Gannett Peak, Wyoming

Scott Brumund photo from Bonney (Dinwoody) Pass 12,850′ looking north at Gannett Peak on 7/31/97 at approximately 8:00 a.m.

Gannett Peak, Wyoming, 13,804 Feet
Elevation: 13,804 Feet

P.O. Box 1888
Jackson, WY 83001
Telephone: (307) 739-5500
Fax: (307) 739-5010

Commentary and Photos By Gary Jensen

We chose to approach Gannett from the northeast. The trailhead is a few miles outside Dubois, Wyoming, at Trail Lake. We chose to approach from this direction because of the restrictions on parties of this size entering the wilderness at the Pinedale trailhead (Elkhart Park).

Here are some notes from my trip notebook:

7/26 Left Logan, Utah at 1:15 PM (after an advertised start time of noon) Arrived in Jacksons Hole, WY at 5:15 Left Jackson at 5:30 – Arrived at Trail Lake Trailhead at 7:30 There is a large parking lot and a semi-covered information board here, as well as a place to sign in. We wandered off into the woods a couple of hundred yards behind the information board, and spread out into the woods to camp. The mosquitoes were unbelievable, the record for the evening was 15 killed with one slap.

7/27 Up at 6:00 – on trail at 8:00 The hike up Bomber Basin to the Glacier Trail Junction is a steady climb of about 1000 feet in about 3 miles. The trail is pleasant, and the scenery good. This is a very well maintained trail. There is a wooden bridge across East Torrey Creek which is quite scenic. We all had mosquito headnets, and I only used insect repellent on my arms, and only then when we stopped to rest. We made the Glacier Trail Junction at 10:30. The hike from Bomber Basin to the saddle above Burro Flats climbs over 2300 feet in three more miles. The map shows switchbacks in the trail, and it aint kidding! The switchbacks are cut back and forth across a scree slope, either with dynamite or by some of the toughest trail workers Ive ever heard of. Carrying a pack with 9 days of food, ropes, ice ax, crampons and etc. up this hill was an aerobic challenge, to say the least. As we approached the bottom of the hill, we ran into a returning group that said that they had made it to within 300 yards of the summit, and got weathered off.

We arrived at the saddle (10,895 feet) at 3:30 PM. The view back down into Bomber Basin was magnificent, and still it was only a hint of the scenery that awaited us. We rested for a while and then made our way to Upper Phillips Lake at 5:30. The Phillips Lakes are a ring of fairly large lakes (Double Lake, Golden Lake, Florence Lake) nestled in a sheer granite-walled basin. The fishing was spectacular (we stopped to fish on the way out), and the grandeur of the place was enough to take your breath away. Some other time Im going to come back and just explore this place. But we pressed on, hiking through a thunder storm, and made our campsite at Dinwoody Creek and Honeymoon Creek just after dark, after a grueling 13+ mile day. Next time we do this well stop the first night at Double Lake. Passed Star Lake and Honeymoon Lake. Honeymoon Lake is nestled down on the side of the drop-off into the Dinwoody Basin. Another wonderful destination for another time. The trail from the Phillips Lakes to Dinwoody Creek is rough and rocky and steep, but well maintained.

7/28 Acclimation day I woke up this morning, and looked up at a band of clouds above the mountain ridges glowing orange in the dawn sun. After I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, I realized I was looking at a rather ragged mountain wave formation. Great – a change in the weather. We spent the day camping here, just above 9,000 feet. Actually a little higher would have facilitated the altitude adjustment, but my feet said that it was close enough. Dinwoody Creek is actually a fairly large river this time of year (by western U.S. standards). Full of glacial flour, it ran the color of Turquoise, not the color you find on a paint chip, but the color of the actual stone, translucent milky green with brown logs and stones mixed in for contrast. We assumed that there were no fish, but some outfitters later told us that we were wrong. We hiked down to the Dinwoody Falls, and up to Honeymoon Lake. About noon it started to rain, and drizzled all day. We held a church service in the afternoon, on a rock by the river.

7/29 Up at 6:00 on trail by 8 or 8:30 Hiked in the rain all day along Dinwody Creek, through some of the finest scenery anywhere. Those of our group who had been to Yosemite kept making comparisons to their experiences there. Big Meadow and Floyd Wilson Meadow were unfathomable expanses of marsh surrounded by sheer granite, populated by huge moose. I wish Id taken slides instead of photographs, a little 3″x5″ paper cannot convey the massive nature of the experience. Crossed a raging feeder stream on four loose 6″ lodgepole pine logs laid about 4″ above the boiling creek. Another crossing was over the Downs Fork on a single huge lodgepole log that had been chopped flat on top. Another river crossing bears discussion here. About a mile or so from where the trail first meets Dinwoody Creek, there is was a broken down bridge across the Downs Fork. The sign said that the bridge was closed, and that the proper crossing was up river. When we got to the crossing, it was just a ford across the stream. Several of us had already experienced attempting to bathe or wash in this glacial creek, and had no interest in wading it. We went back and crossed the condemned bridge. Just on the other side of the bridge, a small side trail cuts back downstream. We were told that down this trail was the base camp for a horse-packing outfit. Up to this point, we had seen 2 or 3 groups of horses each day. I actually dont have any qualms about sharing the trail with horses and riders. The riders were pleasant, and I read them to be the kind of people you could count on in an emergency, and they had a way to haul my broken body out of the woods if necessary. Also, I wonder if the excellent condition of the trail wasnt partly due to them, either their effort or money? Made camp at 10,300 feet overlooking Floyd Wilson Meadows at 4:00. We camped well off of the main trail, tucking our tents between boulders in a clearing. I hiked up to the bottom of the Glacier with Gordon and Bruce, they didnt like the looks of the snow-finger above the Gooseneck Glacier. We doubted whether we should take scouts up it.

