This route goes up the knife blade east ridge of Wolfs Head. To get on the ridge there are 2 different options. IMO the easiest way to gain the ridge is to scramble 4th and 5th class up the gully in between Pingora and Tiger Tower, summit Tiger Tower then do 2 40ft raps on to the east ridge of Wolfs Head (see picture on wolfs head page). The other way, which I have not done is to scramble 3rd and 4th class up the south face then up to the ridge.
Once on the Ridge the climb goes at about 10 pitches but many of these can be combined or simul-climbed. The description below is what worked for us.
1.) Start by moving west along the ridge aiming for a 30ft slab that's about 3ft wide and a 30 degree slope. Scamper across this beautifully exposed bridge(5.5), then run the rope out for 195ft until you find a belay. (mostly exposed 4th class)
2.) From here its roughly 3 pitches of easy 3rd and 4th class climbing along the ridge. This can be easily simul-climbed and highly recommended. End at a ledge 10ft down to the south (left) of the ridge, just before the first tower.
3.) This is the first of the tower pitches. Pass this tower to the south by making a exposed step around a boulder. After this look up and you will see a chimney in between the towers, go through this chimney (tight squeeze) to gain a ledge on the north side of the next tower. You can belay here, but I recommend to keep climbing to link this pitch with the "piton pitch". Follow 4 or 5 pitons for some delicate exposed face climbing (5.6). After the last piton go straight up and belay on the nice ledge.
4.) The best pitch of the climb. From the belay move straight up the layback flake for 20ft. Once on top, go up a finger crack for 10 feet to gain a beautiful hand crack traverse 5.6(still on the north). After the traverse move up to the top of the knife blade ridge for some beautifully exposed climbing. At this point you should be eye level with the "Darth Vader Tower". Belay in an overhang on the south side of the ridge under the tower.
5.) From the belay move out on to the south face to traverse a 4in crack. Going feet in the crack is easier but hard to protect. You will see a chimney down left, your aiming for this. Follow a slanting hand traverse using "black nubbins" to gain the chimney. Climb the chimney until you see a hole that you can dive through to bring you back to the north side of the ridge. Belay on a ledge on the north side of the ridge.
6.) From here you can simul-climb to the summit staying mainly on the north side of the ridge. (mostly 4th and 5th class)
Descent: There are many ways to descend, the goal is to rap to the west until you can hike south to the gully in between Wolfs Head and Overhanging tower. All the raps can be done with one 60m.
1.) Find the slings on the West side of the summit, rap down 80ft to a ledge.
- All stations contain at least 3 slings. If your rapping off something with less, you may be off route.
2.) Walk 10ft to the west to find another group of slings in a boulder alcove. Rap 70ft to a ledge.
3.) Walk to the south west along a climbers trail to locate the next set of slings on your right. Rap another 90ft to a ledge.
4.) Carefully scramble down the trail to the next set of slings. Rap another 95ft to a ledge.
5.) If my count is right, here you will walk along a trail for about 400yds to the south toward Overhanging tower. Do another 90ft rap to the saddle in between Wolfs head and Overhanging tower.
6.) Follow the cairns for a while still heading south. Eventually this takes you to a station that will allow you to rap into the gully formed by the saddle. It looks like it should be a double rope rap, but one 60m will be fine. After rapping scramble up the gully to the east bringing you back into the cirque lake basin.
There are many options, and this may sound confusing, but the trails are well worn and marked with cairns, and all the stations were very easy to find.
Standard alpine rack. Doubles of everything to #2 camalot. A single #3 is very useful and recomended. 1 60m will suffice, but being an alpine climb having 2 ropes will make it much faster to bail in event of a storm. I brought 2 ropes and was very upset to only use 1 the entire climb.
|By John Hegyes|
From: Las Vegas, NV
Aug 8, 2008
rpc, great topo, thanks, it helped a lot!
|By Lynn S|
Aug 17, 2008
Unreal, one of the most interesting alpine routes I have done, especially at "5.6", big exposure. Although if you are a 5.6/7 leader some of the exposed traversing moves may feel a lot harder than 6.
Did this route with my 15 year old son last week and it was a blast. Get started early as many of the upper pitches are best done short, so they add up. Also the standard descent takes some time. Personally I would not want to get caught descending in the dark as it is quite exposed.
With that being said there was one unfortunate party who spent 22 hours on this route last week. I got up to pee at my campsite and saw a headlamp below Tiger Tower at 2 am and thought someone must be camping. Went through that area the next morning to climb and saw no tents. Later that day found out a party had been descending still at that time. If anyone from that group reads this, I am glad you all made it down safely.
|By Robert Henderson|
From: Wilson, WY
Apr 26, 2009
Here's some helpful info from a local that has climbed this many times.
