This is post 3 of 3 detailing the two weeks I spent in Wyoming this summer climbing the Grand Teton and Gannett Peak.
The second half of this year’s trip to Wyoming was arguably the most important: the climb of Gannett Peak with Summit For Someone (SFS). SFS is a fundraiser for Big City Mountaineers, which runs wilderness programs for at-risk teens. Getting kids outside is something I believe in, particularly if it can help them build self-reliance and be a positive experience.
Following our climb of the Grand Teton, we took a day to recover and check in with Jackson Hole Mountain Guides (who were guiding the Gannett trip). There we met the guides, did a quick gear inventory, and met the other SFS climbers. All great people, so I knew it’d be a fun trip.
Our trip would start in earnest the next day at the trailhead. Figuring a long drive in the afternoon was preferable to a long drive early in the morning, we turned our back to Jackson Hole and headed southeast to the Wind River Range. The drive was gorgeous with scenery ranging from open plains to tree lined streams to the towering mountains of the Wind River Range.
The town of Pinedale was bigger than I expected, likely due to the popular fishing in the Winds. Passing through on the main street, we noted a brew-pub on the right and made a plan to return 5 days later. The car pointed North and we soon found ourselves on a narrow road winding its way up into the mountains. We gained altitude rapidly and the Winds grew larger through the windshield.
After a few stops to gawk at the scenery we pulled into the trailhead campsite. I am not sure I was fully prepared for what awaited us there. I had been told to expect mosquitoes, but these were mosquitoes! Swarming like piranhas, we were left with 3 options: sit in a tent, sit in a car, or cover every square inch of skin with goretex or netting. There must be a picture somewhere of someone drinking a beer under their mosquito net…
Eric, Mike, and I arrived at the trailhead first, followed a short while later by Stephanie. We set about getting acquainted while we waited for Dan’s arrival with the promised pasta dinner. And the dinner was well worth the wait! The threat of mosquitoes diminished with the fading light and a fire. It was evident our group had an excellent dynamic and we were all looking forward to the next day’s start.
The next morning the guides met us at the trailhead; where we did the avoid-the-mosquitoes dance while dividing group gear and re-packing our packs. I apparently looked trustworthy, and was given the group’s stash of bacon to carry…
The original plan had called or pack horses to take the bulk of our gear on the first day, leaving us with day packs. The abundant snow fall of the past winter was still evident and pack animals would not work. With the help of two JHMG porters we would be packing all our gear in over the two-day approach.
I will omit the details of the approach other than to say it was incredible. Relatively mild hiking (aside from navigating snow and a few stream crossings), astounding scenery, impressive storms, and the feel of wilderness. (To see the full suite of pictures, check out the Gannett Peak Approach set on Flickr).
Early in the afternoon of the second day we set foot in Titcomb Basin, from where we would launch our summit bid less than 12 hours later. There we set up camp and bid farewell to our porters (who had other commitments and sadly couldn’t join us on the climb). Thanks Wade and Aaron!
We took the rest of the afternoon easy, reviewing the plans for our summit attempt and trying to relax. Our 2am start would come fast and we had an early dinner. The ensuing relaxed-pace gear preparation was cut short by the daily evening storm and we all scampered into our tents. With rain beating down on the nylon between us and the world, we tried to sleep.
The start dawned early, and we woke up shortly after 1am to begin our summit bid. The moon was out, illuminating the basin. After breakfast and a quick sanity check of gear, we hit the trail…
The first portion of the summit bid took us a couple miles to the back of Titcomb Basin and up over Bonny Pass. The long uphill slog was slow, but enjoyable. We crested the pass just as the Sun was rising. It was windy through the pass, but we took a short rest behind a small wall of rocks before continuing down the other side of the pass.
At this point the route drops down onto the Dinwoody glacier where one traverses over to the Gooseneck glacier and resumes climbing up Ganett Peak. Both glaciers are relatively well behaved (in terms of crevasse danger), so the crossing wasn’t too difficult. We did rope up on the upper parts of the Gooseneck Glacier due to its steepness (45 degrees) and exposure over a bergshrund.
The weather was a bit of a concern throughout the day. Somewhat blustery conditions and low clouds had us keeping an eye on things, but thus far there was no indication we should abandon our climb.
As we approached the top of the Gooseneck Glacier and the final summit ridge we encountered several rope teams descending the ridge. After a pause to let them pass we continued up the ridge, our group split into two rope teams. This portion of the climb was relatively straightforward with but potentially bad consequences if a mistake should occur. What looks like a relatively flat snow field from afar was actually a 45 degree slope ending on top of a cliff. On the other side of the ridge was a sheer drop off of at least a thousand feet. We walked up the ridge, slowly gaining the last bit of altitude before the summit.
We reached the summit around 09:45. Initially we were in the clouds and didn’t get much of a view. But things improved during the short while we were on top and we did get some good views before we turned around and started retracing our steps back to camp.
The return trip was relatively straight forward, simply retracing our steps down the Goosneck Glacier, across the Dinwoody Glacier, back up and over Bonny Pass and down Titcomb Basin to our camp. Everything was pleasant until the “back up” part. After 9 or 10 hours on the go, hiking a thousand feet back up to Bonny Pass was less than appealing. But it stood in the way of a hot meal and sleep, so we forged on. Our pace had certainly slowed by the time we reached this point, but we managed.
We arrived back in camp after approximately 14 hours, 10 miles, and 6000 vertical feet. The order of business for the remainder of the day was rest and recover. We still had 2 more days of hiking ahead of us to reach the cars.
We took it easy the next morning, getting up not-too-early and exploring the area around our camp before saddling our packs and hiking part-way out. We hiked until mid-afternoon and re-discovered the annoyance of mosquitoes as we dropped in elevation. Our intended campsite was already occupied so we continued on, putting an additional couple miles behind us. The second day of hiking was also relatively relaxed and we reached the trailhead around noon.
Remember the brew-pub I mentioned? That was lunch. Nothing like a delicious burger after 5 days of hard hiking and climbing.
A special thanks to all of you who donated to BCM in support of my climb. I couldn’t have done without your help!
Thanks also to the folks at Big City Mountaineers, Summit for Someone, and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides (particularly Phillip, Erica, Wade, and Aaron)! It was an excellent trip.
For more pictures see the following sets:
And remember the video is coming soon…