Anders' and Jason's driving adventure! SLC to Wyoming...
If you've ever been stranded in some forsaken wasteland and all you crave is a cookie dough blizzard then you'll know how much I wanted to climb Gannett Peak. If you don't know what that feels like then maybe you just don't want that mountain as much as I did. Actually, just fill in the blank with your desired treat and I'm sure you'll understand. Still not there? Okay, well I just really wanted to climb it. You probably really want to climb it too, and if you're reading this trip report then you probably already know all about Gannett and it's beauty and position as the highest point in Wyoming. As for me (I'm Anders, by the way, nice to meet you) and my buddy Jason we were hooked on this mountain when we first got into mountaineering. Enough intro? I think so. To the adventure!
Our adventure began as we hit the road from Utah to Pinedale. We opted to take the Pole Creek trail. Anyway, on the way I was pulled over for going a measly 11 over the speed limit. Okay, so I was speeding and got caught... The bad part was that when I rolled down the window a swarm of mosquitoes invaded the car. The Highway Patrolman even made a lame joke about it that was not funny, "Guess I should let you two go so you don't get West Nile Virus...uh heh heh." Anyway, I got a ticket and we were left to try to kill as many of the mosquitoes as possible. I swerved several times as I hit 5 mosquitoes at once with my hand against the window and windshield.
50 dead mosquitoes later we arrived in Pinedale. We found some food at the only place open which was a gas station on the main thoroughfare. Hey, I'm not saying gas stations are bad. In fact I think I would fall in love with and have babies with them if I could. We drove through town going a respectable 1.5 mph over the speed limit. I might have been glaring the whole time...I don't remember, but it's probably not important. At the end of town the highway veers to the right, so that's your queue to make a left turn. We turned left ourselves and about 14 miles later we were at the Pole Creek trail head. It was midnight and it immediately began to hail. Some people might read into such as bad tidings, but could the storm actually be a blessing in disguise? You decide...
Into the Darkness
We were sitting in my car a little after midnight. I made a bold prediction that the hail would stop in a few minutes. I might have a deal with Thor, the thunder god himself in place to stop storms but that's a different story. At any rate the hail didn't last long and we made an informed and democratic decision to head out. Anyway, it was probably the best decision ever. The rain had washed all of the bugs out of the air and the crisp night made for a pleasant romp through the countryside...er forest. The trail was pretty level most of the way for the first seven miles or so and is easy to follow. If you have any doubts about which trail to take I like to think to what Gandalf says to just follow your nose. Or you can follow the trail that looks to be the most well trod path. Either way I'm sure you'll end up at the summit. When the sun finally began to rise we were blessed with some beautiful sights. We could finally see the Wind Rivers in all their glory.
To Island Lake!
We passed by several lakes on our way...following a sign that pointed to the elusive Indian Pass. There were a lot of signs too, so watch out for that. As we passed one of the lakes Jason's soul came out of his body and played with the other mistings on the lake's surface. I'm not sure the real Jason ever came back as he has acted rather strangely ever since.
The hiking would have been a lot easier if the trail wasn't so muddy and full of puddles. However, my waterproof merrils made short work of any puddles as I opted not to make any new trails and forged straight through any and all wetness perceived in the budding sunshine. At one point I started clapping my hands and stomping my feet...but this was mainly to scare away any Sasquatch that have been known to roam through the area. Nevertheless, we still made some good time as we made it to Island Lake for a complete sunrise.
Once we reached Island Lake we made a grievous mistake (okay it really wasn't that bad). There are several offshoots on this trail at Island Lake...and being silly we actually took one that sent us up to a different Basin. It wasn't a big detour but it was long enough that we decided to lay down in the morning sun and take a quick nappy. It was probably the best nap ever as I dreamed I was totally frenching this pretty girl...but when I woke up it was okay because I was in such a pretty place.
From Island Lake you have to travel up through this really cool shallow gully type thing. And when I say "cool" I actually mean it was cool in temperature and appearance! We got our first taste of snow there. I actually got excited and touched it. I would later get all the snow I could handle...but then I was all about it. Once we got out of that we had to cross a river by jumping on boulders strewn about. It was a lot of fun.
If it were up to me...I think I would call Titcomb Basin any word in Norwegian or some Native American language that means, "Pretty place with a lot of bugs," or, "Pretty bucket of bugs." I think Deet only made things worse as I had a constant swarm around me...maybe my blood is just sweeter. Please don't inform vampires of this fact as my blood is precious to me...unless the vampire is hot...I wouldn't mind being nibbled on by an attractive woman vampire. Nevertheless, despite the bugs, it was worth it.
Near the end of the basin we found a flat piece of grass where we set up our tent. We had traveled approximately 17 miles that first day and it was only 2 PM in the afternoon. Anyway, I found a nice water fall type thing where I was able to take a bath of sorts and get all freshened up for dinner. We were both very tired and fell asleep once it was dark.
Waking up to Bonny
Once upon a time in the Titcomb Basin I didn't sleep so well. I woke up very tired. The morning was cold compared to the mild afternoon we had experienced. We had a quick breakfast. Pop tarts are probably my best friend, along with slices of cheese and a piece of cake, but I only had the tarts. I had to work to get it down...silly high elevation telling my appetite to go away. Off we went and we started probably later than we wanted to at about 7 AM. We went up the rest of the Titcomb Basin and began our way up the pass.
