and then Wolf's Head in a single car to car push. Brody Leven ended up being able to come and we decided to turn it into a more enjoyable trip. We'd hike in one day, climb the next, spend one more night and then hike out.
After arriving in the cirque, we all pretty much just stood there dumbfounded. We had planned to climb Wolf's Head when we got in, but the meadows were paradise. We just laid down by the stream in a meadow and stared upward.
We set up camp and started cooking when our good friend Forest Woodward strolled by. He and Jenny invited us over to their camp for some grub. Turns out they had carried in a bunch of extra food after having run out on their last expedition. Fresh made rice crispy treats, cheese, quesadillas, and a bunch of other good food they didn't want to carry out was laid out before us.
"Slow and heavy." Forest kept saying with a smile. "That's the new wave in alpinism."
The climbing was better than we had all imagined. Quality rock, aesthetic cracks, sustained difficulty. We started a little late and ended up behind another party of three. Our progress was slowed and there were moments of being a little frustrated, but it all worked out in the end. We all topped out and ended up working together to find our way down in the dark.
The Winds were more than I had expected. I will be back next year, and maybe the next, and then maybe the next. Going there took one route off of my tic list, but it ended up adding a whole lot more. This trip changed a few things for me. It made me realize that I can't just "wing it" as much as I used to. Next time I go back, I will have trained.
Garmin and Brody pieced this short video together with my footage of the trip.