Peak(s):  Gannett Peak, 13,806
Date Posted:  09/15/2021
Modified:  02/21/2022
Date Climbed:   08/24/2021
Author:  Curve
 Thawing Glaciers and Icy Couloirs   

This story actually starts high up on Mount Rainier in 2019. As we came back down the Ingraham glacier, absolutely exhausted, Bryce and I pondered what our next big mountain would be. I had heard rumor's that Gannett Peak, deep in the Wind River Range, provided an equal, if not harder challenge to Rainier.

21353_01
Bryce giving me glares as I accidently tugged on his rope to take this photo.

So, with the idea of a greater challenge, talk of climbing Gannett filled our long slog back down to Paradise. However, it wouldn't be for a year before we could could find the time to get a trip planned.

As July of 2021 passed, I shot Bryce a text that we should try and make an attempt, he replied that he should be good to go in late August or Early September. With this in mind I reached out to one more person, Kate Gress. Kate replied that she could go on the week of the 24th and just like that we began to plan our trip. We decided that the Titcomb Basin route from Elkhart would be the best plan for the group, and settled on a four day trip.

Day 1:

Drive from Fort Collins to Elkhart, hike in the 18-20 miles to the upper Titcomb Basin.

Day 2:

Kind of a rest day but also a buffer day, If we ran behind the first day, we could use this day to catch up. We also talked about possibly hiking up to Bonney Pass for an easier summit day.

Day 3:

Summit day! Plan was to wake up for an alpine start, climb Gannett, and hike back out a couple miles to make day 4 easier.

Day 4:

Hike out the remain miles back to Elkhart and drive back to Fort Collins.

Unfortunately, last minute, Bryce was unable to attempt Gannett with us due to college concerns. However, with the trip already planned, me and Kate decided to go together as a group of two.

Day 1:

At the crack of dawn Kate and I made out way through Laramie. With a car full of gear and high hopes we made quick work of the drive through Wyoming. Luckily, the further north we went, the more the skies cleared above us. By the time we made it to Elkhart, the sky's had almost no smoke.

We were very happy to see blue skies as we began the trail up to photographers point. The hike up to photographers point is pretty amazing, and also not too challenging. There are a lot of hikers on the trail as you approach the point, most of them day hikers. As you approach the trees begin to thin and the elevation levels out as you crest the ridge. You stay on this ridge for probably two miles before the view finally opens up and you're greeted with this...

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Kate at photographers point. 5/45 miles.

What's amazing about Gannett is that it's only visible once you're on top of Bonney Pass, which means out of all those mountains, we've got to go behind them. In the moment, that news is a little disheartening, so it was best that we both put in our headphones and got to work on pounding out these next 15 miles.

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After about a mile you come across the first of many small ponds.

There are many small ponds throughout the next few miles of the trail, as well as lots of ups and downs. From Photographers point to Island Lake is a slog for sure. Perfect for backpacking, but not so great when you have a destination in mind.

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Approaching Seneca Lake. Makes for a great camping spot.

After hours of hiking, we had finally reached Seneca Lake. We stopped quickly here to eat lunch and see how far we had gone. We both decided that it would be worth pushing hard to reach the Titcomb basin that night, as we wanted to relax on Day 2. The next couple miles from Seneca Lake to Island Lake are absolutely amazing, and I would highly recommend it as a backpacking trip, even if you don't go for Gannett.

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On top of a pass before descending to Island Lake.
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Island Lake finally revealing itself.

Island Lake is absolutely stunning and I really wished I would've had a couple of days to stay here. The trail to it is fantastic and really does a good job avoiding unnecessary elevation gain. Huge props to whoever helped construct this system of trails.

As we reached the east end of the lake, the sun quickly faded out from behind us and we were left to trudge the last few miles of day 1 in the dark. Unfortunately, the distance on the map from Island Lake to the Titcomb Basin looks short, it is not. Because of this, we opted to camp around Lower Titcomb Lake instead of fighting our way to the end of the basin. We had a fantastic camp spot here and it was definitely worth the extra miles on day 2.

Day 2:

Amazingly, I was able to sleep in until about 11 the next morning. Fully rested up I tore down camp and spent some time enjoying the spectacular views, (and tanning just a bit.) Kate and I slowly ate breakfast and begrudgingly put our heavy packs on to try and make it up Bonney Pass.

Important note on Bonney Pass, It looks absolutely impossible to climb. Like, I'm talking borderline deadly looking. To be honest, I doubted that it was the actual pass up until I was on it. So, just know, if you're looking at climbing this way, the pass is not nearly as menacing as it looks. I would say its a little easier than Broken Hand Pass.

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Upper Titcomb Lake with Bonney Pass visible on the far right.

Over the course of an hour we made our way to the end of the basin, where we sat by a stream and ate some snacks and planned our next few days.

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Not to bad of a lunch spot.

Further up the basin the trail fades out and you are left on your own for the remainder of the route to the summit. The route-finding isn't too bad, you'll find dispersed Cairns and campsites as you go up the valley.

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Kate beneath Bonney Pass, notice how thin the trail has become.

We found the pass easiest by sticking to the right side, their are scree trails down the middle and the left side is more loose. It took us about an hour and a half to make it from the bottom of the pass to the top. Meanwhile, the sun set just in time for us to make it to our Day 2 camp. There are three spots on top of the pass, but no water.

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The first view of Gannett, after around 20 miles!

Day 3:

We woke up at 3am on day three because of how hot the last few days had been. Nonetheless, streams could already be heard pouring down the many glaciers of the basin.

