Gannett Peak

  • Gannett Peak
  • 4209 m
  • Primary factor 2158 m
  • Location: North 43.18425, West 109.65421 (GPS on the summit)
  • Location: Wind River Range, Wyoming, USA
  • Climbed July 28, 2012.
  • Difficulty: YDS class 3.


How to get there:
This peak is in the Wind River Range, there are several possible trailheads, the peak is pretty far from any public road regardless of approach.
We drove north from Denver to Laramie in Wyoming, then followed Interstate 80 west to Rawlins where we headed north on Hwy. 287 that also is Hwy. 26 as one get closer to the small town of Dubois. We had a nice dinner in Dubois, before heading to the trailhead.
Dubois is a bit too far, drive SE on Hwy. 26 from Dubois about 3.7 miles and turn right on Fish Hatchery Road, then immediately left on Trail Lake Rd. Continue 9 miles along the obvious road (good dirt road) to a good sized parking lot at location N43.42584, W109.57394, elevation approximately 2320 meter.

Here is a quick reference and summary of all peaks visited on my 2012 summertrip to the USA.
Route description:
To high camp: The trail to Gannett from this trailhead is named Glacier Trail. The round trip distance, trailhead to summit, is almost 90 kilometer, a strong party will normally require about 4 days to complete this climb.
There are good signs. The trail begins up slopes to the right when viewing up the valley (away from where the road entered). However, there are two early trail forks and Glacier Trail forks left in both of these. The trail climbs and crosses Torrey Creek on a very sturdy bridge. The river runs steeply downhill in a deep gorge at this place. The trail continues to climb, crosses a shoulder and enters the nice and grassy Bomber Basin. From here, the next section is a zig-zag climb up a rather large and steep slope. On top of this slope, the trail crosses a nice little creek, then continues a gradual climb to a significant pass at location N43.35056, W109.57942, elevation about 3330 meter. Before reaching this saddle, the Old Glacier Trail merges in from the left hand side. This trail is still used by horses starting from the same trailhead area.
The route now heads downhill and crosses an area of dead trees before reaching Double Lake. From here, the route subsequently ascend a new hill to reach Star Lake, near N43.30444, W109.57237 and a new saddle at about 3150 meter. Next, follows the biggest loss of elevation, a descent often zig-zag, from high above Honeymoon Lake to well below it at Honeymoon Creek Camp. This location is at N43.29212, W109.55720, elevation about 2790 meter.
The trail now reaches the big river Dinwoody Creek and follows the west bank upstream, before reaching a fork where we go left and cross Downs Fork Creek on a big and sturdy bridge. Subsequently, we again follow the west (right) bank of Dinwoody. Next, is the Big Meadows, a large open area where the main trail keeps along the right side (when heading upstream). The next waypoint is the junction with Ink Wells Trail, then another bend on the trail and Gannett Peak finally comes into view at the upper, far end of the valley. The next section of this route involves three more creek crossings, none of them on a bridge and quite awkward when the creeks are running at capacity due to snow melting and warm weather. The first, Klondike Creek has a few slippery logs across. The second creek is quite easy, while the third, Gannett Creek again is complex. This creek has split into several streams at the place of crossing, but still several of the smaller streams may run high and the rocks and logs may all be slippery.
The route climbs immediately after Gannett creek and enters a very nice, alpine valley that eventually runs out of grass and turns into rocks and boulders. The high camp is best placed before the grass ends, we stayed at location N43.18665, W109.62457, elevation about 3290 meter.
The climb:
First, continue up the valley staying on the right hand side of the river. There is a cairned route, big boulders and a bit awkward terrain. There are traces of a trail in between the more complex sections. Pay closely attention to the cairns, this route is likely as good as any alternative. Eventually, you will reach some permanent patches of snow as well as some moraine ridges. The going gets easier here. Looking at the previous picture, the key is now to ascend easy snow indicated by the red line. Crampons may be needed if this surface is hard. Ascend along the right hand side and keep right in order to leave the snow and regain the (broad) rocky ridge at its somewhat lower section as seen in this picture. That is, leave the snow and ascend right.
When you reach the top of this ridge, continue left and follow the rock. Higher up, you will see a steeper section, but the scrambling is perhaps easier than it first looks. This section is (YDS) class 2+ with a few short moves at the (YDS) class 3 level. Near the top, the easiest route will traverse a bit left and finish the ascent on the left side of the ridge.
