Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009 (Photo Trip Report)

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009 (Photo Trip Report)

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 43.18440°N / 109.653°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: May 7, 2009
Activities Activities: Mountaineering, Skiing
Seasons Season: Spring


The Wind River Mountains are one of the finest outdoor destinations in the West, with Gannett Peak standing as its tallest peak. During a Cascade climbing trip in 2008, Dave proposed this idea of using GPS waypoints he had gathered over past trips to make a spring attempt on Gannett Peak. The additional snowpack mileage gave us a projected distance of 48 round trip miles.

Climbers: Ben, Dave, Matt, Levi.

Gannett from Bonney
Gannett Peak, Wind River Mountains, Wyoming (photo: SawtoothSean).

DAY 1: SLC to Photographers Point

With work, family, school and other responsibilities, we had to plan the trip far in advance. Of course, weather is always the variable in such situations, but the forecast called for two stormy days at the beginning of our trip, with better weather during our intended summit day. With anticipation and optimism we took off at 7:00 a.m. from Salt Lake City and made it to the trailhead about noon.

The road to Elkhart Park is only plowed within 4 miles of the official trailhead. To our relief, local trucks had beat the first mile of road into solid, stable ruts. But after that progress, our truck began to high-center, so we left good enough alone, parked the car, and began our hike. Each of us hauled between 80-100 pounds of gear, carrying the majority of it in our sleds.
Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Dave, Matt, Levi and Ben.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Skiing through Elkhart Park.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Camp 1 near Photographers Point.

DAY 2: Photographers Point to Little Seneca Lake

We made about 6 miles our first halfday, and had worked out the nuances of our sleds and pullcords. We had a nice trail to follow from other ski parties, but an overnight snow storm dropped six inches of snow and covered all remaining evidence of their path. We resorted to our GPS waypoints, maps, and compasses to navigate the trickiest part of the trail from Photographers Point to Seneca Lake. On paper the route is obvious, but in the environment of thick forest, undulating hills, and multiple lakes, proper orientation and choosing the most efficient path of travel can be tough. Our progress was slower than we would have liked, but we made it to the north shoreline of Seneca Lake by dusk. We set up Camp 2 just in time for another snow storm.
Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
The joy of navigation. "Where exactly are we?"

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Crossing Seneca Lake.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Camp 2 between Seneca Lake and Little Seneca Lake.

DAY 3: Little Seneca Lake to Titcomb Basin

The weather forecast called for two days of storms, then clearing weather. We crossed our fingers that Day 3 would bring the sunshine and blue skies we anticipated. We were particularly excited because today we would be entering Titcomb Basin, with its stunning scenery. The fine weather and open terrain made for easy travel and we sailed up to the top of Titcomb Basin by mid-afternoon. I'm definitely using the word "sailed" too liberally because we were all dead by the time we stopped for camp. The last two miles was a test of wills and counting footsteps.
Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Bluebird morning near Little Seneca Lake.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Crossing Little Seneca Lake.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Along Indian Pass Trail.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
The stunning spectacle of Island Lake and Titcomb Basin.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Crossing Titcomb Lakes.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Awesome perspective (three skiers near the bottom middle).

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Traveling upper Titcomb Basin.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Another shot of upper Titcomb Basin.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Looking down Titcomb Basin.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Camp 3 at the base of Mount Helen near Bonney Pass.

Scenery in Titcomb Basin:
Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Mount Sacajawea to Fremont Peak.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Peak 12,205

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
American Legion Peak, Winifred Peak, and Twin Peaks.

DAY 4: Storm Day

As we cooked dinner we listened to the local NWS forecast over our radio. The forecast called for sunny morning skies, with unsettled weather in the afternoon. "Perfect," we thought, "let's wake up early, catch the morning weather window, and summit Gannett Peak!" Unfortunately, all of our pent up enthusiasm was squashed the next morning when we looked outside the tent. We held out hope until 10:00 a.m. (which we felt was our latest possible hour to make a summit bid), but ended up using the "storm day" we had planned into our schedule. Our continued NWS forecasts gave us the wonderful confirmation that the skies were sunny everywhere but the high Wind River Mountains, and the remainder of our trip didn't look much better. All we needed was one more decent morning, but it appeared our weather window was shutting.
Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Where are the sunny skies?

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Slighty better conditions in the late afternoon.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Mount Helen.

DAY 5: Summit Day

With no more "storm days" built into our schedule, Day 5 was summit matter what. The morning was cloudy, but pleasant, and we felt we could make it if the weather held steady. Yet by the time we hit the top of Bonney Pass, a new wave of ferocious weather was gaining strength. At the top of Bonney Pass we could see Gannet Peak being swallowed in a white-out, and we knew the correct decision was "Go home and live to climb again." The decision was very disappointing after all that hard work, but brutal 70mph winds wouldn't allow us to deliberate long, either continue along the Dinwoody Glacier or descend now, there was no time to spare. Without forehand knowledge of the summit cornice structures and avalanche observations, we just couldn't commit in low visibility and high winds.
Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Pleasant conditions in the early morning.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Ascending Bonney Pass.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
The upper pass was a solid slope of ice, so we scrambled up the rocks. We were too lazy to get out the crampons.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Gannett Peak.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
This is the same view 10 minutes later. Brutal winds.

We descended back to camp with the storm intensifying. We could waste the day in our tents, then break camp the next morning, but instead decided to get on with it and broke camp in the blizzard. We pressed on to Island Lake where we could use the trees as a shelter from the wind.
Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Breaking camp.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Crossing Titcomb Basin in a wild storm. Winds were head-on. Gusts were so strong we would be pushed over or slide backwards on our skis.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Camp 4 at Island Lake.

