Date: May 23-27, 2011
Location: Wind Rivers, Wyoming
Elevation: 13,804 ft.
Trailhead elevation: 8,020 ft.
Personnel: Kirk, John, and Dave
Last week I attempted with 2 other climbers to climb and ski Gannett Peak in the Wind River's Wyoming. The peak sits on the continental divide in the northern portion of the range. The peak itself is considered the most difficult state high point climb, only behind Mt. Mckinley, Alaska.
We camped on the road, 3 miles and 1000 vertical feet below the true Elkhart Park trailhead (due to snow), on Sunday night and started skinning up the snow pack on Monday morning hoping to be out and back by Friday around lunch time. We each had large backpacks and shared sleds to pull packed with climbing and camping gear. Thus, the going in deep snow and on side slopes was not as fast as we hoped. We reached Photographers point (8 miles down the trail) at 6 pm in the middle of a late may snow storm.
The following day we trekked on through several small storms, over several mountains and passes, and across several frozen lakes including Barbara, Hobbs, and Seneca Lakes. At 6 pm we reached Island Lake (another 7 miles) and had an up close view of the heart of the wind river range. We refused to pull the sleds and carry our gear another mile, so we made an igloo to sleep in and shelter ourselves from the weather and named it basecamp. The following day we would attempt for the summit, 8 miles away, and 4000 vertical feet above us.
We started hiking at sunrise (too late), and headed up Titcomb Basin, a beautiful, wide, flat glaciated valley, surrounded by shear granite/gneiss walls and jagged peaks. We reached the top of the basin and cirque in about 2 hours. Gannet Peak sits on the other side of the cirque and the only way to get there is via a steep pass called Dinwoody Pass, which would require going 1/2 mile and gaining 2000 vertical feet! It was a daunting task and it took quite some time. Half way up, I slung my skis on my back and booted it up with an ice axe in hand. Eventually we reached the top of the pass around noon.
Gannett sat there, unscathed and untouched by humans all winter. It looked very doable, but in order to climb the peak we would have to ski down 1000 vertical feet, then climb 2000 vertical feet to the summit...then do it all over again to get back to basecamp. We simply did not have the juice to make it and unfortunately we accidently forgot our fuel to melt snow for water.
We didn't reach our goal for several reasons: we essentially only 4.5 days to climb, the road wasn't plowed to the trailhead, we started our summit bid at island lake instead of at the top of Titcomb Basin, and we forgot our fuel on summit day to melt water.
The good news; we got to ski down from Dinwoody Pass! It was icy and wind-blown near the top but the snow got softer as we headed down and it made the entire trip worth it.