At the risk of posting a possibly redundant trip report to the already long list of (well written, mind you) trip reports for Gannett Peak, let me just state that our trip of Gannett was, in my mind, trip report worthy because of a few reasons. We climbed Gannett via the Glacier Trail, which is the 50 mile roundtrip route, as opposed to the 40 mile round trip route from the Pinedale side. This route also has significantly more elevation gain. We did it in 2 nights and 3 days and had a successful summit, which I think is significant for our chosen route. Our trip was also very hastily planned, and though we had all of the essentials for such a trip, the high amount of planning in the overwhelmingly little amount of time we had miraculously was enough for our trip to turn out successfully.
We left Boulder on Thursday at 7 PM. We had bought all the food on Wednesday night and packed the car in the hour and a half break from classes on Thursday. The rest of Thursday was spent wasting away in class. I could not focus on school at all throughout the day for obvious reasons. Before we left Boulder, we picked up 6 calzones to carbo-load en route to the trailhead. For the next 7 hours we drove northwest, into Wyoming, arriving at the trailhead just a little after 2 am. After getting the Jeep into dirtbag mode, we settled into the back and got a fitful night of sleep, setting the alarm for 7 am.
7 am came around faster than we had expected and all three of us slept right through the 4 alarms on Alex’s watch. We finally awoke around 8 am, only after the inside of the Jeep was being bathed with sunlight. We made our final preparations, took a few caffeinated Clif shots, and hit the trail at 8:45 am on a blue bird, warm morning. We set the pace fast from the very beginning, for we were aiming to get to Tarn Camp by the end of that day, some 22 miles from where we were.
Passing a pack train
We made very good time throughout the day, taking sit-down water breaks every hour and a half or so, and taking an extended lunch break around 2 pm at Double Lake, around 12 miles in. The next several miles along the Glacier Trail were very tiring as our energy was getting drained as the day wore on. We knew we weren’t going to make it to Tarn Camp that day, so we set a goal for making it to the Ink Wells Trail junction. We arrived at the junction at 6:45 PM and set up camp in a meadow just next to Dinwoody Creek at 9,600 feet. We estimated we were still 7-8 miles from the summit of Gannett, which we decided would be doable in a push from our current position, providing we got an early start. We estimated it would take 10-12 hours for the roundtrip from camp. After cooking a dinner of couscous and freshly canned salmon, we crawled into our sleeping bags in our cozy 4 season tent. It was very clear and cold that night. Our plan was to get up at 5 am.
For whatever reason, be it laziness or exhaustion (most likely a combination of both), we again slept through our alarm. 2 hours later at 7am Steve said in a sleepy voice “I guess we should get up.” Knowing we were way behind schedule for a long day, we made haste in cooking breakfast of oatmeal and green tea. We packed our gear and left camp at 8am, which we dubbed “The Winner’s Start Time”.
Walking up the Glacier Trail with lighter daypacks came as a nice alternative to the previous day, and we cruised up the mellow trail. Within 10 minutes of leaving camp we caught our first glimpse of our objective Gannett Peak, 6.5 miles away. This gave us a burst of inspiration and energy. We hiked up the valley, above the treeline, and into the upper valley towards the base of Dinwoody Glacier. We arrived at Tarn Camp around 10:30am and started picking our way through the moraine towards the glacier. This was tedious, but didn’t take a ridiculous amount of time. The weather had started out clear enough, but now the sky was starting to darken a bit with clouds. Keeping an eye on the weather, we reached the base of the glacier at around 11:30 and started scrambling up some loose talus to gain the upper bench of the Gooseneck glacier.
The loose rock gradually turned into some enjoyable class 3 scrambling on good rock. Within an hour we were at the base of the Gooseneck Glacier itself. Here we put on our harnesses and roped up. Steve would lead us up the glacier and over the bergschrund, with me in the middle of the rope, and Alex bringing up the rear. Steve started out and I waited until the slack was gone to step onto the glacier. Just as it was my turn to start moving, it started snowing as a cloud made its way over form the west side of the mountain. Our hopes were slightly dashed because of this but then returned when it passed in less than 5 minutes and blue sky was on its way again. We approached the bergschrund to find the crux of the ascent, an interesting mantle move onto the snowbridge that crossed the schrund.