1) The grassy ledges approach is faster than Tiger Tower IF they are dry.
2) I suggest roping up with about 1/2 your rope (to stay in contact,) crossing the "sidewalk" section which is 30' to a crack and traditionally rated 5.2 (not 5.5 as above.) Then continue with running belays until the first real tower is reached. Much of this terrain is 4th class w/ short 5.2 sections. This is the first 5 pitches in traditional descriptions of the climb (50 Classics, etc.)
3) The first tower, passed by a south traverse, leads to a horizontal chimney. The chimney is best stemmed high on a seam about 6-8' off the floor with your pack suspended below you by a sling. That way it's not a squeeze and is quite easy. No pro but no place to fall either.
4) The piton traverse. Your second will thank you if you DO NOT place pro at the end of the traverse. Instead, clip a piton at your feet, traverse 20' right and climb up the crack 15' before putting in more pro so the rope will belay him/her from above. Otherwise, the second feels pulled downwards and sideways and you'll have an awful Z in the rope. You can easily combine this with the next pitch, the double crack with the short mantle at the end. I feel it is unwise as suggested in the above route description to combine the horizontal chimney with the piton traverse. You'll get horrendous rope drag.
If you get an alpine start, this route is not long. Try to time getting to the grassy ledges when it is just light enough to see. Simul-climb the first part of the ridge. The descent is not that confusing; just look for rap slings anywhere the ledges give out. It is a constant traverse to skier's left. The first time I climbed this route, we were back in camp by noon. If it takes you longer, you need more alpine experience (a fact not a derogatory statement.) Just follow your instincts as if you were doing a first ascent.
Jul 13, 2009
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b
In the latest guidebook this is listed as a grade III. I would call it SOLID grade IV when including the convoluted descent. Don't underestimate this route, its winding nature calls for either short pitches or heinous rope drag and retreat is out of the question once on the upper ridge. Get an early start -- the descent is sketchball in the dark!
|By Spencer Weiler|
From: SLC, UT
Jul 14, 2010
There is a reason this a 50 classic! Adventure is the only way to describe it. The approach felt harder then some parts of the climb, maybe because we had no idea if we were going the right way. Highly recommend traversing the crack around the 4th tower with your feet on the crack rather than your hands. It makes it super runout but it was by far the most memorable pitch of the day that way. Kind of felt like "Thank God ledge" on Half dome a bit. The piton pitch and sidewalk sections are incredibly exposed. A must do climb.
|By Erik Syrstad|
From: Logan, UT
Jul 27, 2010
Awesome route! Sweet exposure, unique climbing - and when you're done you can run up one of the short routes on the south side of Pingora on the way back to camp.
But c'mon, there is absolutely NO WAY this is a grade IV. I'm an average 5.8/5.9 climber and we were up and off this thing by 10:30 am - and we didn't exactly get an alpine start. It's soft for a grade III. The approach was very short from camp, the route itself goes in two or three leads if you simul-climb, and the descent was straightforward. Routefinding? When in doubt, go the easy way.
This is not to disparage the route or anyone who for whatever reason has epic'd on the thing. It was a blast and I'd do it again multiple times. But putting this in the same discussion - in terms of commitment - as the North Ridge / North Face of the Grand (both IV), numerous routes on Moran's South Buttress, many other routes in the Cirque, etc... is pure lunacy. Hell, Guide's Wall (grade II) is a longer day than this!
|By steven sadler|
From: SLC, UT
Aug 17, 2010
i felt like a number 4 cam would've been really nice in a few spots. especially for the really thin sidewalk. i cleaned this route and the number 3 my leader placed was just bouncing around in there. fantastic climb.
|By Mark Thomas|
Aug 30, 2010
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b
Did this early August. If you approach via the benches I would highly suggest roping up for a pitch or two before the snowbank bench. It's exposed and slippery!
