Peak(s):  Gannet Peak - 13,980 feet
Date Posted:  07/19/2009
Modified:  04/17/2010
Date Climbed:   07/14/2009
Author:  sgladbach

 Cooper‘s Traverse- Part One  

Gannet Peak 13,890
July 12-16, 2009
Cooper's Traverse
Ascent of Gannet Glacier and North Ridge
Descent Gooseneck Glacier and Dinwoody Creek
RT distance approximately 31 miles (7.8 on summit day/ 14.5 hours)
RT elevation approximately 8000' (3800' on summit day)
All Photos by Georgia Briscoe unless otherwise noted. Edits by Steve Gladbach.


This expedition's goal was to summit 13,980' Gannet Peak, Wyoming's High Point, deep in the Fitzpatrick Wilderness of the Wind River Range. A typical crack team of elite climbers was assembled: middle aged urban professionals including two educators, a social worker, law librarian and the requisite, basement confined, computer geek, statistician. The team ranged in age from a 48 y/o father of two tweens to a 60-something set of grandparents. Three dogs accompanied to keep us safe from Grizzlies.

Georgia provided the main impetus for the team's choice of this particular expedition. She has completed Colorado's 14ers and many world summits. Having climbed Denali, Rainer, Granite and Hood, her goal of completing the 50 state highpoints had only one real obstacle remaining- Gannet Peak. Georgia now has a dozen or so to complete, but none more difficult than a straight forward hike. On this trip, her husband Dennis has a more esoteric goal: Several days of fishing and day-hiking from our first camp at Echo Lakes.

Linda Jagger is also a Colorado 14er completer and has sumitted the Mexican Volcanoes. With no interest in three weeks of snow camping, she has modified her State High Points goal to include only the lower 48. Tom, summiter of Elbrus and Aconcagua, goes were Linda tells him.

Steve Gladbach and Cooper are always up to something. This week, Steve has been tagged by trip organizer Linda Jagger to lead the climbing portion of the trip.

Molly and Mo are the only Briscoe babies still at home.

There are three major approaches to the standard Gooseneck Glacier Route on Gannet.

1. The Titcomb Basin Route is 40 miles RT from the Elkhart trailhead. Traditionally, summit day includes a climb of 2000' over Bonney Pass and a 1000' drop to the base of the Gooseneck route. On return to high camp, the climber must do 1000' to re-claim Bonney Pass and descent 2000' to the tent. Besides that undesireable trait, it has a funny name.

2. The Glacier Trail Route from Dubois is about 48 miles RT. Horse and mule outfitters will carry gear (or you!) 20 miles in to Floyd Wilson meadows for $600 each way. Many teams use horses to carry gear into this lower base camp, and then pack out on their own.

Some teams hump it both ways on their own.

3. Linda, our trip organizer, chose the Cold Springs Route for our team of more mature climbers. The Cold Springs Route is 31 miles RT. Each direction requires an extra 2000' hump of your pack over Scenic Pass on Horse Ridge. However the views from the pass are worth every foot. Quick 200' side trips to either side of the pass enhance the experience. The pass provides a considerably distant view of your goal not available on the other approaches. The route crosses the private Wind River lands of the Arapahoe and Shoshone Indian nations. Therefore a $25 permit is required to cross nation lands on your approach and a second $25 permit on the day you pass through on return. The federal government throws in a $5 wildlife stamp.

Permission to be on the Nation's property is not enough to get you to the trailhead. The 14 miles to the TH are leased to Ramona O'Neal (Mone) at 307-486-2318 and she charges $125 each way to cross her lands. She provides a truck and driver to get you to the TH.

Total bill: $305 (the same as two people sharing a horsepacker on the Glacier Trail approach.)

Day One- Ramona's house in Crowheart to Upper Echo Lake

Tonia is our driver to the Cold Springs TH. Notice Tom and Linda occupied with DEET before we can even unload the truck.

One mile of rocky ridges and meadows brings you to the border of the Indian Nation and forest service lands. Scenic Pass rises 3 miles and 2000' overhead.

We worked three hours to get our expedition loads to the top of the pass. In case you are counting, you will notice we're tag-teaming with a group guided by Jackson Hole Mountaineers. They are also setting out for Dinwoody Glacier basecamp of the Gooseneck Glacier Route.

A 200' climb off trail to the SW gives this view of Horse Ridge running off to Gannet.

A three mile descent and undulating traverse along the UPPER Ink Wells Trail complete the 7 mile hump to Upper Echo Lake. Attractive campsites near the trail and over 300' from the lake are abundant. If you take one, be prepared for a Ranger's lecture. You must also be over 100' from the trail. Regulations also require hanging all food or using approved containers.

We suffered the worst mosquitoes any of us had ever encountered. Campfire tales of Alaska, Wisconsin and New Hampshire all fell short of these bloodthirsty pests. A fully covered body and head netting are required. Each night Cooper and I dove in the tent and spent 15 minutes smushing them against the sides of the tent. When I got home, I washed the blood covered interior.

