Mount Koven is arguably the most technical peak of all the Wyoming 13ers (see the list here), and its allure has inspired quite a few people with knowledge of the Wind River Range. From a distance it looks like a jagged sharks fin, with no seemingly possible was up, but as you make the long trek from anywhere, and begin to get closer to it you can pick apart its limited weaknesses and find a suitable route to the top. Sitting just to the north of Gannett on the continental divide, it is dwarfed by the states highest point, and all but invisible from many southern aspects because of this. However if you find yourself directly to the east or west of Koven with an unonstructed view of the divide, Koven totally steals the show. The east side on the mountain is more broken and offers a few ascent options, which can also be taken advantage of if climbing the south ridge.
Koven is a long way from any trailhead for the Wind Rivers, arguably having the longest approach which makes the peak even more challenging overall. Most people who have climbed it pair it with a bunch of other peaks along the divide over a period of days. If you are wanting to climb one of the east or southern routes, there are three main options to approach, described below.
1. You can hike the very long Glacier Trail from the Glacier Trailhead on the east side of the range to the Dinwoody Glacier moraine (exceeds 20 miles each way) and continue over the low saddle between Gannett and West Sentinel (commonly utilized by High Route backpackers). Crossing onto the north side of this saddle gets you onto the Gannett Glacier on the northeast side of Gannett, and only when standing on this glacier does Koven really come into full view. A rudimentary camp can be setup at the small 11870 foot col right below the 12,020+ foot round knob at the north edge of the Gannett Glacier, otherwise you'll have to either camp on the snow, or stay on the Dinwoody Moraine on the south side of the Gannett/West Sentinel Pass and have a longer approach the day of the climb. You can also do this same itinerary by hiking in from the Elkhart Park Trailhead on the west side from Pinedale and hiking through Titcomb Basin, over Bonney Pass, and across the lower Dinwoody Glacier and its moraine to the West Sentinel Pass (again, exceeds 20 miles each way). Both of these routes will have the least overall approaching on off trail terrain.
2. You can come in from the north or west, and start at the Green River Lakes Trailhead and hike south on flat trail about 10 miles to Three Forks Park. From here, it's a long grueling, steep ascent on rough terrain up either Tourist Creek or Wells Creek, with many areas of house sized boulders to scramble through in either drainage. Going up Tourist Creek is slightly easier, and you can access the divide at the broad saddle between Pedestal and Klondike Peaks, descend the east side on gentle slopes and hike south along the High Route below the eastern peaks of Bastion and reach the Gannett Glacier this way.
3. If you're looking for the shortest way to Koven, with a possible chance at day tripping it if you're very fit, you can go up Wells Creek as per option 2 above, and hike around Scott Lake and the long skinny lake just above it. From the head of this valley, it's a class 3 scramble up the waterfall to another glacial lake directly below the wild and insane west face of Koven at 11550 feet. A very narrow, steep and stupidly loose gully leads to the notch right at the base of the more technical north ridge of Mount Koven. Make no mistake, this gully is very loose and quoted as being the Russian Roulette Couloir. Once at this notch though, you can either climb the north ridge route (as Sarah and Dominic did, read their trip report!), or you can traverse around the east side on the upper part of the Gannett Glacier to reach the south and/or east sides.
At the end of the day, all approaches to Koven are long and time consuming. Think how much state highpointers will describe the long approach to Gannett, then add another half day or so. Pack as light as you can and plan for any weather.
The south ridge on Koven, together with the east face ledges are its weakest flank and offer a low 5th class route to the top. The vast majority of the route can even be kept at 4th class. From the upper Gannett Glacier where it terminates in a large moat at the base of the east face, traverse south towards the lowest part of the south ridge, where a saddle separates the base of the ridge from Sachem Peak, a small 12840 foot peak between Koven and Gannett. There is no need to go all the way to this saddle to start the route, as you can access the south ridge by going up the slabs/cracks 500 feet to the north of the saddle You wouldn't want to climb up the big gully though slightly further north since a huge chockstone creates a big overhang partway up.