Moving past this with no problems, we climbed up the steep snow couloirs to the base of the Gooseneck Pinnacle and end of the steep snow. After some loose class 3, we were on the ridge of Gannett and just a short ways away from the summit.
Climbing Steep Snow
We were happy to see that, even though there were clouds to the west coming towards us, the clouds were mostly non threatening ones. We continues up the last steeper section of rock to the summit ridge proper, where we put our crampons back on and strolled over the mellow terrain to the base of the summit blocks, arriving on top at 3 PM. We were tried yet very pleased with our efforts and were in high spirits. Aside from normal fatigue and pain from hiking 25 miles in the past 30 or so hours, none of us had any problems. We stayed on the summit maybe 10 minutes, signed the register, and started to descend.
Me, Steve, and Alex on the summit.
Descending the summit ridge went without incident. When we got to the steep snow we roped again and downclimbed the snow, past the bergschrund and back onto the less steep part of the Gooseneck Glacier. This took some care, but wasn’t too challenging. We got to the base of the glacier around 6 PM and started to pick our way through the moraine again. The weather had held up beautifully all day, and we felt very lucky that it did. We were very tired but excited to get back to camp and eat, so we wasted no time. We got out of the moraine and picked up the Glacier Trail at about 7:30 and booked it down the valley before it got dark.
Heading down the valley as it's getting dark.
Well, it got dark. To add to the craziness, in the hurried packing of that morning, none of us remembered to pack headlamps. We all groaned at our unbelievably stupid mistake and did the best we could in following the trail back in the dark. Luckily most of the trail was lighter in color than the surrounding ground, which made following the trail possible, if slowly. There was no moon to help our plight. Alex led Steve and me down most of the valley, but he eventually got tired of doing this and I took over. I was able to use the redlight that becomes the flash on my camera to help us follow the trail. I did this by holding the button on my camera halfway down while pointing the camera down the trail. This worked pretty well, and with a couple accidental photos, we hiked the last 1-2miles back to camp in this fashion. It felt much longer than this due to us being totally out of energy. Finally we reached the Ink Wells junction, walked over the bridge that crossed Dinwoody Creek, and stumbled into camp at 10PM, 14 hours after our Winner’s Start. We eagerly cooked a large dinner of cheesy pasta and canned salmon and passed out in the tent.
Back at camp at 10 pm
Day 3 and the Drive out
We woke up to the alarm at 8:30 the next morning. This time we actually woke up with the alarm and slowly but surely got ourselves organized, cooked breakfast broke camp and started hiking out at 10:20am. Our bodies were utterly wrecked from the activities of the previous two days, but we were determined to get back to the car that day, which made us hike almost as fast as we had hiked in. We passed a couple people on the trail who were excited to hear of our accomplishment. The hike back along the Glacier Trail was pretty uneventful. We ascended the long hill from Dinwoody Creek to Star Lake in a long 2 hours. From here we knew we only had one larger climb up to Arrow Pass. We reached the top of the pass around 4:30 and began descending towards the trailhead. At this point I was hurting with large blisters on the bottom of my feet and general pain in my legs. Steve and Alex were not far ahead of me on the trail, so I made it a point to keep them in view. This got me down the other side of the pass, down the switchbacks, into the last valley. From here we knew we only had about 3 miles left, so we trudged along and started down the last declines. We came around a bend and saw the parking lot a few hundred feet below us at the bottom of the valley. Ecstatic, we hauled back to the trailhead and arrived at the car at 8 PM, totaling around 59 hours for the entire trip. I was very satisfied that I had hiked 50 miles in such a short amount of time. We threw everything into the car and took off towards Lander for some food.
Back at the car finally.
We got into Lander at 10:05 PM only to discover that seemingly all the restaurants closed at 10 PM, so we just ended up going to Safeway and buying 2 sandwiches a piece and chips and bean dip. We ate in Safeway and left Lander to find a place to crash for the night, which was on a BLM dirt road outside of town. We awoke to find ourselves in the midst of a sea of sagebrush with some cows grazing nearby. By 7:30 we were headed for Rawlins to eat breakfast at a diner we had seen on the way in. Hilariously, this was the earliest start we got the entire trip. We got back to Boulder by early afternoon, and that was the end of the ascent to the highest point in Wyoming.