Day Two- Gooseneck Glacier approach and Big changes ahead

Leaving Dennis, Mo, and Molly at Upper Echo Lake to enjoy their fishing and mosquito killing, we began a 1.5 mile, 800' drop along the Ink Wells Trail below Echo Lake bringing us to the Junction with the Glacier Trail route. You've been hiking for 8 ½ miles; your Glacier Trail counterparts have been at it for 18 ½ miles.

The North Face viewed up Dinwoody Creek from the Glacier Trail/ Ink Wells junction.

3 ½ miles later, our trip took a different tack. We had negotiated one creek crossing and were contemplating the notorious Glacier Creek crossing when we encountered a gentleman in our age bracket and his 87 y/o father. They were day-hiking to the base of Gannet Glacier from their camp at Floyd Wilson Meadows. He was also named Steve and gave me a few updates he'd received from climbers descending from the Gooseneck Route over the past two days. He had been told that the bergshrund below Gooseneck Pinnacle had collapsed under the one party and the next descending part had a technical crossing involving a rappel to cross the critical area.

He was acting as climb leader for his extended family. He was recommending the North Face, aka the Gannet Glacier, and a 5.0 rock finish on the North ridge. He had climbed that way several years ago with his mother. (He had also climbed the Gooseneck Route; he thought the difficulty was quite comparable.) Besides Steve and his dad, Dave, there were several other family members up on Gannet Glacier practicing cramponing and self arrest. Steve's wife and daughter were up there under the tutelage of Steve's brother, Craig. Craig's 13 y/o son and 14 y/o nephew (Polly's son) were also up there. Well, by now enough first names had been dropped that I knew what family was advising me!

In other trip reports, I've highlighted Steve's mother, Gudy Gaskill. She introduced me to Colorado hiking and mounttaineering. She is known as "Mother of the Colorado Trail" and served as the first female president of the Colorado Mountain Club; she is a Colorado legend. She was at the Lake City educational facility of the Colorado Trail Foundation teaching wildflower and watercolor classes. She is the whirlwind of the family.

I haven't seen Dave Gaskill in 12 years and he didn't recognize me, but a short conversation jogged his octogenarian memory. Dave is a retired geologist of the USGS and author of books on Pre-Hoover Dam Boulder Canyon country and surroundin colorado river canyons. He made a significant contribution in mapping mines in the Crested Butte area. My favorite of his influences is the naming of the "Oh- Be- Joyful" USGS quad near Crested Butte. I asked him if it was true and he said yes; he chose the name to commemorate the 1920s Oh- Be- Joyful Temperance and Healthy Living Society of Crested Butte, an early hiking and social club active in Crested butte During the during the Prohibition era. Dave is the quiet, but eternally sarcastic patriarch that is the only one to occasionally control the whirlwind that is Gudy. Mostly, he uses humor to cope as he's swept along with everyone else in her path.

Steve Gaskill coached the US Olympic Nordic Team for over 12 years. Craig was an early competitor on the "Fastest completion of the 14ers" phenomena and held the record for a while. Other family members include a world class paralympic skier and instructor, and a manager of a hostel in the Alps (by summer) and a winter Park ski lodge (by winter).

Steve, aided by his dad's reserved demeanor, convinced Steve to take his group up the Gannet Glacier and North Ridge route.

Dave quietly tolerates the ever-present mosquitoes.

Day Three- Summit Day- July 14, 2009
We got off at 3:15AM as planned and successfully followed the challenging bushwhack up the north side of Gannet Creek which we had scouted the day before (and the Gaskill boys had cairned.) After crossing the creek on a snow-bridge, we finished the bottom portion of the moraine and were able to crampon-up and rope-up for the trip to the base of the headwall and bergshrund. There were very anxious eyes fixed on that headwall; it was difficult not to let your eyes wander from the important task below our feet. It is critical to locate "The Gate" (a name coined by Rick Casey); the right half of Gannet Glacier is riddled with crevasses both marked on the quadrangle map and visible from above.

Steve and Cooper locate "The Gate" and contemplate the headwall

The team has reached the base of the headwall. The crown of the avalnache zone also marks the gape of the bergshrund.

Georgia enjoys the rest break at the base of the headwall. Behind her is a window to the southern Gooseneck and Dinwoody Glaciers. Bonney pass (though not in this photo) can also be seen from here.

Linda seconds the climbing traverse across the firm snow below the crown of the avalanche zone. The team heads for a belay station just below the open bergshrund. The two Gaskill rope teams are visible below.

Linda giving perspective to the 50 degree slope.

Tom and Linda at the belay station just below the open bergshrund

There's a hole in the snow!

Read "Part Two" for the 5th class rock finish and the last minute decision to traverse the mountain.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Oh, the Places You‘ll Go!
11/30/2010 17:20
What an adventure... what a team. And running into the Gaskills? Who better to provide some "direction" for this motley crew? Nice to see Linda and Tom out there; best of luck to Georgia on finishing up those state highpoints.

And oh, by the way - I think I found your "theme song":


What a Difference A Couple Of Days Make
07/21/2009 13:59
Great story and photos. The release of snow by the Berschrund must have happened 1-3 days after we left. Really liked your approach.

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