| || East ridge from Pingora |
| || Looking at the slabby approach to the saddle. |
From: Salt Lake City
Sep 25, 2010
1.We did the Grassy Ledges approach when they were wet. It was pretty awful, with the grass slippery it was easy to fall. Weird and definitely harder than 5.4 when you actually climb on the rock, rather than grass. There is some weird chimney moves, but o.k. gear. The weather wasn't looking to great so we bailed at the base of the East Ridge. The raps are fairly straight forward.On the 2nd or third rappel we walked over to the left if you are facing the wall where you will find more rappel slings that will take you straight to the ground. Be aware of old slings, there are rats that chew on the nylon, so carry extra slings. 2. The next day, we went back up and did the whole climb via the Pingora/Tiger Tower gully. We had to make steps in a snow field in early August. We started up the left gully and had to bail into the right one, it didn't go through too easily. We left a cordalette rapping from the left gully to the right. The rest was just scrambly loose rock to the top of Tiger Tower. From Tiger Tower you do a short rappel and walk to the right to find more rapping slings. This is a VERY awkward rappel with some difficult upclimbing unless you climb over onto the left ledge instead of going straight down. From there walk to the right along the ridge and start the sidewalk pitch! From there just follow the ridge for a couple easy pitches. The chimney before the piton pitch is fairly easy, hard with a big backpack. Do NOT climb up 6 ft and chimney, stay on the ground and it is a lot easier when you get to the base of the piton pitch. The piton pitch is very exposed and easy to do as a hand or foot traverse. The best and hardest pitch of the climb is next. Fun layback that leads to a tight hand crack, which turns the corner into an easy hand traverse.
THE HARDEST MOVE: The hand traverse turns the corner where the feet run out and turn to a vertical face. It is very awkward and suspenseful. Follow some fun exposed foot traverses from there, and make sure you do it as a goot traverse, not a hand! Done as a foot traverse there is no gear but I suggest placing 2 cams and the beginning, then just walk the plank. Easy, 5.2. Done as a hand traverse there is gear, but no feet with a rounded, big crack that looked like 5.10 only done as a hand traverse though. Follow for a couple more straight forward pitches. Couple of raps and walk over to the Overhanging Tower Col and scramble down from there! Excellent climb! very exhausting though!
From: Oakland Park, Florida
Aug 23, 2011
Finally I got to climb this on a beautiful sunny, never ending day in August. A long approach and descent sour some on this climb. However the hand traversing around the towers and the summit are F'ing awesome. I really enjoyed it. You can walk the ridge before the "darth Vader Tower" for some additional fun. Many raps
|By mark felber|
From: Wheat Ridge, CO
Sep 7, 2011
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b
I'm going to put in a vote for the Tiger Tower approach, especially if the grassy ledges are wet. Instead of the wide ugly chimney right at the corner where Pingora meets Tiger Tower, step climber's left to the not so wide chimney on the face of Tiger Tower. One loose stretch but otherwise very pleasant climbing up to about 5th class to get to the summit of Tiger Tower.
|By Alex Mitchell|
From: Utica, NY
Aug 23, 2012
Took about 8 hours to climb with a party of 4. Funny thing was the party of 2 in front of us delayed us quite a bit. '
Fun climb! Rappels and down scrambling takes a long time so make sure to budget for this!
|By Courtney Pace|
Sep 6, 2012
We were stressing about finding the first tower traverse way too early. My advice is to stay on ridge until you arrive at some tat and a short rap or downclimb. This is the start of the tower traverses. It was convenient to have belayer at bottom of said downclimb right before the first crux bulge. This pitch can easily be linked with piton pitch.
|By Chris Nischan|
Sep 9, 2012
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b
Just did the route last week, it was amazing. easy to see why its a 50 classic, tons of exposure, tons of fun. went off route following the ridge a little too long and had to do a sort of sketchy rap/down climb (with the multiple slings and rap rings it looks like it happens alot) back on route to the first tower, definitely easier to stay on the ground at the chimney between the first and second tower bomber holds all the way to the right to get onto the ledge for the piton traverse. which only had 4 pitons, one of which was at your feet and unclipable (our guide book said 5-6 pitons). but one thing, heard a lot about the foot/hand traverse on the right side of the 3rd tower. i think someone even said it looked like 5.10 if you go with your hands cause there are no feet. simply not true, it might, MIGHT, be 5.5, and thats just the move around the corner, when you go with your hands. there are feet everywhere, everywhere. it might be because im from the east coast and have to smear if i want a foot back home but the traverse is riddled with bomber foot holds. loved the climb, every bit of it was spectacular
Sep 14, 2012
+1 for hand traversing everything. There were only 2 spots that didn't have easy feet and they were short (5 feet long I spose). And memorize the topo just in case, you know, it falls out of your pocket into the void while starting the sidewalk. he he
|By Eric Fjellanger|
Sep 18, 2012
What a beautiful climb in a beautiful area!
I climbed this last week (second week of September), this seems like the perfect time of year. The days were not too hot, the nights were not too cold, there was no snow and no bugs.
