| Gannett Peak - southeast couloir
Gannett Peak August 11, 12, 13
Ascent: Southeast Couloir
Descent: Gooseneck Glacier
Mileage: Approx 42 miles
Vertical gain: 10,000ft
Elkhart TH to Titcomb Basin
Approx 3k vert & 15 miles, 7 hours (with 40 minute wrong turn)
After breakfast at the Wrangler Café in Pinedale, Wyoming on Saturday morning, we drove the 15 miles to the paved trailhead to begin the 15 mile hike into Titcomb Basin. With the low snow year and hot summer in the Wind River Range, we packed as light as we could manage for roped glacier travel.
After about 4.5 miles we reached Photographer’s Point. This is the point where it really sets in how far away the destination is. Dan on the left, me in the center, and YC on the right.
Senaca Lake at 8.5 miles from the TH was impressive, but Island Lake, at 11.7 miles in was breathtaking. In the distance behind Island Lake is Bonney Pass (center of photo), which we’ll climb the next morning in route to Gannett. Shortly before this photo was taken our friend Marc radioed me from Bonney Pass. Marc and Dave drove from Denver to the TH after working a half day Friday, started hiking 10pm Friday evening, but were forced to turn around early Saturday afternoon shortly before Gannett’s summit.
Our relaxed pace allowed for a little beach time as we rounded Island Lake.
Continuing into Titcomb Basin.
We stopped between Titcomb Lakes around 5pm to setup camp and rendezvous with Marc and Dave. They handed off their rope and Marc gave us beta on the southeast couloir before they decided to forego their bivy bags and set off for the TH. It ended up being a 28 hour push for the two of them.
Our camp with Bonney Pass in the background.
Approx 5,600 vert, 12 miles, 15 hours
Left camp around 5:30am, heading around upper Titcomb Lake.
In a more typical year Bonney Pass might still be a snow climb. This year it’s already steep scree and loose rocks. It’s tough to move quick through this terrain and it took us 2:15 to climb the 2,100 feet from camp.
I think every TR from this route on Gannett has this same picture, and for good reason; after 18 miles of hiking the first view of Gannett is worth the wait.
Next on the agenda is a 400ft hike down more loose rock, followed by another 700 vertical foot descent down the Dinwoody Glacier. Quite a few crevasses have opened up so we roped up from the start.
Having inaccurately heard that the bergschrund on the standard route probably wasn’t passable, and knowing that the southeast couloir was doable, we chose to ascend the couloir. I labeled our route on this pic Sarah Meiser took from Sunbeam Peak a couple weeks ago. Thanks for the shot Sarah.
Talk on the trail was that crevasses have already appeared that haven’t been seen in years. Definitely felt like more of a glacier climb than we expected.
Finishing our descent to 11,500ft on the Dinwoody Glacier.
We hung a left and Dan began navigating the way towards the southeast couloir.
As we could tell from Bonney Pass, access to the couloir wasn’t a gimmie. We decide the right bridge looked better.
The southeast couloir is about 600 vertical feet and peaks at maybe 40 to 45 degrees. While not overly steep, the snow was firm and there was a bergschrund awaiting an unarrested fall. Since we weren’t placing protection, we unroped. To make sure we could safely downclimb the couloir on the way back, I took the time to cut most steps with my axe. Since I was wearing trail runners, YC worked on the steps too with his mountaineering boots as he brought up the rear.
Shortly after reaching the top of the couloir we gained the summit ridge and got a view of the Mammoth Glacier on Gannett’s east side.
Dan and YC nearing the top.
Nearing the summit we got an excellent view of the open bergschrund on the Gooseneck Glacier. Not wanting to descend the southeast couloir, we formed a plan to downclimb the rock lookers left of the snow and hope the 30m was long enough to get us down. Worst case scenario, we would tie off the rope and leave it.
We made the summit a little over 7 hours after leaving camp. In that time we had only seen one other group, descending the Dinwoody Glacier about a half mile in front of us.
Dan, YC, and me, on the summit of Wyoming’s tallest peak.
As we descended off the summit ridge we bumped into the group we had seen in front of us earlier in the morning. It was the group from Idaho that we talked to the day prior. They had ascended the standard route but got caught up deciding how to negotiate the bergschrund. Ultimately, they went climbers left and ascended the rock. They also told us about a 60m rope someone had left over the bergschrund.
I rappelled down to the anchor a previous party had built and tested it while still on rappel. Having determined we would use the pickets and rope left by another group, I readied the anchor while Dan rappelled to me. Once Dan arrived, he used the 60m to rappel over the bergschrund while I belayed YC to me on our 30m.
We rappelled over the bergschrund with YC bringing up the rear. In retrospect, YC could have downclimbed on belay, which would have allowed us to clean the anchor. Although we felt confident in the anchor, another week of warm weather could easily change that. As you can see here, the bergschrund is still passable by parties ascending this route.
Once over the bergschrund we made an easy snow traverse to the Pinnacle Ridge. From there we could see the glaciers we descended and ascended in the morning, as well as Bonney Pass in the distance.
After descending another 1,000 feet on rock we reached the snow and put the rope back on for the climb to Bonney Pass.
Thanks to Josh’s recent trip report I learned that this glacier water slide is called a moulin. We had simply been calling it "your last water slide."
We got back to Bonney Pass about 12 hours into our day, facing a long loose descent back to camp.
It has been a while since I had a 15 hour day in the mountains, but this one was well worth it. We rolled back into camp with just enough daylight and energy to pump some water and down some food before crashing.
Titcomb Basin to Elkhart TH
Approx 1,400 vert & 15 miles, 7.5 hours
The last five miles were rough. Feet were pretty sore. I can’t imagine doing this peak in a single push as some have achieved and Marc/Dave came close to pulling off. Although this climb might be easier when the crevasses are filled in, I think doing it later in the season gives you more of a glacier climb feel, and a lot less mosquitoes. Certainly one of the more unique and amazing mountains I’ve been fortunate enough to climb.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):