We made our way down the steep pass, generally aiming towards the glacier at the bottom. There are no cairns at all, so trust your route-finding and know where you are supposed to go. Towards the bottom we put on our crampons and got out our rope. At first i was skeptical that I would need the rope on the Dinwoody, but boy was i proven wrong very fast. There were probably close to 30 "man-eater" crevasses on the Dinwoody alone. I would highly recommend bringing a rope and roping up across it.

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Kate going down the dinwoody at dawn, we are heading for the high ice patch on the left.
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A large crevasse field above the dinwoody.

From the rock rib to the Gooseneck Glacier was shorter than expected and quite easy, furthermore, the gooseneck itself is easily avoidable until right before the bergschrund, by taking the ridge to the left of the glacier.

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The high ridge to the left of the Glacier. This area reaches class 3 in some areas.
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A trench forms on the Gooseneck right before the Bergschrund. You can see the trail turn left towards the couloir up ahead.

Now, finally, the moment you've all been waiting for, the Bergschrund. Everything else about this mountain was fantastic, but this time of year on the Berg was horrific. Its one of those cruxes that makes you sit and wonder how this mountain doesn't kill a person a week. The couloir itself was absolutely bullet proof ice. Impossible to get crampon purchase, and certainly impossible to stop on in a slide. The bergschrund itself was a 15 foot high wall of ice with a bottomless crevasse below it. Meaning a slip in the Gooseneck will certainly be your last this time of year. If you're dead set on climbing in late august I highly recommend ice screws, belay devices, a rope, and lots of carabiners.

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Looking at the Bergschrund.
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Looking down the crevasse beneath the Bergschrund. For context, this gap is over 6 feet wide.

So how did we do it? We took a route up the right side up a class 4 wall. It is visible with the webbing hanging off it in the photo above.

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Looking down at the Bergschrund from the top of the class 4 rock wall.

With the couloir itself being completely impassible, we took a route up a V notch on the right side, staying entirely on rock until we were above the couloir. This route, (shown in red) had relatively stable rock and is low class 5 in some areas.

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The Notch in the side of the Couloir.

Above The couloir is a brief class 3 scramble reminiscent of the Crestones traverse. After this, you reach the summit ridge and a trail finally picks back up. From here, it is only class 2 to class three scrambling to the summit.

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Me on the summit.
21353_28
The way back down the ridge.

On our way back down we actually noticed three people coming up the gooseneck. They are visible in the photo below, can you spot them?

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The ants go marching.

Once we reached the Gooseneck Couloir again, we opted to rappel down the notch in the rock rib down to the bottom of the Bergschrund. This is by far the safest option in my opinion. Nevertheless, the descent went off without a hitch and we were quickly back down to the Dinwoody Glacier. The traverse back across is a slog, but it is beautiful. There are still some very, very, big crevasses left in this glacier.

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The ascent back up Bonney Pass.

After a quick pack up of our camp, we trudged back down Bonney Pass into the Titcomb Basin Once again. We decided to camp just above the lakes for the night. The summit day was brutal, even starting at the top of Bonney Pass, be ready for a real challenge on Gannett.

Day 4:

Finally, our luck with great weather was finished, as day 4 saw us getting lots of rain and hail as we blitzed the 20 or so miles back to Elkhart. Due to the brutal weather, I took very few photos this day. All I can say is it was a lot of miles for a last day. Unless you are used to very long mountaineering trips I would recommend taking the path out in two days, for a total of a 5 day trip. Plus, areas like Seneca Lake and Island lake are absolutely worth camping at.

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Upper Titcomb lake before the rain hit us.
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Looking back at the Titcomb Basin.

Kate and I just about collapsed upon reaching the trailhead, and lots of Redbull was required for the 7 hour drive home. Not to mention, a monster sandwich from a local Deli in Pinedale. Our final mileage from Kates Inreach was 46 miles, and 10,500 feet of elevation gain.

All in all, Gannett Peak is probably my favorite climb I have ever done. While there are certainly more difficult factors on Rainier, I would say that I found Gannett Peak to be more challenging. It is no easy task, and its easy to underestimate, especially in the late season. I think its worth doing again in June, as I imagine it will be like doing an entirely different mountain. Anyways, thanks for reading this massive report, I'll try and make the next one a little shorter. :)




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Hoot
User
Where's the snow?
09/16/2021 07:11
Nice report and pix! I'm amazed at how different the route looked for you in late August versus my trip in early July a few years ago. I'm afraid Gannett's glaciers may be headed down the drainage in the coming years. Congrats on a tough peak!


angry
User
Conditions
09/16/2021 07:41
look the same as my summit on 7/29 so earlier might not be any better either. I spent a good 30 minutes ascending that ice wall very carefully since I was alone. I saw 3 different points with webbing along on that right side rock and wondered if anyone other than guided teams was actual using it. Congrats!


Curve
User
angry and hoot,
09/16/2021 10:17
Hoot: I actually talked to some glaciologists while up there and they said the Dinwoody is retreating at an average of 3 meters per year! So yeah, its not looking great.

Angry: Yeah, the guided group we met still went up the ice wall, that looked miserable to me. After 20 miles I'd rather not do pullups!


seano
Congrats!
09/16/2021 13:48
I was in there a bit over a week later, and the glaciers are indeed sadly diminished, and very exposed after a dry winter. Couloirs, too. You have to account for that when reading Kelsey's guidebook, and be wary of couloir and glacier routes that were fine as little as ten years ago.


ltlFish99
Excellent report
09/16/2021 19:49
That was an excellent report with wonderful photographs of a beautiful area.
Thanks for posting this.



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