Wind River Backcountry Rock

Location Wind River Range

Season Summer - Fall

Difficulty Moderate - Hard

Duration 5 - 7 Days


Jackson Hole Mountain Guides have been climbing in the Winds for decades, and have racked up an impressive list of ascents of many of their finest routes. Some of the best alpine rock and ice climbing in the United States is found in the Wind River Mountains. Backpacking, day hiking, and fishing are also pursuits to be enjoyed here. If you are looking for amazing granite, spectacular views and no crowds?  Then this adventure is made for you.

Season Summer - Fall

Trip Planner


This trip starts by heading to the Big Sandy Trailhead near the southern end of the Winds. A half day hike gets you to the base of Haystack Mountain (11,978′), an ideal location for multi-pitch climbing on clean granite in a spectacular wilderness setting. Other nearby peaks such as Steeple Peak, (12,040′), East Temple Peak (12,600′) and Sundance Pinnacle (11,081′) offer some beautiful routes and summits.

The area around Haystack is surrounded by miles of wilderness hiking, and there is fishing in the nearby streams and lakes. This is the perfect location for family trips with activities for everyone.

The first day we’ll get to the roadhead in mid to late morning. The hike in from Big Sandy trailhead to Big Sandy Lake is a pleasant 5.5 mile trail with only 600’ of elevation gain. At the lake we will head south to the Deep Lake area near Haystack Mountain. The trails steepen en route to a campsite near timberline.

The following days will be spent ascending peaks and climbing; with the vast variety of routes available, you and your guide will find climbs to match your goals and ability level.

The last day it’s possible to climb a few pitches in the morning, or simply head directly back down the trail to the roadhead.

A few hours beyond Haystack Mountain and over Big Sandy Pass is the Cirque of the Towers, which contains the largest concentration of high-quality climbing routes in the Wind Rivers. Amongst the many fine climbs are two of the legendary 50 Classics in North America: the East Ridge of Wolf’s Head (II, 5.5) and the Northeast face of Pingora (IV, 5.8).

Whether you wish to simply experience some of the finest wilderness rock climbing in America or you want to concentrate on improving your climbing skills, the Cirque of the Towers is an ideal location that has drawn climbers from around the world for decades.

The itinerary is similar to the five-day course, but on the hike in, we will turn north at Big Sandy Lake and travel three miles north to the Cirque of Towers, camping in the Lonesome Lake area.


5 – Day Haystack Mountain Price: $3475 for one person; $2875 / person for two.

5 – Day Cirque of the Towers Price: $3875 for one person; $3125 / person for two.

Please note that these trips cannot be booked online based on scheduling, please click here to inquire about specific dates.

Trips take place any time between July 1 and August 31.

It is possible to climb in the Cirque of the Towers September 1 – September 20. Please contact us for availability.


Objective Dependent – Scarpa footwear is available at Jackson Hole Mountain Guides for rent. JHMG also carries a selection of rock shoes for rent.

  • Sticky Rubber Approach Shoes: required for all mid-summer climbs (mid-July through Sept). Guide Pick: Scarpa Crux  (Available for rent)


  • Mountain Boots: Most trips before July 15 and all Gannett Peak Climbs,  require a crampon-compatible mountain boot – Guide Pick: Scarpa Zodiac Tech  (Available for rent)
  • Rock Shoes for technical rock routes (Available for rent)
  • Socks: 2-4 pairs: sized for your boots and blister prevention
Upper Layers
  • Synthetic/Wool Long Underwear Top
  • OR
  • Synthetic/ Wool Sun Hoody
  • Synthetic T-shirt
  • Insulating Jacket: lightweight fleece or synthetic
  • Soft Shell: fleece or pile
  • Rain Jacket: waterproof/breathable with hood.
Bottom Layers
  • Synthetic/Wool Long Underwear Bottom
  • Hiking Short or Pant for approach
  • Synthetic Climbing Pant
  • Rain Pant
  • Hat: lightweight to medium-weight warm hat – sleek enough to be worn under a helmet
  • Gloves:  BRING TWO PAIR – one lightweight to medium weight pair – synthetic or fleece material. If snow route, shell also recommended.
On the trail
  • Alpine Climbing Pack – Internal frame only. 45 to 5O L for 2 or 4 day trip. Large enough to fit all your personal gear plus ten pounds of food and water.
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Water Bottles (2-3 L/Qt.) or H2O hydration system
  • Water Treatment – Steripen or other
  • Closed-toed camp shoes (optional)
  • Stuff Sacks: zip lock bags
  • Dark Sunglasses
  • Extra Contact Lenses
  • Sun Hat or Visor
  • Sunscreen (35+SPF)
  • Lip Balm
  • Headlamp and Fresh Batteries
  • First Aid – minimal: blister care, analgesic, etc.
  • Lunch, snacks & drink mix.
  • Misc Items: minimal: light knife, camera,
    bandana, camp suds, washcloth, etc.
Some trips require (please inquire with JHMG):
  • Sleeping Pad: Closed-cell foam or Thermarest
Recommended & Optional Items
  • Trekking Poles
  • Camera and batteries, spare memory card
  • Insoles: custom or aftermarket
  • Insect Repellent (Ask the office if this is necessary)
  • Headnet (Ask the office if this is necessary)
  • Camp Shoe – lightweight
Cold Weather Considerations:

Early and late-season temperatures require warmer clothing. You may consider additional clothing if you get cold easily or if it is unusually cold or windy.