Once you near the crest, follow ledges north staying on the east side. There are a few steep 4th class steps ranging from 10-20 feet high that must be done to string together the ledges on the upper east face. You acrually won't ever reach the true crest of the south ridge until much closer to the summit. At one point there is a narrow traverse around an exposed bulge at the upper end of the larger gully with the chockstone mentioned before, and a rappel anchor can be found on a horn just before this bulge to rappel the steep step ascended just prior to reaching this point.
After you round this bulge, the ledge system widens and the upper east face mellows a bit. Follow more or less horizontally (you'll actually descend slightly) on the ledges until you get to the snow gullies which tend to hold snow well into late July. Looking down from here you will see a steep wide snow finger extending up the middle of the east face (this can also easily be seen from the Gannett Glacier on the approach). Note that in early season before late June, you can actually climb steep snow directly up from the base on the Gannett Glacier up one of these gullies to reach one of the two notches labelled in the photo below, and avoid this whole south ridge/east face traversing. This snow, when it's continuous, exceeds 50 degrees in places tough, so actual full shank mountaineering boots may be needed. When the snow is no longer continuous this route is not advised.
On the upper east face closer to the summit, there are 2 main snow gullies as mentioned above that terminate in small notches on the south ridge, one on each side of a large isolated gendarme that looks improbable to traverse around on the east side. The first gully you will hit on the ledge system traverse, and the second one is on the north side of the isolated gendarme, which is not part of the route at all. When you reach the first main snow gully, don't cross it but rather begin climbing steep 4th class blocky terrain for 150 feet along the left side of the gully until just a few feet before you reach the ridgecrest, then make a very short traverse right to avoid topping out on the gendarme you're on. This will bring you to the small notch in the ridge where the first snow gully meets it, and avoids any remaining snow that may be in the gully. You may pass a couple slung horns ascending the left side of the gully. The top of the small gendarme you traversed around south of the notch can easily be reached, and if you peer over the opposite side you can get an amazing look straight down the insanity of the west face.
From the small notch, continue on the ridgecrest now, up a few feet and over another small gendarme (you can bypass on the west side too) to a second notch at the top of another minor gully that typically dries out. Getting over/around this small tower is not more than 3rd class and the two notches are very close. From the second notch, cross the crest (go left), and the next portion of the route follows ledges and short class 3 climbs on the reasonably straightforward upper northwest face to get around the large isolated gendarme, reaching the top of the second main snow gully at the notch on the north side of the large gendarme.
From this wider notch, one final 20-25 meter low angle pitch of Class 5.1-5.2 climbing ascends up about 15 feet, then cuts right under/around a protruding overhanging boulder, then up 4th class cracks to another anchor on the crest at which point you can unrope and easily scramble the final 50 foot class 3 ridge to the summit.
The photo below shows an overview of the upper half of the route with features labelled. Note the ledge system is shown in green and appears to descend a lot as you move right but that is an illusion from the terrain getting further away further right. The ledge system is actually hidden from below, where this photo was taken.
To descend, you can make a 30 meter rappel from the final anchor shortly below the summit back to the notch atop the second main gully. Then scramble back to the first gully on the NW side of the crest, and downclimb or make two 30 meter rappels down the skiers right side of the first gully (the same way you climbed) which will take you back to the ledge system. Scramble back to the narrow ledge bulge traverse and reach a final anchor right above a big overhang. This 25 meter rappel is free hanging and gets you back to scramble ledges that you can descend/traverse south back to the snow.
No red tape. Great early camping can be had 0.5 mile above upper Titcomb Lake, or near the junction of the Indian/Titcomb Basin Trails. Also options for camping at Bonney Pass, on the Dinwoddy Moraine, and at either Scott Lake, or the long skinny lake just above it.
Best time for summer conditions will be July - Early September. Ski touring would be advisable before June. The initial hike towards Seneca Lakes dries out a little earlier, but tons of snow typically persists in Titcomb Basin past July 4th, but will normally dry out reasonably well shortly after mid July.
This map shows the route up Mount Koven with a yellow line from a camp on the north edge of the Gannett Glacier. Overall it doesn't show much detail of the south ridge route, so use the photo above.