CDT 17: Vampires and the Cirque of Towers

Hwy 28 to Pole Creek

We left Lander excited for our next section of trail, the Wind River Range and an alternate through the Cirque of Towers. We climbed slowly up from the highway. The landscape got rockier and the hills got bigger. It had been such a nice day with clear skies that we decided to cowboy camp. We sipped some jäger, watched the sunset, and fell fast asleep. I awoke in the middle of the night with an uneasy feeling. Tossing and turning, I stayed as close to Neon as possible, and then it came …the wind got louder and louder, and then drop, drop, drop, thunder, lightning, rain. We set up the tent, crawled inside, and the rain was gone.

We woke feeling a bit groggy, but in good spirits. By the end of the day the trail climbed steeply to ten thousand feet through clouds of what seemed like ten thousand mosquitoes. Oh yes, I remember the Winds–five years previous we had climbed Gannet Peak and the mosquitoes were like angry mobs of vampires. And here we were again, trudging through thick clouds of aggressive, blood sucking, vampires. By the time we reached the alternate to the Cirque of Towers they were getting ridiculous. We had sprayed our clothes with Permethrin, but our faces were unguarded. They were diving into my ears, bouncing off my cheeks, calculating flight plans up my nose, and landing in my eyes. My headnet was in the top pocket of my pack, but the thought of stopping to get it filled me with fear. We walked fast dreading what setting up the tent would be like. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore–I had to stop to get my headnet. It was awful, they were all over me, in my eyes, ears, nose, I’m sure I swallowed several, but at last I got the net over my head and they couldn’t get me. “Dang, this is worse than the Everglades in prime season,” I thought. Neon was long gone and it took some time to catch up. It was almost dark; We found a clearing in the woods, yes, at the edge of the swamp. We couldn’t have picked a worse place to camp if we had tried, but it was time, and we were here.

We took off our packs and quickly put on more layers to guard against the piercing, blood-sucking faces of the mosquitoes that flocked immediately around us. We set up the tent and jumped inside as quickly as we could, just us and fifty of our closest friends. We spent the next fifteen minutes slapping mosquitoes, and one by one, our nerves calmed. And then I had to pee…

The next day we climbed over the pass by Temple Peak. This is what I remembered from my previous time in the Winds, the most beautiful granite peaks and ridges… And here we were again, except this time, entering the Cirque of Towers. As a climber, I had thought many times of coming here. It was so beautiful. We climbed up, over, and down Jackass Pass to Lonesome Lake. We stood at the base of the Cirque below Pingora Peak just as the sun was setting.

The next morning we climbed over Texas Pass with stunning views of the Cirque and Pingora Peak. The way down was steep, but direct, so it went quickly. And that was it, a one-day detour from our trail that is sure to haunt my thoughts and creative endeavors for many moons to come. Perhaps we’ll return sometime, but with a rope and a rack and much more time.

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