As Jason would put it...trudgery through misery. It really wasn't that bad compared to the Couloir on Mt. Whitney. The problem was my crampon came off and it made me frustrated...and then I had an overwhelming urge to void my bowels so that wasn't cool either (again temperature wasn't warm but it was also a bad situation), but eventually we made it up. Probably the worst thing ever were the birds. They kept flying around us like they owned the place, and made a big deal about it. They kept squawking about how they can fly and how easy it is for them to get to the tops of mountains. That's about the time I busted out some cheese and asked how often they get some of that...yeah, that's what I thought you silly birds.
This greeted me as I crested Bonny Pass...
It was the first time that we had actually seen our goal...and it was still so far away. The fact that we had to climb all the way up Bonny Pass and see how much elevation we would have to lose only to climb back up...twice...was heartbreaking. Nevertheless, we decided to tighten our belts and have at it. Down below on the Dinwoody Glacier we could see a group of people crossing and jumping a crevasse.
Jason made it down the pass first...and the scale of this place cannot be done justice by these pictures. Everything was just so immense. I think I could have fit a couple of baby mountains on the glacier and probably all the cookie dough blizzards in the world. In fact that's what I imagined was on the Dinwoody glacier as it made me descend even faster. Was I disappointed when I finally got there? No, like with the frenching before I was in such a pretty place and it didn't matter.
After taking some pictures of Jason making his way down I decided it was my turn to go down Bonny's Pass and catch up. Jason was getting antsy about getting on that glacier.
Crossing the Dinwoody Glacier we came to a crevasse that the other group had jumped so we decided to do it too. This is me telling the glacier what for. I'm not going to lie...this is probably the best picture ever and I'm sure even Thor was impressed by Jason's photography skills. I was in the home of the mountain gods last week and Thor actually has this picture on his wall...or maybe that was my parent's house I can't remember.
We continued along the glacier...coming to where it meets the mountain. You can see that at least near the rock it was fairly deep. Jason decided to get dangerous near the edge. It's like he didn't even care.
A huge boulder had fallen and slid some way down the glacier...it would have been gnarly to see it...even so it kept us looking above our heads. Maybe it was a good thing Jason's guardian angel was there even if she did seem to eat more than her share of the food.
We ran in to some more crevasses on our way up the Dinwoody Glacier. Some of them were very ugly and it was kind of annoying going around them. When in doubt...stay on the rocks...the snow looked rather precarious at best.
At this point I was dreading the bergschrund. I was dreading how steep everyone said it was going to be after it. However, when I got there I was actually very relieved. The thing wasn't a big deal in July. The snow bridge was huge...I even had lunch on it and became its best friend. We're going out for tea on Monday.
The steepness of the climb above the bergschrund wasn't as bad as Bonny Pass. It was shorter and not as steep and we got to see Gooseneck Pinnacle at the top, and from there we could see how close Gannett was. Jason was pretty much salivating. I was a "Happy Camper." I'm not really sure what that means, but I just really wanted to use it somewhere in my trip report because all the cool kids seem to be saying it these days.
From gooseneck we were given the choice of going up the rocks or the snow. We chose the rocks as we fell through the deep snow in some places. Eventually we had to veer onto the snow again which led us up to summit ridge. The snow, at this point, was near perfect to climb on.
The way up to summit ridge, I'll admit, was made easier by the people that came before us. The steps were a big help and provided something secure for us to walk on as we were traversing the ridge and making our way up to the top.
There were gaps where we could see the other side of the mountain and the big plunge below. It was a very rewarding sight seeing the frozen lake. I think I even knew what it was like to be flying so I told the birds that, but there were none to be found. I think they're still crying about not ever have eaten cheese before.
We finally made it to the top at about 1 PM. The views were spectacular. We could see the Great Teton miles off in the distance and reveled in the fact that we were higher. We spent some time on the top laughing and shouting kind of like the hobbits do at the end of the Return of the King when they all end up in Frodo's bed.
Getting back down the mountain was easy...although our minds were firmly on Bonny Pass again. That thing was such a thorn going up and down it twice. If I did this trip again I would go the other way and do the extra 5 miles just so I wouldn't have to go up and over it.
"Getting to the Top is optional. Getting back down is Mandatory"
We made it back to camp after dark...at least I did. Bonny was very hard on me the second time. But slow and steady makes it over Bonny's Pass (the wind seemed to whisper to me). We went to sleep pretty quickly. I didn't even begin my chicken and rice. Actually, the chicken and rice dinner from world kitchens was probably the worst smelling thing ever. I think I fed it to the mosquitoes or to some guy named Billy that just appeared, and bless his heart, he ate the whole thing.
We got up around 7 AM and made our way back to the car...everything was pretty miserable. The bugs were a lot worse when there wasn't a rain storm to keep them away. Oh, and Jason saw a Grizzly Bear. The bear didn't seem to notice him until he said, "Hey Mr. bear. I'm not gonna hurt ya." The bear rumbled off into the forest. We made it back to the car at around 5 PM. We were very happy to be back and in less than three days! This was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and I would definitely go back and do it again. I recommend Gannett to anyone who is reasonably fit and has some experience in snow. Crampons are needed as well as an ice axe. I would recommend trekking poles, as they are awesome. We didn't need a rope and I never really felt in danger as we went early enough in the season that crevasses were covered or we could see the huge ones. Anyway, bottom line is that it's a great place and enjoy!