DAY 6: Island Lake to SLC

The next morning at Island Lake just was just as stormy as the one before, giving us some validation that we had made the right decision to descend. Still, we couldn't help but imagine what adventure and scenery was waiting beyond Bonney Pass. Our plan was to get back to Photographers Point, then make for the trailhead on Day 7. Yet by the time we made it to Photographers Point, it was early afternoon and we were feeling good. We opted to finish the battle and get home. We made it to the car at sunset, totally exhausted. My saving grace the last few miles was imaging the monster burger I was going to eat in Pinedale. We hit the diner 15 minutes before closing. I think I would have wept like a child had I not gotten that burger! Afterward, we hit the road, promising lively conversation to keep the driver awake. We made it home safely at 2:00 a.m. Here's to next year!
Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Crossing Seneca Lake.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Endless miles of forest.

Gannett Peak Ski Tour, May 2009
Reaching the car at sunset.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 26
Bill Reed

Bill Reed - May 21, 2009 9:25 pm - Voted 10/10

Loved every word of it.......

and every photograph. Makes me want to get up there in the spring and do it in the snow!! Had a similar experience coming out - planned on taking two days and ended up burning it out in one. When we tried to move our reservations up a night, the desk clerk at the motel in Pinedale accused us of "hiking out for burgers and beer." He was absolutely right!!
Good call on turning around, another day will come.


goofball - May 21, 2009 10:54 pm - Voted 10/10

very cool.

great pics and story ! sounds like it was a ton of fun. i, for one, am a big fan of experiencing weather. never been in a snow storm like that, but a few thunderstorms from hell.


Garfimi - May 22, 2009 12:39 am - Voted 10/10


photos, great trip report. Once again Marauders your photo's are stunning. One question: How did your B D Megalite hold up against the wind?


marauders - May 22, 2009 3:01 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Stunning

Ya know it did remarkably well. The Megalite was our kitchen tent, so we would drop it at night and let the snow build up on top. We had stronger 4-season tents for our man caves.


TJ311 - May 22, 2009 2:07 pm - Hasn't voted

Your Trip Report

was GREAT!! Sounds like quite an adventure. Awesome pictures too!


BCJ - May 28, 2009 12:51 pm - Voted 10/10

Fantastic report!

Loved reading this one. Neat to see the area in its winter form.


46and2 - May 28, 2009 10:55 pm - Voted 10/10

As usual...

Your pics are amazing. Great colors and contrast... damn perfect exposure! I am headed up to the Winds in last Aug (East Fork) but this makes me want to go now! Did you get any decent skiing in down from Bonney?

mauri pelto

mauri pelto - May 31, 2009 7:05 am - Voted 10/10

journey not summit

What an awesome journey you visually chronicled to base camp. Summit not achieved disappointing now, but two years from now looking back at the pictures, maybe not.


merrill - May 31, 2009 4:15 pm - Voted 10/10

Awesome report

That brings back good memories of a summer trip. It looks amazing in the snow. We too decided to book it to the trailand went from Bonney's pass to the car in one day and barely made it for burgers.


tannerpuma15 - Jun 1, 2009 12:52 am - Voted 10/10

AWE inspiring views

Great trip report and wonderful pictures...the only good part about not summiting is understanding that the mountain will be there next year. Salud and good luck next year!


SFMountaineer - Jun 1, 2009 2:07 am - Voted 10/10

A model trip report

Just the right amount of information in the text with the rest of the story told by excellent pictures. Thi is the way to do it folks.


PellucidWombat - Jun 1, 2009 2:48 am - Voted 10/10

Great experience

Hey Marauders,

Thanks for the excellent trip report/photo journal! I've been wanting to do an outing like that in the mountains for years. Frankly, that sort of trip is probably the best training you can do for climbing a larger mountain like Denali.

Also, I'm glad to hear your Mega-Light held up. I was wary of getting one, but since the Mega-Mid is no longer available, I had no choice!

- Mark

marauders - Jun 1, 2009 10:59 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Great experience

During the storm days we had, I was bored stiff and I thought about your TR from Alaska when you had to spend each day trying to burn time. You've got some serious mental endurance. I could barely last a few days!


PellucidWombat - Jun 1, 2009 5:36 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Great experience

did you try digging any snow holes? It's amazing therapeutic :-)


wyopeakMike - Jun 1, 2009 8:38 pm - Voted 10/10

awesome photos

I have only been there in the summer, and I don't see too many winter or spring views of the area. It was great to see Island and Seneca lakes frozen over. What a different place with all of the snow, and no backpackers and horses around. I enjoyed every shot you posted. The summit will still be there for next time.

marauders - Jun 2, 2009 1:59 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: awesome photos

Yeah, it definitely had a great "remote" feeling. We didn't see another soul the whole time. The peace and quiet was nice.


littlefrantz - Jun 2, 2009 8:40 pm - Hasn't voted


Beast of a trip!


96avs01 - Jun 2, 2009 9:36 pm - Voted 10/10

Good Stuff!

Applaud your early season efforts! Plans for a return trip/ski descent? Cheers

marauders - Jun 3, 2009 12:49 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Good Stuff!

Oh, definitely. This first attempt gave us better insight into the route. We could do it lighter and faster, and of course catch better weather.


Moogie737 - Jun 4, 2009 2:22 pm - Voted 10/10

To even attempt it took moxie!

Having done Gannett last summer, I was blown away by your idea to attempt it with winter conditions. Nice effort, however, and I know you would have made it had old man weather not been so cantankerous. You made the right decisions. Nice going. Also, captivating pictures. Looked a little bit different than it did last August! :)

Viewing: 1-20 of 26