The Snowy Range: Alpine rock climbing in southeast Wyoming
The high peaks of the Snowy Range offer a great selection of alpine rock climbing on massive shields of quartzite overlooking the Laramie Valley. In addition, the Snowies have some of the most accessible alpine climbing in Wyoming. That said, this is still full-on alpine climbing with significant objective hazards, so climbers must move efficiently, plan routes carefully, and make sound decisions as a team. The approachable yet demanding nature of the terrain makes this an excellent area to learn how to stay safe in the mountains and hone your alpine climbing skills in preparation for bigger objectives.
Note on objective hazards: Don’t be fooled by the relatively moderate grades and short approaches, because the climbing in the Snowies is just as hazardous as in any other alpine area. Throughout the summer months you can count on thunderstorm activity in the afternoon, so be sure to climb in the early morning hours and be off your climb around noon. There is a considerable amount of loose rock in the area, so climbing behind another party or even on the same formation should be completely out of the question. To mitigate rockfall hazard we recommend researching your route as much as possible, climbing on select formations (e.g. Schoolhouse Rock and the Diamond Buttress) and avoiding others (the Diamond and Old Main), climbing grades well below your limit, using a double rope system, building belays protected from overhead hazards, and strategically placing protection so your ropes don’t run over loose rocks.
The Snowy Range at a glance:
Multipitch alpine trad climbs
Intermediate to advanced
Edgy, discontinuous cracks, dihedrals and aretes
Summer and fall
Developed campsites, cabins, lodges
Hiking, sport climbing, kayaking, fishing
Classic alpine rock climbs in the Snowy Range:
- Sidewinder (5.6, 600’, 4 pitches) – Sidewinder is an excellent moderate climb with good protection and sustained 5.6 movement that winds its way up the left side of the Diamond Buttress (not to be confused with the much looser Diamond to the right). Pitch 1 features third and fourth class climbing on very chossy ledges up to a well protected belay next twist a very thorny bush. Pitch 2 stays right of the prominent right facing dihedral following broken crack systems on steep rock, then moves left on a bushy ledge to a belay protected by a small overhanging roof. Pitch 3 stays in the dihedral until the tree, then trends right on good holds through a small roof to a second left trending dihedral to a belay on large horizontal ledge. Pitch 4 goes straight up past a loose ledge and through two steep headwalls on great holds to the top of the buttress. Build an anchor on decent blocks 30’ back and extend the belay to the edge to avoid knocking any rocks off the ledge. Descend by walking off on the Medicine Bow Peak Trail.
- Flying Buttress (5.8, 700’, 4 pitches) – Fun route despite the loose finish. Avoid climbing this route if anyone else is climbing on the Diamond Buttress because of the significant overhead rockfall hazard and be sure to climb in the early morning to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Note that the bolted anchors are well positioned for rappelling but not necessarily for protecting your belayer from falling debris – plenty of gear anchor options abound. The first pitch starts up a cool double crack system just to the right of three prominent right facing dihedral also that look like they’re stacked on top of each other (bottom right of the Diamond Buttress). Follow the nicer of the two cracks straight up and left to a single bolt plus gear anchor on a decent ledge below two large roofs. The second pitch goes up left on ledge past tree then climb straight up blocky terrain past a moderate offwidth move aiming for the notch between the two large roofs. Climb through the notch on fun easy terrain and belay at two bolt anchor. The third pitch climbs easy terrain up and left of the anchor staying on the cleaner blocks left of the large white gash and belay at another 2 bolt anchor. The fourth pitch traverses onto the fun but loose left arete after the tree and follow the arete to the top of the formation, taking great care to avoid having your rope run over loose blocks.Descend by walking off on the Medicine Bow Peak trail or rappel the route. A single 80m rope will get you down in 4 rappels (tie stopper knots!) but you might be able to use a 70m with some down climbing on the ledges (careful!).
Course available in the Snowy Range:
Intro to Alpine Climbing Course$500.00 – $1,000.00
Resources for planning your trip to the Snowy Range:
- Guidebook: Skip Harper’s digital guide
- Gear shops: Atmosphere Mountainworks, All Terrain Sports, Laramie’s Basecamp
- Climbing gym: The Source
- Visitor’s guide to the area: Visit Laramie
- Food and drink: Dining in Laramie
- Accommodations: Stay in Laramie
Interested in climbing in the Snowy Range? Send us an email with your name, email address, and brief description of what you’re looking for.