Pingora Peak, Wyoming
Pingora peak is a spectacular granite monolith located in the heart of the Wind River Range, Wyoming. It rises 11,499 ft above Lonesome Lake on the west side of the Cirque of the Towers. There are many climbing routes on Pingora. The most famous is the Northeast Ridge (5.8) which was made famous in the book Fifty Classic Climbs of North America by Steve Roper and Allen Steck. However, the most popular route on the mountain (and in the Cirque) is the South Buttress route (5.6). We chose Pingora because of the moderate rating, grade, and location. I had backpacked in the Wind River Range previously and always wanted to climb there too.
I (Alan) think the crux of this climb is the 40 miles of dirt road to the trailhead. That...and the 20 hr drive from Okla City. Oh well, gotta go where the mountains are!
Unfortunately, Jackie didn't have enough vacation time so she didn't get to go on this one. So I asked a good friend, Gary H. from Dallas to go instead. We arrived at 1:00 am in the rain and were surprised to find a campsite open at Big Sandy trailhead. It was still raining in the morning. I had AMS or something and was not feeling well. After sleeping late and packing in the rain, we got off to a late start of 11:00 am. My pack felt like I had brought along my rock collection. I did not do well on the hike in to the Cirque 'cause I was sick as a dog and couldn't keep anything down. But after a fashion, we made it to Jackass Pass. We missed the climber's trail before Arrowhead Lake, but we picked it up on the north side of the lake. Recommend finding the climbers trail near Arrowhead lake. It saves you one climb and you end up on the west side of the pass. This western side of the pass leads you right to the meadows on the south end of Pingora which is a perfect base camp location if you are doing the west peaks.
The next day...still sick....so we day-hiked up to the top of the Pingora shoulder and scouted the route. Luckily, there were climbers on our route and the East Ledges route. Looks a lot easier up close than in the pictures or from a distance.
Third day.....feeling good. Up and on the rock by 9:00 AM in cold but perfect weather. The barometer had been showing a steady rise over the previous 12 hrs so we figured we could start a little late. By the way....this was Gary's first alpine climb. He had only been on the crags on two previous occasions but demonstrated skills I'd only seen from people climbing for a long time, including good common sense and coolness. (The first day he climbed in his life [in Feb 02] he did a 10c) Anyway, we did the first couple of short pitches....kind of cold... but it soon warmed up while doing pitch 5, which is about 150 ft of wonderful granite. That's where I found two very large loose rocks, one of which I almost pulled into my lap. On top of pitch 5 I informed Gary about the loose rock and he followed up to the base of the K. We opted for the 5.6 option at the K. That done, we scrambled up the class 3 and shot some pics and video on the summit. I used mostly large pro on the early pitches, small on P5, and a mix on P7 at the K.
After hunting around, we found the first rap station on top of the K but we really had to look for it (90 ft rap). Finding the 2nd rap was no problem because it's at the belay for P7. Since I wasn't sure of the 3rd station, I doubled up with the second rope and rapped off the 2nd station to the climbers left and, of course, didn't find the 3rd station. So I did a Batman back up the rope and tried again, this time slanting to the climbers right like the guide says. D'oh! Still no 3rd station. Oh well, I was on a great ledge and decided to go with it. Gary came down and we finished in short order with two single-rope raps to the shoulder.
It seemed like a long drive and hike in for only one mountain, but it was worth it. No bugs, few people, good weather, and the best rock I'd been on. Thanks Gary for a great partnership....and thanks Pingora for being there.
Our route in red. The start of the route is not visible. All routes on the mountain descend the south face route via three rappels. The classic Northeast Ridge Route ascends the right profile of the peak.