7/30 We slept in and headed up to the end of the trail at about 10:00. We were climbing in two groups, in order to save equipment weight and costs. At this point we were not sure about our ability to get this entire group safely up the snowfinger, but we decided to go up and check it out. On closer inspection, Gordon and Bruce decided that it was not nearly as bad as it had looked in the flat light of the previous evening, and the first group headed up about 12:30. I went back to camp to rinse out some clothes, and when I got back to the base of the Glacier, I could see people being belayed over the Gooseneck snow finger. The last person reached the top of the snow finger at 3:15, and disappeared in to the rocks toward the summit. While I was waiting, I met a hiker that we had seen on the trail the day before. I mentioned that half of my group was climbing that day. He said “You must be with that big group. Where are you camped?” That was the biggest compliment that he could have paid us. We had met the wilderness goal of being as invisible as possible to other hikers. Met the group back at the base of the mountain at about 6:30 or 7. Everyone made it to the summit! It had taken them just 4 hours to climb up, they spent an hour on top, and a one hour glissade assisted decent. They had the top to themselves, and said that no-one had signed the register for the previous 5 days.

7/31 Today the second group went to the top. We left camp at 8:30, made the end of the trail at 9:00. At the trails end we walked across the base of the snowfield (its like a 3 story snowdrift with a river pouring out of it). The approach to the bottom of the Dinwoody Glacier from this direction is a hike across snowfields interlaced with mounds of huge rounded boulders. It is a challenging scramble, perhaps as physically demanding as any part of the climb. We made our way to the base of the Dinwoody Glacier. Our route took us up the north side of the glacier, until at a convenient point we crossed over onto the Goosneck Glacier. Two steep pitches of snow and another boulder scramble brought us to the base of the Gooseneck Snowfinger. We did not rope up, as the snow slopes that we climbed both had a good run-out at the bottom, meaning that if someone fell and couldnt arrest he would just cruise to a stop at the bottom, without slamming into a rock or crevasse. The snow was soft and easy. The Gooseneck Snowfinger is the crux pitch of the route that we took, which is traditionally considered the easiest. There was a bergshrund crevasse separating the glacier from the snowfield, about 4-6 feet wide, 10 -15 feet deep, and the snowfinger side was a good 6 feet higher than the glacier side. There was a small, fragile looking snowbridge across the cravasse, right below the rocks that separated the snowfinger from another one to the north. Gordon and Bruce belayed each other and checked out the bridge. Then they tied two ropes together, and Gordon free-climbed the snowfinger. It is a steep, exposed slope, the snow was soft, and there were huge buckets to climb in. At the top Gordon tied a runner around a huge boulder, and attached the top end of the rope. The rest of us attached our harnesses to the rope, and walked up it one at a time. It was handy to have a biner large enough to pass the center knot without having to unclip. The first 40 yards above the bergshrund is very steep, and an unarrested fall into the bershrund would be very damaging to body and spirit. We reached the top of the Gooseneck snowfinger at 12:00. From the top of the snowfinger, we stayed in the rocks as much as possible. Walking the snow below the rocks is much faster, but much more exposed. The only places that we had to walk on the snow were above the snowfinger to the north of the Gooseneck snowfinger (on a path about 2 feet wide), and near the top (not very exposed). We reached the summit of Gannett (13,804 ft) at 1:00. When we got there, there were two other climbers right with us, and we had them take pictures of us with all of our cameras. After a while it got quite crowded. A couple from Minnesota who were on their honeymoon and about 20 climbers from a wilderness school reached the top. Clouds started to roll in so we only stayed about 1/2 hour. It took us 1 1/2 hour to reach the trails end, and we climbed down in a mild snowstorm.

8/1-8/2 Hiked Out We hiked to Double Lake the first day, caught some fish, had a moose walk through camp, and made it out on the second day. We stopped and talked to a Sierra Club group that was repairing trail in Burro Flats. They said that they had to keep a person in camp at all times to chase away a foraging bear. I suspect that their multi-day camp allowed the bear to get a bead on an easy meal. PostScript This was a challenging, awe inspiring hike and climb. We filtered all water from snowmelt and springs, and hung bear bags with religious zeal (never saw a bear). A word about water pumps. We started the trip with a Sweetwater Guardian, two MSR pumps, and two Pur Hikers. We ended the trip with two Pur Hikers pumping for 17 people. We heard that the snow bridge across the bergshrund glacier collapsed two weeks later. The unbelayed climber who was on it was seriously injured, and had to be evacuated by horseback. Ill do this hike/climb again in a few years. It was well worth the work.

On the Continental Divide (border of Fitzpatrick and Bridger Wildernesses) Fremont County, west-central Wyoming. 25 miles, north-northeast of Pinedale

USGS Maps: Gannett Peak, Bridger Lakes, Fayette Lake, Fremont Lake North, Fremont Peak North, Ink Wells, Torrey Lake, Hays Park

Hiking Notes:
Gannett is the longest round trip of any highpoint (including McKinley!). The hike is at least 40 miles roundtrip and an almost 9,000 foot vertical climb.

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