Distance ~ 18 miles
Elevation Gain ~ 2500
Time - 12 hours
With my wife working out of Pinedale, WY for the time being I figured it would provide a good base camp to explore the Wind River Range. After making a few calls I convinced a good buddy (from Idaho) to come along for the journey. He is an angler and the solid reputation of trout in this area was all he needed to be sold. The original plan was to hike in one afternoon, set up camp and eat fresh trout for dinner. The following day I would attempt the class 3 “descent” route of Warbonnet and on the third day give Lizard Head a go. Well, it was a great plan but one that would never come to fruition. Day 1 we were too busy catching up that we took the wrong trail for about 4 miles before realizing that we had blown it. After returning to the car and having a few WPAs (Wyoming Pale Ale) we decided to enjoy the luxuries of civilization and headed back to Pinedale for the night.
Day 2: We got a nice early start out of Pinedale, about 3 miles from the trailhead I realized I had a flat. No biggie, just hop out and throw the spare on… right? Well the clowns who had put the tire on had over tighten all of the nuts. After an hour of throwing my weight (210lbs) around, I had gotten 4 out of 5 off and completely destroyed the tire iron. The fifth nut would not come off regardless of any tricks we tried and so a tow was our only way out. This all started at around 8 am. After the most expensive “taxi” ride of my life, I was back in Pinedale around 6pm. Day 2 = epic fail
Day 3: At this point my friend could not commit to any over night trips. I was beginning to believe that this was just not meant to be. Yet I was still eager to get into this wilderness area that I had never explored. So this day we planned to do a day hike to see what we kept coming short of. And our persistence paid off. It was one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever laid my eyes on. My friend fished along some of the surrounding lakes and streams of Big Sandy Lake while I hiked over Jackass Pass into Lonesome Lake so I could view the Cirque of the Towers and potentially scout Warbonnet Pk for a day trip. It was a complete success. My friend was happy to report he caught close to 20 trout that day and argued they were the prettiest rainbow trout he had come across. I was able to scout Warbonnet and plan for a long day in the Wind River Range.
First views of Big Sandy Lake
North Lake, looking back towards Big Sandy
First views of the Cirque
Warbonnet looking mean as ever
One last look at the Cirque before heading back over Jackass Pass
Guess which one is Dogtooth Pk
Day 4: With my friend departing back to Idaho, this would be a solo mission. The previous day I had marked the spot where I would leave the trail and head for the east side of Warbonnet Pk. I knew I would be logging around 20 miles and the forecast was not perfect, so I was trying to make the best time possible on the way up. Luckily the first six miles of this trail barely gain any elevation (600 ft) and is well maintained making travel quick. Once beyond Big Sandy Lake, the trail starts climbing up towards Jackass Pass. I think Jackass Pass is named so by the design of the trail (you have to drop a few hundred feet before the final slog over the pass). Upon reaching the turnoff just beyond North Lake, I began scrambling through a huge boulder field. This was very time consuming as some of the boulders were the size of 18 wheelers. I had spotted a little notch the previous day that looked like an entrance to the “back side”/south face of Warbonnet. This part was fairly uneventful (expect some loose rock on the climb up to the notch) and in due time I reached the notch and got my first look at the scrambling that lied ahead.
At this point, it’s open to whatever you feel comfortable with (just don’t head too far north). I must admit, at first I was starting to feel disappointed, as it was mostly class 2 with zero opportunities to scramble. As I was whining inside my head about the disappointment of this route I got beyond the class 2 and finally found some fun. The route I took was mostly easy class 3 with no real exposure.
Eventually I got into a situation where I thought I may have to turn back. The rock was probably a climbers dream (but I’m no rock climber). Large slabs with small holds that got my heart beating. I made two or three moves and opted against it. I’m just not a strong enough climber to safely make these moves. So I retreated a little and searched for another route. I headed east toward the huge (my guess around 7 – 800ft) cliff face that is the east face (and I believe holds a 5.11 route). I found a large ledge that carried me past some exposure and into the remainder of the route. The rest of the route was a blast and within thirty minutes I was at the summit block. For me this was an easy move but a lot of that had to do with my length (6’5). The perch atop Warbonnet was airy with great views of the Cirque of the Towers. I had some snacks, took a few pics and headed out.
One thing I learned on the descent was a quicker/easier route to the notch. Not only do you ditch the trail at an earlier point but you don’t have to deal with boulder city for as long and there’s even a small pool within the boulders if you wanted to take a quick dip. The trek out was nice and once you hit Big Sandy Lake the remaining six miles goes by quickly.
I have pictures of the route if interested, just PM. After many failed attempts to upload them, (failed trying to upload only 4) I've given up.