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This trip report is for a ~50 mile backpacking loop that included a successful summmit of Gannett Peak. Trip dates were 8/1/09 - 8/8/09 & summited Gannett on 8/4/09.
Day 1: Elkhart Park to Miller Lake
Our group of 5 met @ the Jackson Hole airport on 8/1/09 @ 1:30; headed straight to Pinedale to the Great Outdoor Shop Outfitter to get fishing licenses, rent ice axes ($3.50/day) and crampons ($5/day), and to arrange for a shuttle. Dropped the rental car @ New Fork Lakes TH and were hiking into Elkhart Park by 7:30. Parking lot had 100+ cars. Camped @ Miller Lake after ~3 miles hiking through pine forest with beautiful wildflowers. Just enough light to cast the line in at the countless rising trout; nothing caught. Mosquitos not bad here. Nice albeit well used campsite on the trail side of the lake.
Day 2: Miller Lake to Island Lake
Day 2 was a ~9 mile hike from Miller Lake to Island Lake. The scenery gets better with each passing mile as you transition from forest into open meadows into alpine lakes with huge mountains looming nearby. Perfect sunny weather in the 70's; saw a ton of people along the trail but it still didn't feel crowded. This section was surprisingly hard, 50 lb packs aside -- it looks flat on the map but has many small up & downs -- and we were feeling the 10,000+ elevation as well. Seneca Lake is the first huge alpine lake you encounter; took a quick dip & lunched there. Made it to Island Lake by 5:00pm & found a mosquito infested campsite on the SW side of the lake. Absolutely stunning scenery here. Island Lake is 1.5+ miles long, situated directly in front of 13,000'+ mountains and a waterfall on the far side of the lake that creates a constant din of noise. Fished the small lake, inlet & some in Island Lake without much luck - except for 4-6 inch brookies, several of which made it into our tacos for dinner. Some of the group were really feeling the hike by this point, and lots of debate on where to camp the next night pre-Gannett...between fatigue & mosquitos, spirits are kinda low. Original plan was to hike over bonney pass with full packs, but that changed the next day when we saw bonney pass.
Day 3: Island Lake to Upper, upper titcomb
Day 3 - Walking late by 10am, into Titcomb by lunch. Awesome scenery here as you ascend and enter into Titcomb, which is a basin filled with two 1-mile long lakes and mountains flanking both sides rising 3,000'+ above the water. The trail winds along the right side of the lake heading directly towards Bonney Pass. Great sunny conditions; no snow on trail until spots on upper lake. We started walking towards Bonney and saw 4 or 5 groups of tents above Upper Titcomb - placed for summit attempts the next day. When we see snow covered and STEEP bonney pass looming, we decide to pitch camp about 800' elevation above Upper Titcomb. This worked out perfectly as it made for a pretty easy day, made for a beautiful campsite & gave us time to practice roping up & self arresting on a steep snow slope adjacent to the tents. Good lightning & hail storm during the evening.
Day 4: Gannett Ascent
Day 4 - Alarms @ 3:30; walking by 4:15am. 2 groups ahead - already nearing the summit of Bonney -- and 2 more groups behind ... headlights in the dark. The entire north end of Titcomb leading to Bonney & Knapsack Col was snow covered above ~11,500', so we put on crampons immediately after leaving camp & didn't take them off again for 12 hours. Bonney Pass is incredibly STEEP. The ascent gained ~2,000' from our camp, and you basically walk/climb straight up a 45 degree+ slope. I thought this was every bit as hard as Gannett itself. Made the top by 6:10am just in time for sunrise. Headed straight down the other side & across the Dinwoody Glacier towards the moat. There was a well worn trail in the snow & crevasses were completely covered...easy to spot & 6 inches wide...no need for rope or other protection at all. Tom was battling stomach sickness all morning & succumbed as we neared the moat; he & Mike headed back towards camp while Hunter, Mel & I pushed on. More crevasses just above the moat, then headed to the right and up & around Gooseneck Pinnacle. Stayed 1/2 on snow, 1/2 on rock. We'd been sweating the bergschrund as it sounds iffy in August, but it turned out to be nearly completely filled in. If the snow slope is 200' wide there between the rocks, the 'schrund was nearly 100' ... nice, easy trail in the snow leading over it & big steps carved into the snow which made the steep slope above it easy. After Gooseneck, a few more steep stretches up to the summit wall, then walked the knife edge ridge to the top. Made it! Killer views in all directions; perfect sunny weather. Back down was easy; no protection needed but we practiced setting a picket & belaying down the steep snow slope above the 'schrund cause we could. Toughest part of the day >> climbing the 1200' back up bonney pass. Made it back into camp by 4:30; so about 12 hour RT. Much harder than expected...but entirely because of Bonney Pass...the Pass was easily more difficult than the mountain in these prime conditions.