The next section, is less steep. Head a bit more right to gain a new rocky ridge line above you. This ridge runs straight towards the very steepish upper part of the mountain, culminating in the very characteristic Gooseneck pinnacle. That is, the route continues up the rock until further progress is blocked by steeper terrain above. At this point, one can easily traverse right onto the glacier. Continue an ascending traverse (going right) on an easy slope. This glacier has crevasses, so a rope is recommended. There is a big crevasse (bergschrund type) running parallel above this line of ascent. Further onwards, a very obvious stretch of steeper snow connects from above. (The previous picture shows the crevasse crossing and the steeper snow above it.) Sometimes, the crevasse is even closed by a snow bridge at this point. Cross the crevasse and ascend this steeper snow until its upper end. The slope is considerably less steep at its upper end. This section is the crux of the route. The snow / crevasse combination is steep enough that most parties will protect this stretch by using a rope. With very good snow conditions (early summer?) this part may also be ascended without protection.
Exit right at the top of the snow and follow traces of a climbers trail ascending while staying on the right hand side of the top ridge in the beginning. Ascend to the ridge higher up and continue up the left side of the slope ahead that connects with the ridge you are about to complete. This (easy scramble) will get you to the final, summit ridge of Gannett. This ridge runs right and is a bit jagged if followed along its very top line. Most often, a better line is to ascend a bit on the right hand side of this ridge, while staying above and away from the steeper snow slope below. This completes the route as you soon will arrive at the final summit rocks.
Comments / Trip Report:
I did this climb with Melanie Hetkamp, Eirik Andersen and Rob Woodall. We drove from Denver in the morning, July 25, and decided that a good dinner in Dubois would be a good idea before sleeping at the trailhead.
The next morning (July 26), we started at 0720. It was a most beautiful morning and soon we came to the bridge across the main river, a rather impressive gorge and powerful water. Our big summertrip had finally started! Melanie and Eirik had been sightseeing in New York and Denver, this was their first visit to the USA. We proceeded into Bomber Basin and before long, zigzagging up the slope to higher ground. Our first stop to collect some drinking water was already near the treeline, we could sense the high pass further onwards. On the way there, we saw the Old Glacier Trail merging into our trail from the left hand side. A pack of horses came that way and caught up with us just as we rested in the main pass.
Now, we had downhill and the going was easy as we passed through this area of burnt trees before getting to the creek, then the Doublelake lake. A few people had actually hiked in here. We all felt the backpacks more now, in particular as we started the climb up to the crossing near Star lake. We had sort of agreed that the first camp should be at Honeymoon Lake. However, this was not to be, the trail descends much lower than the lake. We were all tired (perhaps mostly me?), when we finally could set up camp at Honeymoon Creek. We had been hiking more than 8 hours, arriving at 1535.
This place was full of mosquitos, not the best camp site I have been to. We made dinner, secured all food items high between two trees, then escaped into our two tents - away from the flying tyranny..
The next morning, we wake up early and are back on the trail already at 0650. Soon, we were hiking along the river, finally at least in the correct drainage. Quite suddenly, we met a party of 4 that had climbed the peak. We had a good chat and they were kind enough to give us their local topo-map. A middle aged group from Colorado, but I knew this was a team with tons of experience. While talking to them, we also noted a good sized moose walking by in the forest. There is more trail to cover, generally in very good condition. Finally, after all this hiking, we see Gannett way ahead at the end of the valley. We celebrate with another good rest in the sun. We continue our walk and have to stay focused as we need to cross several creeks that are running at full capacity. What did happen to all the sturdy bridges that we have seen until now? What is left are slippery logs that not even stay above the water. On top of this, it starts raining. Fortunately, the rain stops after about one hour as we ascend into an alpine valley. The mountain with various glaciers are now much closer. We hike until we are very close to the transition from grass to boulders, an ideal place to camp before our summit attempt. The scenery is second to none, really beautiful. The alpine valley with grass and flowers, then the next zone - rocks, rugged peaks and glaciers.
We have arrived already at 1330, plenty of time to rest and eat before what appears to be a long summit day tomorrow. The local marmots do not seem to pay much attention, I still make a mental note to close all tents properly before we leave tomorrow. The weather stays fine and we sleep early with a sky full of stars.
Summit day.
