Ascent of Gannett Peak on 2012-07-30

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Petter Bjørstad <1644>; Eirik Andersen; Melanie Hetkamp
Date:Monday, July 30, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Gannett Peak
    Elevation:13804 ft / 4207 m

Ascent Trip Report

Our team had assembled in Denver: Petter, Eirik and Melanie from Norway and me from the UK. I had arrived a few days earlier and climbed Ultras Elbert, Pikes and Blanca Peak, then P600 Grays
with Melanie and Eirik.

Wed 25 July
We spent the day driving, made a small detour to Dubois to find a meal, then drove back SE along US26 to find the turnoff N43.51335 W109.56841 to the trailhead. At a fork we immediately turn L; keep L at a gate (N43.48416 W109.58628); then it's a matter of following the obvious road (pretty good dirt surface) to the reasonably sized parking lot (9.0 miles total from turnoff), with the start of the Glacier Trail signposted at N43.42557 W109.57397 (2321m) next to a signboard. We spend the last hour of daylight organising our packs then sleep.

Thu 26
Next morning is bright and sunny. We start hiking at 0720. The trail is easy to follow throughout with all junctions signposted. Soon we reach a fork at N43.42569 W109.57837 where we turn L; in a short while we again turn L and descend a little to cross Torrey Creek (N43.42285 W109.57965, bridge). The trail then climbs over a shoulder and in a while goes through a rocky defile to reach the attractive grassy Bomber Basin, following its L edge for a while before zigzagging steeply uphill for 400m, initially through nice pinewood then more open ground with nice views opening up across the Basin to attractive rugged slopes beyond. The slope eases then crosses a creek (N43.37770 W109.58169) where we stop and filter drinking water. Note that the North Wind River Range hiking map gets most of the trail detail wrong up to this point but seems pretty accurate for the remainder of the trail.

Beyond the small creek the trail heads south, joining the Old Glacier Trail at a sign. We see a line of pack mules approaching along the Old trail and they catch us up just before the saddle. They are supplying a camp at Dinwoody Lakes although we don't find them again - they're not at Honeymoon Creek anyway.

We rest at the 3317m pass (N43.35057 W109.57937), enjoying the fine upland scenery. We reckon we've done most of the work and look forward to a mostly downhill trundle to our camp, but this proves optimistic. The trail heads downhill becoming a little rough underfoot. We see a small pool to the R but the mapped lakes are all out of sight. We descend steeply through a large area of fire-dead trees. It's hot, except briefly when rain threatens but comes to nothing.

We cross Phillips Creek, climb slightly then continue our descent. Boulder hopping across the Double Lake outflow we stop and filter more drinking water, starting to feel tired due to the heavy 5-day packs. We walk past the lake enjoying views of the 10373 ft summit towering above the far shore; the informal camp site is passed at xxx. Hopping across the creek we zigzag steeply uphill for 130m, recrossing the creek (bridge) then passing Star Lake and cresting a pass (3149m, N43.30280 W109.57268) before commencing the seemingly endless rough zigzag descent to Honeymoon Creek camp. Contrary to our hopes, the camp is quite a way below the lake, at N43.29212 W109.55718, 2803m), and we are very glad to be able to take off our heavy packs. We arrive at 1535 after 8h15.

We make camp, eat dinner while trying to stop the many mosquitoes eating us. The day stayed fine and dry; a little warm at times. Despite the heavy packs it was a fine hike. Apart from the mule people and some folk at Double Lake, we met just one person, who had summitted Gannett two days ago, apparently solo, passing on the useful but unwelcome news that the snow bridge had gone, although the bergschrund wasn't too fearsome.

Fri 27
Having fed (ourselves and the mosquitoes), we hike at 0651. The trail soon reaches Dinwoody Creek which is in spate due to snow melt from Gannett. The trail follows the W bank for a while - fine scenery - then forks L and immediately crosses Downs Fork Creek on a substantial bridge, skirts some water meadows then rejoins the W bank of Dinwoody.

The trail descends a little to Big Meadows - impressive alpine scenery. The main trail keeps to the W edge of the meadow: R fork at xxx. We forked L taking a more direct line which involved skirting round a few pools. Hereabouts we met a party who had recently summitted Gannett: they provided useful info and also kindly donated their 1:24000 USGS topo map.

Passing the Ink Wells Trail junction we round a bend and can at last see our mountain. We lounge in the sun enjoying the view. However, the next part of the trail involves some awkward creek crossings. Klondike Creek (N43.22971 W109.59361) is bridged by a few slippery logs. Those of us without walking poles make use of rough cut sticks used by previous hikers. The second creek is pretty easy.

It starts to rain quite heavily before the Gannett Creek crossing (N43.20700 W109.61564). We shelter awhile but decide to continue. The creek crossing is quite unpleasant with slippery boulders and slippery logs crossing the many streams which made up the "ford". We managed to get split up briefly in this rather confusing area.

We emerge into an alpine meadow, the rain stops and we hike uphill in much better spirits, reaching camp at about 1330. The creek is quite high below the jumble of blocky moraine and we decide not to cross it, finding a nice spot beside the trail on the R (N) bank (N43.18661 W109.62448).

From camp we have a good view of our objective and are able to study its complexities and recce the first part of the route ready for tomorrow's planned ascent.