  • Buff or neck gaiter
  • Extra down vest or jacket
  • Expedition weight long underwear
  • Extra gloves

**The Mountain Guides supplies all the rock climbing gear, harnesses, helmets, locking carabiners & belay/rappel devices, crampons, and ice axes. However, you are welcome to bring your own equipment. Please coordinate with our office for gear checks. Backpacks, rock shoes, and boots can all be rented & purchased in our Jackson office.

For your safety and comfort, bring synthetic and or natural fiber clothing for insulation. Cotton
is NOT recommended and down must be kept dry. Clothing should be able to layer without
encumbering movement.

Directions to Trailhead

Big Sandy Trailhead is located in the southwest corner of the Wind River Range; it is at an elevation of 9100’ and is about two hours from either Lander or Pinedale, depending on road conditions. The dirt roads are long and bumpy, and it’s a smart idea to have a marked map if not traveling with your guide.

From Pinedale head 12 miles south on highway 191 to Boulder, where there is a left turn on state route 353. This road eventually turns to dirt; follow the signs to Big Sandy Opening, turning left at each of three junctions along the way. The campground and trailhead are located at the north end of the Opening, at the end of the road.
From Lander, follow Highway 28 west over South Pass, then just past the Sweetwater Rest Area, turn north (right) on a graded gravel road. Follow this for 25 miles, then turn right on the final leg to Big Sandy Opening and the trailhead.

For Gannett Peak and Northern Wind River Alpine Courses: Elkhart Park Trailhead is 14 miles east of Pinedale, and has a paved road the entire way to the 9380’ elevation parking lot. Near the east side of Pinedale, where the highway curves south and Faler’s General Store is located, turn east on Skyline Drive; there are signs for Fremont Lake. After three miles, bear right and subsequently pass roads on the right to Half Moon Lake and White Pine Ski Area. Pass a Forest Service A frame house and the parking area is on the right. To rendezvous at the horsepacker’s, take a right on a small two track, FS Road 740B about a third of a mile before (not just before) the A frame.

Contact our office regarding east side Wind River departures and shuttles.

Wind River Range trips and classes operate out of our Jackson headquarters, which is located in the south part of Jackson at 1325 S. Highway 89, Suite 104 and shares a parking area with Smith’s. Our phone number is (800) 239-7642 or (307) 733-4979. Most trips and classes will meet at this office for gear checks, preparation, and classes. The Jackson Hole airport is the closest, but Idaho Falls (a 2 – 2.5 hour drive) is a cheaper option and Salt Lake City (4 – 5 hour drive) are also air travel options. It is helpful to arrive a couple of days prior to your trip/class in order to acclimatize. Otherwise, you should arrive the day before and stop by our office for an equipment check. Do not plan on traveling the day after a significant climb – you will be tired and there are no guaranteed times when we will return to the trailhead. Plan on having accommodations for the night prior to and the night you return from a significant climb. There are a plethora of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts in Jackson and the surrounding area. Accommodations near our office make your transitions convenient. It is highly advisable to make reservations as early as possible.



  • My experiences with JHMG have been uniformly outstanding.   Each guide that has worked with me over the years has taken a genuine interest in helping me advance my climbing.  The levels of professionalism, expertise, and interest in teaching among the guides I have worked with has been top-notch.

    — David Matthews
  • We love JHMG! We try and go once a year to climb with them and it is always a highlight of our year! It’s relaxing, fun, challenging and exciting! Thanks for a great trip!

    — Rachel Soeken
  • Thanks to Jackson Hole Mountain Guides for your time, effort and patience to get this old man to the top of the Grand Teton on my 60th anniversary climb. I am proud of you and your excellent climbing school.

    — Paul Petzoldt, the first Teton guide and founder of NOLS and Exum Guide Service
  • Thank you for taking us on the climb. It was such a blast! Being on the Grand was really neat and I hope to do more climbs like it. Thanks for teaching me many things!

    — Heather Berch, age 15 (recipient of Jim Ratz Memorial Scholarship)
  • Joe and I wanted to again say thanks for an awesome trip. We were put at ease the second we walked into the guide shop on Monday night for a gear check. I would absolutely recommend JHMG to anyone who asks. Every single guide we met was approachable, professional, and fun to be around, making for a great time. I sincerely hope that our paths cross again some time.

    — Steve Widdoss

Talk To Us

Here you’ll find online tools and information about joining us for a trip of a lifetime! To sign up for a trip, or if you have any questions, please call us. Listed on the left side of these pages are links that you may find useful, including printable forms and policies concerning a trip with TMG. We encourage ALL prospective climbers to read our Preparation advice. Our office can help place you with others who are looking to climb.

By Phone 800.239.7642

By Email Inquire Now

Inquire Now

Request a Guide

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Contact Us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Which Itinerary are You Interested in?

Not sure? Review the details for each available itinerary in the Trip Planner.