We leave camp already at 0450, mostly to take advantage of good morning weather and to avoid being hit by afternoon rain and possibly thunder. It is still dark and our head torches search forward, trying to see the best route between and across a very complex stretch of big boulders. There are some small cairns placed here and there, we do make reasonable progress and we can see that the daylight is coming. We navigate without problems to the glacier that comes down sort of left when viewing towards the summit of Gannett Peak. The surface is hard and crusty, so crampons come on. The snow slope is moderate and we exit it higher up without really walking on a glacier. There are several climbers trails up the loose side and thus gaining the ridge here at a somewhat lower section. Going up the ridge, it soon steepens and changes into more solid rock. The scramble up here is not hard and we easily find our way as the best route takes us more left before we gain a new plateau. Many interesting peaks around here, some look harder than others. A pretty big area up here, the ridge itself sort of ends, then starts again further across and runs towards the steeper part of the mountain higher up. We pick our way across and enters this final section fairly far right. There are traces from climbers that obviously have traversed more directly as well.
As we get to the end of this upper ridge, we catch up with a pretty large party (5-6) including a guide that is preparing to form a rope team. We put on our own harness and rope quickly and start out on the glacier ahead of the other team. There is a big crevasse going across, we traverse below it. The crux of the route comes into view. Steepish snow that runs down to the crevasse, with our more gentle snow below. No sign of the famous snow bridge. However, there is a pretty clear passage, one can descend slightly into the crevasse, then make a big step across it. Next, a climbers trail has been established that follows a small snow ledge climbing across and up from the crevasse. The snow slope then runs up to easier terrain higher. A full size rope is already in place, but we have no idea about how securely it has been anchored. We decide not to use it, but to protect the lower section with our own deadman. This snow ascent runs very smoothly and we are soon back up near the rocks. The fixed rope has been anchored in the snow, it is hard to see how well this is done. Most likely, the anchor is very good. We decide to use a prusik on the fixed rope on our descent later. We remove crampons and scramble up the rocky slope gaining a local ridge. From here, we need to ascend a slope along its left side, that is close to where the ridge runs uphill, this is pretty straightforward. Higher up, we follow the top ridge closely, but stick to the snow on its right hand side. We arrive at the summit at 0955 in absolutely perfect weather. No wind, blue sky and a fantastic view in all directions. This peak is plenty steep, its a long way down from here. After such a long approach, the summit feels perhaps even more special. We stay at the summit for quite a while. We can see our camp, but do not feel in a hurry to get back down. After 45 minutes, the team that we overtook just before the steeper snow, is arriving. We congratulate them and give them the summit (to enjoy) as we start our descent.
The descent was equally good, we moved back down in a safe and steady way. Having checked the fixed rope, we used it to protect against any accidental slide with a prusik. We continued down the ridge and the last snow slope, this time without crampons. The weather stayed nice and it seemed a pity to leave this place. We made it back to camp around 1355, a 9 hour effort.
After a good break where Melanie and Eirik also cook a hot meal, we are ready to start our return hike around 1600. The alternative, to stay another night aat the same camp was also considered. Rob and I argued that walking a few hours today would make the return hike a bit easier. The going was quite easy and the nasty creek crossings all went well. We established camp on a nice local knoll above Dinwoody Creek. Our camp has a great view back to Gannett Peak, fewer mosquitos and a nice river for a refreshing bath!
The next morning, we are hiking by 0710. Many familiar landmarks shall be noted, we cross the Big Meadow and take a new rest when crossing Downs Fork. None of us are looking forward to the big climb from Honeymoon Creek to Star Lake, it will be mid-day, hot and hard work. However, when this climb actually starts, Melanie takes the lead and seemingly without expending much effort, we all float up the zig-zag trail and decide that we have earned a long break at the beautiful Star Lake. I have already announced that a good goal for today shall be the small creek on the other side of the major pass above Bomber Basin. It seemed a long way, but now a lot closer. We pass Double Lake, the uphill with the burnt trees and have the col in sight. Thus, we all arrive in pretty good shape, at our last camp by 1610, 9 hours of good effort.
Monday, July 30th. The last day of our Gannett adventure is an easy morning hike back down into Bomber Basin, then out the valley and down to our car at the trailhead. We leave at 0700 and have a very pleasant hike that takes 2.5 hours. The next goal has already started to loom big in my head - The Grand Teton, a peak I first saw about 35 years ago, when Heidi and I made a most memorable trip to this area. I really looked forward to a second visit.
See also the excellent report by Rob Woodall.