Route: Cirque of the Towers Traverse (WY)

Submitted by dkesonie on Mon, 11/09/2020 - 07:39pm
Wyoming, US
34 km

A well established mountain adventure involving running for about 18 miles and climbing 3 miles along a world-class ridgeline. This one has been written up in the American Alpine Journal, Climbing Magazine, Cirque of the Towers & Deep Lake rock climbing guide by Steve Bechtel and across the internet. It is undeniably classic for it's length, quality, and superb position on the Continental Divide at alpine elevations. This is not the usual outing however, it involves rock climbing at 5.8 difficulty, objective hazards, extreme exposure, complex route finding, loose rock, and other hazards - rappelling is mandatory.  The Cirque Traverse as it stands now, does meet all the parameters for inclusion in the annals of NOTE: As the FKT decreases where moving time is reduced but rappelling time largely stays the same, it may move outside the parameters of route guidelines. The 2013 FKT logged about 50 minutes of rappelling - less than 10% of the total moving time.

Access is via gravel and dirt roads (passenger cars okay) to the Big Sandy Trailhead on the Bridger-Teton National Forest in the southern Wind River Mountains. Imagine a diminutive Sierra Nevada mountain range with more mosquitos but fewer people...unless you head into the Cirque in peak summer. You are sure to make many new friends if you decide to go during peak season of July and August. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 broke mid-summer car parking records at the Big Sandy Trailhead!

Note the GPX track file is edited, though it is from the 2013 FKT. There is a strong tendency for GPS signals to bounce off vertical or high-angle rock and 'throw' positions all over forming 'jaggies' that don't represent the route. Hell, even hikers have this problem! I edited out many of these but you can still see a few in the file. Try using a 2011 Magellan budget GPS in the Cirque and you get the idea. A modern Garmin will perform better, but you'll undoubtedly get some jaggies.

SAFETY note: This route is serious. The last three FKT holders all had safety related issues on this route. Dave Kesonie managed to fall off the route three years after his FKT and lived to tell about it. Micah Rush got his rap rope stuck and had to free solo some dicey terrain to retrieve it, and Dave Anderson took pebble wrestling to a new level on War Bonnet in 2002. All these accounts are available on the internet. If you are not used to managing risk in a high-elevation and high-angle environment, this route is not for you. Your rappel line could get stuck and you would need to rope-solo to retrieve it - are you capable and ready to do that?

My FKT record has been in place for about 7 years and I was surprised to see it stand during the COVID-19 summer of 2020. I fully encourage strong adventurers to go out and log a swift Cirque Traverse - I can provide beta, gear lists, tactics, photos, and a cheer squad. My hunch is that a dialed strong person could do it in 8 or 9 hours car-to-car.

There has been a female Cirque Traverse completed in 2017 by Inge Perkins although it is unclear whether she started at Big Sandy Trailhead or the Cirque camping - regardless, it was done in good style, onsight and solo.

The 12 Summits:

  • Pingora 
  • Tiger Tower
  • Wolf's Head
  • Overhanging Tower
  • Shark's Nose
  • Block Tower
  • Watchtower
  • South Watchtower
  • Pylon Peak
  • Warrior II
  • Warrior I
  • Warbonnet

10-12 rappels using a 60m cord


  • Dave Kesonie, August 2013, 10hrs 07mins 47 secs; Unsupported
  • Micah Rush,                 2012, 10hrs 15mins
  • Dave Anderson,            2006, 13hrs 25mins

Steph Abegg's website with descriptions and photos:

Mountain Project Cirque Traverse page:

GPS Track


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Hey Dave, thanks for the post and the GPX. Also, nice work! What a push! I’m headed that way at the end of this month to crawl around the towers, scope the lines and prepare for a full cirque attempt summer in 2023. I’d love to chat gear and beta with you, if you’ve got the time!

Yeah man. Drop me a line at

I'd be happy to share some info with you.