We used RPC's very useful topo. It was especially invaluable for the descent. I noted that the third rap station (to which you scramble) looked a little funky, but it was the right one. We did drop too low on the long traverse and had to climb back up. Beware that there were cairns all over the damn place. The final rap you want starts near the top of the cliff above the gully, and deposits you only a short ways below the top of the gully. Regardless of what stacked rocks you see below you on the traverse, try to stay high, I don't think you'll regret it.
From: New Paltz
Nov 20, 2012
Monty's original beta for this route is excellent...so excellent in fact that at times I felt like we were cheating a little bit by having it on the route! But that didn't stop us from looking at it.
Anyway, I would add a few really minor points
-We used Bechtel for the slabs approach. I think that inexperienced climbers would be pretty freaked to go that way without a rope. Not hard, but you're in the no-fall zone for a long time. If you or your second doesn't solo 5.2 with a pack, you may want to allow time for some belays if you go this way. Also, we screwed up the approach right at the very end, on the big ledge just below the start of the climb. It looked like following Bechtel was going to be super sketch, so we traversed way right to some gully between Tiger and Pingora...here, we encountered the hardest climbing of the day, ropeless in our approach shoes on not the best rock. When we finally got to the start and looked down, we saw that Bechtel was completely correct, and his way was totally casual.
-On the "black nubbin pitch" I was really pleased to have 2 #3 Camalots. The climbing here is quite easy, but on fairly steep ground, and at least from what I could see, the 2nd #3 was the only thing preventing some very significant swing potential near the end of the pitch. Great pitch, though. Someone mentioned wanting a #4, I have no memory of needing one or wanting one, but perhaps you could have placed it somewhere on the nubbin pitch.
-As Eric F comments just above, there is a temptation to drop down the backside of Wolf's Head as you do the "400-yard traverse" Monty mentions in his description. I think it may actually be a little longer than 400 yards, but either way, if anything, you go UP slightly as you traverse...pretty much any down at all is wrong.
-none of us (on the descent we were two parties having joined forces, had all 4 ropes running at once) felt the need to do the final rap (#6 in Monty's description). I guess that last rap would save you a tiny bit of gravel-groveling, but it seemed to us like the time to set up this rap would have been more than the time needed to scramble down. Class 3 at that point as far as we could see. I mention this not to complain, but because otherwise you might feel kind of lost, like "hey, I feel like we're down, but the description says we're still supposed to be rapping more" kind of thing.
-As many others pointed out, please do not underestimate this route. The weather for us was completely splitter and we had a mellow day, but both of us were picturing what a massive cluster it would have been to get off that route in a storm: the climbing on the actual route is trivial, but there is a whole lot of rock between you and safe ground if you need to bail, and you will be likely leaving a lot of your rack behind if you make your own descent. You may want to scope out the location of the Beckey Route (or some other route) on the South Face, so that you have a way to get down if needed. I've also heard that rapping the Beckey Route is not all that casual, but I've never been there myself.
|By Taylor Spiegelberg|
From: Sheridan, Wyoming
Jul 30, 2013
Amazing route one of the most asthetic and rowdy 5.6's anywhere. I left a .75 up there, if anyone found it, a 6-pack will be at your doorstep if its returned!! Thanks
|By John Groh|
Aug 30, 2013
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b PG13
Be prepared for tons of rope drag!
More of a traverse than a climb, but still by far the coolest traverse I've ever done.
Make sure you have adequate directions for the rappels - we "rescued" a lost pair of climbers looking for a rap anchor in the dark who had no idea where they were supposed to go...
|By Austin Pethan|
From: Madison, WI
Sep 12, 2013
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b
Incredible. If it is dry, take the Grassy Ledges approach, as it is straightforward, quick, and safe when dry (we did not have to rope up as some parties have when it is wet). Definitely simuclimb the ridge, both to save time and to have an absolutely incredible experience doing so. Did the route in six belayed pitches; the beginning was simuclimbed, and the last part was class 4 (with 1 or 2 class 5 moves) scrambling to the summit. Decent was pretty straightforward. We used rps's summitpost guide and followed it closely.
We woke up at 4:30 and were on Grassy Ledges as soon as it was light out. Reached summit at about 1:45pm. This was both my and my partner's first real alpine experience (besides Haystack Mountain near Deep Lake). We were so thrilled on the way back to camp. Also, if you look at the south face of Wolf's Head, there is a clear Wolf's head. The top of the head is marked by the third tall tower, and the towers to the left and right make the ears. The "wolf" appears to be looking down, and looks more of like a "wolf's skull" then a "wolfs head". We had the five people at our camp in awe of this sight, once they finally were able to pick it out.
This is a must do route!!!