Day 5: Titcomb to Peak Lake via Knapsack Col
Another sunny day...put the crampons back on & headed up Knapsack Col, which was completely covered in snow all the way to the pass. Easy, scenic hiking after doing Gannett the day before. No snow on the other side, and the descent from alpine to green grass was amazing; really killer flowers nearing the Peak Lake basin. This hike was as or more scenic than the approach pre-Titcomb, with a bonus of only sharing it with 2 other people! Camped above Peak Lake, also gorgeous; swam & fished without luck. Full of energy, i walked around the entire lake to explore & fish. No fish on the inlet side; finally found a huge group of big fish swimming on the opposite side of the lake. Strange how they congregate in one area.
Day 6: Peak Lake to No Name Lakes
This day broke cool & wet with passing showers. Hiked over the rockslide around Peak Lake & up Shannon Pass. More amazing views here back towards Peak Lake; tough long climb up Shannon Pass from the lake. I expected everything to drop down on the other side but the trail gets relatively flat after cresting Shannon Pass. You can fly through this section. Headed to Elbow Lake for lunch; fished the outlet & caught 1 big golden trout (which i saved for later). After lunch, pushed it to Summit Lake in a thunderstorm & then on to the first lake on the way to No Name Lakes. Saw a huge Moose above Summit Lake; more fishing with limited luck before another storm clobbered us. Mel & I were tentmates for the trip, and by finagling the ice axes & the vestibule, were able to cook out the storms. 1st storm mostly rain; 2nd sent huge lightning all around us as we grilled & then feasted on the golden from earlier.
Day 7: No Name to New Fork Park
Easy hiking; intermittent lakes, flattish rolling terrain, flower filled meadows & huge views. The trail slowly drops into a mix of forest & meadows & lake around every corner; everything immaculate. Lunched @ Palmer Lake for our last alpine respite, then dropped down 2000' into Palmer Canyon & into New Fork Park. Someone had mentioned an earlier comparison to a little Yosemite; it's definitely apt as the Park is a .5 mile wide by 1.5 mile long meadow bisected by a river and surrounded by sheer granite cliffs. Encountered 3 more moose; looked like adolscent males; smaller antlers than the one the day before. Nice but well used campsite on the far side of the stream; looked like an outfitters site with all the horse wear. Big fire in the rain/sleet/snow pellets/etc weather; clouds @ bedtime.
Day 8:New Fork Park to New Fork TH
Cold, wet morning with rain & snow up high -- looked like a few inches above 10,000' -- just missed it! Food was on our minds so we got up early, walking by 7am & to the car @ 10am. Had to walk around 3 moose that were blocking the trail, then played tag with another moose that we'd catch up to every 5 minutes, and saw another 3 or 4 moose off trail. Very moosey weather. Hit Pinedale for the essentials - burgers & beer - then off to Granite Hot Springs & back to Jackson
Overall thoughts -- this was a great trip with a great group of old friends. harded than expected, owing greatly to the affects of 10,000'+ elevation on "flatlanders" from GA & CA ... as well as to heavy backpacks. The Winds look flatter on the map than they are. Perfect snow conditions; the only protective gear you really needed was ice axe & crampons - we carried rope, pickets & harnessess and had zero need for them. The ascent to Gannett from camping in titcomb is REALLY HARD. You gain 5,000+ feet in elevation (and lose it back) -- would be much, much easier from the other side -- but then you'd miss out on Titcomb. That said, do it from this side but be in good shape! Knapsack route was killer & much better than gonig back out titcomb. Also, was very nice doing the shuttle (cost $125 for 5 people) & walking to a differnt entrance.