Wicked Wind Rivers

Trip Start Mar 21, 2012
Trip End Mar 25, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On February 28th, 1983, Lindsey Kunz, then Lindsey Saunders, was born in the cozy tourist town of Jackson Hole, WY. In the year 2000, she began her love affair with climbing, but sadly moved away from Jackson and the stunning mountains surrounding it to attend college at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 2005, she divided her love affair between climbing and her new mate, Ben Kunz, who she would later marry. By then, her dream to return home to explore the mystical Wind Rivers had become overwhelming. This entry is not really a biography on Lindsey, but really a story on how it came to be that after 12 long years of dreaming, Lindsey and her mate, Ben, would finally step foot in the windy wonderland of the Wind Rivers. And they would drag other characters into this story as well.

The Cirque of the Towers in the Wind Rivers, early morning. From right to left: Pingora, Wolf's Head, Warbonnet

Now, for all its beauty, the Winds is not to be taken likely...

Meet Lindsey...

Meet Ben!...

And meet the others in our cast of craziness:

Erika, Lindsey's friend from Seattle:

Dave, Ben's friend from Tacoma (basically Seattle)

But seriously, the Winds are indeed aptly named for they are known, especially in September when we went, for ferocious...uh, "breeze." That's right, look at the weather forecast and if you see "breezy" as the descriptor for the day, you had better be on a South-facing route or be prepared to freeze your nibblies off, AND get gusts that just may knock you over.

This didn't really stop the boys, who teamed up for the week to climb together and managed to summit 7 of the peaks in the Cirque Traverse their first day. Here's some shots of their schenannigans:

Dave taking a photo of Ben taking a photo of Dave on the wild and airy ramp on the East Ridge of Wolf's Head, one of the 50 Classic Climbs of North America

Heart of the Cirque Traverse (left to right): Block Tower, Shark's Nose, Overhanging Tower

Dave on the summit of Watchtower

The bizarre summit of Overhanging Tower

Looking back on Pingora (far right) and Wolf's Head from Shark's Nose. Cirque Lake below.

Dave on the south summit of Shark's Nose

Dave on Block Tower

Dave rapping from the summit block of Block Tower

Dave balancing on the tiny summit of Watchtower

Meanwhile, Erika and Lindsey took the more casual approach to entering the Winds by camping at the trailhead and prepping in the comforts of our luxurious, albeit dirty, van...

Needless to say, when we arrived at the Cirque of the Towers, our campsites were carefully chosen in similar fashion. The boys opted for the closest site to the climbs as they would spend the majority of their time on the rocks and not in camp, while the girls selected a site that had it all...

Great protection from wind and large, flat rocks on which to sort gear, etc.

A tent...well, hopefully all sites have a tent...

A well-organized and well-protected kitchen...

A site with a view (note: the boys' site was situated among the cluster of dead trees just left and down from Pingora (far right) and Wolf's Head...

A racking station...

And even a tent flamingo, Freddy to be exact, to notify the boys of where we could be found.

Aparently the girls' camp was too nice to leave, as they took a rest day the day after they arrived into the Winds to get to know the area a little better and to familiarize themselves with the approach to Pingora for the following pre-dawn morning.

Meanwhile, the boys were making good use of their camp's proximity to the climbing and got on a couple more routes on Wolf's Head...

Ben on the South Face of Wolf's Head

Having Dave as a climbing partner in an alpine setting is the ultimate treat! He is hands down the best steward of any other climber the rest of us have met. Each pitch includes voice-over photos from Dave that include beta notes. Each rappel includes a careful inspection of the rap line and gear--and if it's not up to snuff, Dave's replacing webbing or full-on moving rap stations to the cleanest, safest, most intuitive locales. On descents, he's doing trail work and placing cairns to mark the best and easiest trail. And when he returns from a trip like this, he's working with his partner to update climbing forums with climbing beta. For a place like the Wind Rivers that has what some may call a "minimalist" or "adventurist" amount of beta, his trip reports aim to please those looking to fill in the informational gaps. Check out Cascade Climbers for trip reports on Ben's and Dave's time in the Winds sometime around mid October!

The sun dawned a new day, and Erika and Lindsey were ready to climb the South Buttress of Pingora, the Wind's most famous peak. The ladies awoke stoked, and that energy literally filled the Cirque! In fact, with all the hoots and hollars, the boys awoke hours later and decided they just HAD to climb on Pingora as well! In fact, Dave said to us, "I want some of THAT!!!" referring to the ladies' energy reverberating off the Cirque walls.

Goofing around on the way up the climb

Erika making her way up the final pitch

And the stokage didn't end when we hit the summit...

Lindsey and Erika take turns teetering on the true summit as gusts of wind try to knock them off

Lindsey preparing to reflake the rope between gusts of wind

Erika enjoying the panoramic views from the summit of PingoraErikaOverhang
Erika enjoying the exposure on the summit!

Knowing that the boys were on their way to the summit as well, they decided to wait to share the amazing moment...

Unfortunately, after waiting for an hour and a half, they decided to make their descent...

At which point, the girls were startled by the loud huffing and puffing, followed by a speedy Ben cruising up the final pitch of their route and Dave shortly behind...

At least we got to share rappels together!!

Unfortunately, on the descent, a huge gust of wind came up before Lindsey had a chance to close her chalk bag, blowing chalk everywhere, including her sunglasses...

Here's some pics of the climb the boys did that day, the South Face, Right route...
Ben following up a beautiful line

Ben leading another beautiful section of rock

Though the Cirque of the Towers is undenyabley breathtaking, both parties wanted to see another area in the Winds, so we packed our bags and hiked over to the Deep Lake area.

The Haystack under perfect skies

A bit of alpine glow on the Haystack

Ben on route on the Haystack, Minor Dihedral

The girls on the start of a hike with East Temple in the background (left)

Erika's feet chilling in Deep Lake

The summit of Lost Temple Spire

Ben on the summit of Lost Temple Spire with various peaks in the Winds scattered about

As beautiful as this wonderland was, we were all feeling a bit exhausted from the conditions (well, maybe except for Dave who seemed to have infinite energy to climb sans rest days). So, Erika and Lindsey put on their packs after a 9-mile day hike to walk another 7 or so miles back to the trailhead from whence they came while the boys stayed in the backcountry for another day and a half...

Trail near the Big Sandy Openning

And the reward of a chilled, fizzy rose awaiting the girls in the van was more than enough motivation to trek back in only a couple hours and giggle and squeal with glee as the refreshing bubbles rolled over their now muted taste buds!

Love some Rose after about a week in the backcountry!

Nothing like Doritos to complete the picture!

But dreams of a juicy steak were on the horizon and the Dorito chips just wouldn't satiate that craving. So up and attem' the next day to the town of Jackson Hole...

The classic photo of Jackson Hole in front of the elk antler arches. Old Bill's Fun Run going on in the background.

So the girls went to The Garage to quench their cravings for practically raw meat.

A bit blurry, but then again, that was the general sentament at the time...

All told, being in the Winds was a magical place that we barely scratched the surface of and will continue to dream of this place until we return again! A special thanks to Erika and Dave for such a wonderful trip and thanks to Lindsey's parents for putting us up, AND putting up with us!

More pics can be found here
And here

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Max on

super cool photos. sadly, still no elk in my freezer.

benglenn on

Wow, incredible landscapes!

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