Sat 28: summit day
We leave camp at 0452, hiking the easy trail then painstakingly following the intermittently cairned route through the awkward bouldery moraine field, which often involves scrambling over metre-high boulders, hopping between them or occasionally walking short sections of trail. At length we reached the foot of the glacier (N43.17892 W109.64071). We think of climbing directly up onto Gooseneck glacier which looked feasible but decide to stick with the standard route: we crampon up the glacier immediately L (S) of Gooseneck until an easy slope can be climbed R onto the ridge. We head straight up the ridge (rough trail, some easy scrambling) until reaching a snowfield with a sheer face above. Another group have just arrived and are resting there.

We rope up and make an ascending traverse on easy snow until we can see the bergschrund up to our L. There's no snow bridge, as we'd been told earlier, but the crossing is quite easy, and there's also a fixed rope which we note for later. The snow slope above is pretty steep and we protect the climb with a deadman.

Once off the snow we ascend a rocky slope, a little loose in places with some easy scrambling. The line is R of the fall line (R of an obvious polished gully going straight up) and gets us onto the ridge immediately R (N) of Gooseneck Pinnacle. Now an easy, slightly loose rocky slope leads directly N onto the summit ridge, which we climb at its L (upper) edge alternating between easy rock and snow. The drop to the L (W) is impressive and the views superb.

We reach the summit (4211m, outcrop, N43.18422 W109.65424) at 0954 in 5 hours and spend 40 minutes there in fine weather. The party of 7 we met earlier, arrive just as we are leaving. We head down, generally quite straightforward; descending to the bergschrund we make use of the fixed rope, using a prussik each as we descend. The final snow slope down to the moraine is quite soft and we "ski" down on boots. We retrace our outward route, finding a reasonable line back, more or less following the cairns.

We're back at camp at 1354, 9 tough hours after leaving. After a good rest we hike a further 2 hours back along the trail, finding the creek crossings a little interesting but uneventful. Immediately downstream of the Klondike Creek crossing we find a nice site (N43.22965 W109.59242) by a little rocky knoll above Dinwoody Creek, with a view back on Gannett - excellent! A kingfisher flies past and a pair of diving ducks arrive and feed for a while. We cook dinner, put everything out of bears' way then flee inside the tents from the mosquitos. A very satisfying day although the trailhead seems a long way away...

Sun 29
We set off at 0707 and tick off the landmarks: Ink Wells Trail junction, Big Meadow, Downs Fork Bridge, Honeymoon Creek. The 600m ascent from there is hot and long: at Star Lake we spend over an hour resting in the sunshine. Then the easy descent to Double Lake, across to Phillips Creek, then the long gentle ascent to the saddle. We meet a few folk along the way, some intent on the summit, some making a long circuit, five girls out for 23 days, a few horses and mules.

We stop at the creek above Phillips for water then rest at the saddle. Our planned camp site is by the stream crossing 3km further on, just before the steep descent to Bomber Basin. We set up on a flat grassy area (N43.37784 W109.58263, 3043m) just west of the trail, arriving at 1610 after 9 hours of hiking.

Just before finishing we met a rather distraught hiker with a large pack who explained that one of his companions had gone way ahead while the other had fallen way behind. From his description we recognise the first as someone we had passed about 2 hours previously, moving fairly quickly carrying a rather small pack. The lad we met decided to go back to find his other friend and in a little while we saw them - the last one had an even larger pack! We wonder whether they will get back together and climb Gannett...

Mon 30
We leave camp at 0658, zigzagging down to Bomber Basin then descending gently to the bridge, now in warm sunshine as we descend to the trailhead. I amuse the others by jogging the last part to finish at 0920 - exactly 4 days 2 hours after we left.

We are soon on our way northwest for our next target, the Grand Teton. As a roadworks sign says at the pass: Expect delays and great scenery! Teton certainly looks impressive, spired and snow dusted, with bulky Moran a worthy companion.

Gannett Peak photo album

Gannett has apparently been day hiked in 23 hours. On the way down we give some thought to this feat. The trail part is 79km (GPS) with 2500m total ascent, which is roughly equivalent to a 15 hour Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge (an English 48 mile 17000 ft fell running challenge for 55 year olds). Except the Gannett climb was apparently unsupported - and also involves a rough tough off trail summit section of around 8 hours. And presumably involves running while carrying ice axe, crampons and boots for the summit bid (or maybe not...). Clearly doable but an impressive feat. However the record is far faster: 8h46m:32s car-to-car (by a different route, from Green River Lakes), by Anton Krupicka, September 18, 2012. This 2004 article describes the route and gives some insight into the lightweight approach.

There is a nice selection of wildflowers along the route including (names are approximate...) bellflower, sedum, achillea, fleabane, goldenrod, alpine goldenrod, aster, shrubby cinquefoil, paintbrush, hares-ear, willowherb, hogweed, lupin, bearberry, heather, cowwheat, ladysmantle, silver leaved cinquefoil, mountain everlasting, oyster plant, mountain sorrell, alpine bistort, speedwell. Mammals included moose, marmot, piker, jackrabbit, squirrel and chipmunk. Birds included diving ducks and a kingfisher, also heard chickadee, red breasted nuthatch and a flycatcher plus lots of half recognised calls and songs.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:11009 ft / 3354 m
    Extra Gain:2395 ft / 729 m
    Round-Trip Distance:53.6 mi / 86.2 km
    Route:Glacier Trail
    Trailhead:Torrey Creek  7585 ft / 2311 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:4 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Rain 1 hour only
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Days 2 Hours 34 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Days 23 Hours 26 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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