Cloud Peak Wilderness: Pristine alpine rock climbing in northern Wyoming
Far from any road, Cloud Peak Wilderness features over two dozen glacier cut walls and spires towering over the high plains – one of the most pristine alpine climbing destinations in the western US. We’re keen on keeping it that way, minimizing our footprint as we explore the spectacular mountaineering and alpine climbing in this area. Our guides work to keep climbers safe and reduce their impact in hope of preserving this pristine environment for generations to come.
Although there is little documentation of alpine climbing in the Bighorns compared to surrounding ranges (intentionally so), there have been a few attempts to fill in some of this interesting history. Despite being dated, the best resource and guidebook for the area (and for many other remote climbing areas in the state) is Bonney and Bonney’s (1977) Guide to the Wyoming Mountains and Wilderness Areas, which is long out of print but pops up occasionally at used book stores. A history of the early days of surveying and climbing in the Bighorns can be found in Jack Smith’s (2018) Cloud Capturing Summit.
Cloud Peak Wilderness at a glance:
Multipitch alpine trad climbs
Intermediate to advanced
Cracks, flakes, crimpy, knobby
Summer and early fall
Dispersed camping and primitive bivouacs
Backpacking, fishing, horseback riding
Classic alpine rock climbs in Cloud Peak Wilderness:
- Thundercloud Arete (5.8, 1000’, 6 pitches) – Thundercloud Arete features six pitches of aesthetic climbing and positioning beside Yosemite-like big walls. The approach meanders through boggy meadows up to one of northern Wyoming’s most iconic hanging valleys. Then we scramble up a small scree field to the base of the arête. The route follows the largest left trending arete to the left of the main overhanging wall of Thundercloud’s massive north face, following the path of least resistance up the ever steepening and narrowing arete. Note that due to permitting restrictions this trip is only available for booking after September 1st on weekdays.
- Southeast Arete of Cloud Peak (5.8, 1200’, 8 pitches) – Livid granite, wild exposure and positioning next to the massive walls of the Merlon – this is a route to write home about! The first pitch has several options with the cleanest line beginning at the very base of the arete and ascending a corner system with large cracks slightly left of the crest, working its way past fun features with several ledge options for a belay. Pitch 2 can be linked with Pitch 1 if using a long rope and follows the arete to easier fifth and fourth class terrain. Pitch 3 starts at the base of a double finger crack system and climbs behind an impressively poised boulder to another good belay ledge. Pitch 4 ascends a left-trending series of good faceholds with a few runouts before reaching another decent ledge. Pitch 5 ascends one of several handcracks straight up the arete or an easier variation with less protection moves left on a large ledge and follows juggy holds to a large horizontal ledge (it is possible to exit the climb via this ledge with a few exposed fourth class moves on wet rock – a rope is highly recommended here). Pitch 6 follows the arete on stunning rock to a beautiful topout overlooking the Merlon to the East. Gain the summit plateau and descend via the obvious Class 2 South Ridge to the saddle between Cloud Peak and Bomber Mountain. Gear: nuts, double rack of cams .3-2 and one 3. No fixed anchors.
- East Ridge of the Merlon (5.9, 600′, 5 pitches) – The East Ridge of the Merlon is one of the most aesthetic moderate climbs among the high peaks of Cloud Peak Wilderness. This objective requires a long but incredibly beautiful hike into the headwaters of South Piney Creek to high camp at the foot of the striking East Face of Cloud Peak. The climbing high on the arete is very exposed and engaging with incredible views of the East Face of Cloud Peak and the last remaining glacier in the Bighorn Mountains.
Custom trips available in Cloud Peak Wilderness:
Resources for planning your climbing trip to Cloud Peak Wilderness:
- Guidebooks: Bonney and Bonney’s (1977) Guide to the Wyoming Mountains and Wilderness Areas and Jack Smith’s (2018) Cloud Capturing Summit
- Nearby accommodations: Ten Sleep RV Park, Meadowlark and Deerhaven Lodges, Ten Sleep Rock Ranch, Leigh Creek USFS Campground
- Food and drink: Sleepy Coyote Bar and Cafe, Ten Sleep Brewing Company, Ten Sleep Saloon and Restaurant
- Groceries, coffee, and supplies: Dirty Sally’s General Store
- Gas: The Pony Express
- Maps and trail info: Bighorn National Forest – Powder River Ranger District
- Rest day attractions: Sport Climbing in Ten Sleep Canyon, Castle Gardens Scenic Area, Medicine Lodge State Park and Archaeological Site, Washakie Museum, Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming Dinosaur Center
Interested in climbing in Cloud Peak Wilderness? Send us an email with your name, email address, and brief description of what you’re looking for.