I'll start with saying that this was the most amazing place I've ever been. With that, this will be a photo-heavy report as that is a much easier way to describe the beauty of the Wind Rivers.
My best friend/climbing partner, Ryan, and I are making an effort to Highpoint the 50 states. We started this last summer and had completed 15 of the states leading into this trip (OR, WA, ID, ME, NH, VT, NY, NJ, PA, MD, WV, DE, CT, MA and RI). The states in the Northeast were completed over four days last fall during the peak of the color change...it was beautiful, but 48 hours of driving in four days was a bit much. Our big goal for this year was to hit the most remote of the highpoints and what many call the most scenic; this is Gannett Peak, WY at 13,804'.
We drove from Hillsboro, OR to Pinedale, WY and started the journey with the heaviest packs we've ever carried...each weighing about 50lbs due to the amount of food and climbing gear needed for five days. I'm normally an ultralighter but I didn't want to jeopardize the trip by underpacking so this was a big challenge for me. In retrospect, we packed way too much food and could have left a lot of it behind.
The first major point of interest on the trail is Photographer's Point; five miles in and the first place where views of Gannett (although just a small part of the summit is visible) and the other peaks around Titcomb Basin are outstanding. Unfortunately, a large wildfire burning just west of where we were was blowing smoke in which was an issue for the photography throughout the trip (the smoke shows up much more in the photos than it did in person).
From here the trail just gets more and more beautiful as it passes by countless alpine lakes on its way to our goal of Island Lake (10,300') at the entrance of Titcomb Basin. We had about 13 miles and 2600' of gain the first day, but it seemed like much more than that since we came from sealevel to the trailhead at 9300'. One of the big themes of the adventure was up and down...the trail goes up and over pass after pass and never gives much time to relax. The weather was sunny and warm so we went for a swim in Seneca Lake a few miles before arriving at Island.
The first view of Island Lake is gorgeous and not even the heavy smoke could tarnish it.
The difference between the smoky and clean air was striking...
We made camp and enjoyed the scenery and relaxed in preparation for the next morning's hike up Titcomb Basin.
The next day was spent hiking up the most beautiful place I've ever seen, Titcomb Basin (some photos were taken on the way out, which is why some are smokier than others).
A golden trout jumped over my foot as I hopped across the boulders of a small stream (this may be the best high-lake fishing on the planet).
We made our way up the basin and Bonney Pass and got this view looking back down Titcomb Basin (Upper and Lower Titcomb Lakes viewable)...
On top of Bonney Pass we made camp in preparation for an alpine start the next morning. Unfortunately, we picked a spot that looked good with a nice windbreak build, but it turned out being on more of a slant than it looked so I had to put my pack under my feet to keep me from sliding down. This is also where we got our first full view of Gannett (this shot was actually from below the pass once we had dropped down in the morning)...
We set the alarm for 2am in order to get an early start, but the moonless night was perfectly dark so we decided to get going later and got another two hours of sleep. The climb involved dropping straight down 1200' before getting to the Dinwoody Glacier and then traversing across to make the climb up Gannett. From the Dinwoody the morning light made for some beautiful scenery...
The climbing was enjoyable up steep glaciers and 3rd to 4th class scrambling, often with some exposure. We made a navigational mistake at the bottom portion of the Gooseneck Glacier where we should have ascended on rock we went aroun and ascended a very steep glacier (~60 degrees) that was quite icy in spots. We were on this for about 300-400' of ascent. This made ascending the much softer, shorter and less-steep upper Gooseneck glacier, often considered the crux of the climb, feel like an easy little stretch; I didn't even get my ice axe out.
View of the top of the Gooseneck from our descent and then one from up above looking down on the Gooseneck...
Above that is some class 3 scrambling and snow travel up to the summit ridge. From here, it's just a few-hundred yards across exposed snow and rock to the rockpile that makes up Gannett's summit.
The views from the top were amazing...
We hurried down, only seeing one group of three climbers on the entire route. The 1200' climb back up to the tent after getting down the mountain was tough...especially knowing that we were going to drop those 1200' on the other side after packing up. I wouldn't mind blasting that pass and eliminating the need to go up and over it without actually gaining any elevation.
We drove ourselves to the point of complete exhaustion and finally made camp in the dark at the bottom of Titcomb Basin near Island Lake. We then went to Island Lake in the morning and spent a couple of hours relaxing and swimming in the lake from a small, sandy beach.
The 13 miles out were very tiring and we were glad to get back to the car and burgers in Pinedale. We were originally planning on five days but accomplished what we needed to a day early. We should have packed the fishing gear and stayed the extra day; lesson learned. We are already planning on going back soon to fly fish for goldens in Titcomb Basin next summer.