Back in January while ice climbing in Ouray I mentioned to Bob and Sharon about climbing Gannett Peak, they were immediately on board. A date was set and a plan was hatched. Come July, Keith and Beth, and Kevin were interested as well. Off to the high point of Wyoming buried in the gorgeous Wind River Range for ~40 miles and 10K elevation gain during a 3-day blitz.
7/19/12: With the day planned for just getting to the trailhead, I picked up Kevin in the morning and we plowed through the drive towards Pinedale with just one stop in Rawlin’s for the worst lunch possible at a seedy (that’s an understatement) bar/grill called “The Office”. We both had the brisket sandwich which tasted like rehydrated beef jerky covered in ketchup. We arrived in Pinedale at the Wind River Brewing Company conveniently right before happy hour and sampled all of their beers, liking the Wyoming Pale Ale the best though. Since we had time, we also stopped by The Corral, the Cowboy, and the Rock Rabbit before meeting up with Bob and Sharon back at the brewery. Pinedale isn’t exactly a destination to visit or live, but an interesting place none-the-less. We got to the Pole Creek trailhead just 14 miles east of town and crashed for the night.
7/20/12: The mosquitoes wake up early. We had to put on our headnets immediately while getting ready. We were on the trail at 7am after I put a rock in Kevin’s backpack while he was in the bathroom. My pack weighed in around 36lbs, not bad considering 3 days of food, half of a tent, stove/fuel, boots, rope, and a harness. The Pole Creek trail was nice despite all of the horse crap. We swapped stories and joked around while it drizzled off and on, arriving at Photographers Point after a couple of hours. As we hiked deeper into the Wind Rivers we passed lake after lake and the views just kept getting better. Eklund Lake, Barbara Lake, Hobbs Lake…. Then we topped out to an overlook above the enormous Senecca Lake. Beautiful! Large rock walls dropped down into the lake as the trail skirted along side of it. Next was Little Senecca Lake then some more up and down before Island Lake. WOW! This reminded me of Glacier National Park with jagged peaks all around beautiful alpine lakes. The trail hugged Island Lake then one more rise before Titcomb Basin. Kevin had a death wish and considered asking the cowboys leading a horse-train if they were in Brokeback Mountain. Titcomb Basin was spectacular. We took a long break near the cascade draining the lakes then continued up what seemed like hours along side of both lakes before finding Keith and Beth camped out above the upper lake. The breeze kept most of the mosquitoes at bay, and the views all around were jaw-dropping. It took us 8.5hrs to cover the 17 miles and ~3000ft to get here. I was starting to feel pretty crappy from fighting off a nasty cough acquired through Miles, and a long day. I powered down some food and lay down for a bit then started to feel better. We sat around camp cooking and chatting while looking up at the impossibly-looking steep Bonney Pass. Off to bed at 7pm as soon as the sun dipped below a ridge. It wasn’t long before it started to rain and continued for a good couple of hours. I slept pretty decent but 2am came too soon.
7/21/12: 2am alarm and the rain had actually stopped. Some clouds in the sky, Kevin’s pack was saturated and didn’t sleep much, I was feeling decent and actually got a little sleep. I brewed up some tea and ate some bacon and we hit the “trail” at 2:30am by headlamp. The rain turned the basin into a swamp and keeping our feet dry was impossible. We picked our way up the basin towards Bonney Pass seeing an occasional cairn. We obviously were not on the path of least resistance and got into loose rocks, slippery gravel, and steep mud. After some soft snow and kicked steps we were back in the rocks and topped out on Bonney Pass at 4:45am after gaining 2K feet. Beth wasn’t feeling up to par so her and Keith decided to stay on the pass until daylight then go back to camp. The rest of us followed a better trail down 600ft to Dinwoody Glacier. The sun was up, yet blocked by clouds and the weather was questionable. We put on our harnesses and strapped on crampons, about 10ft onto the glacier we roped up…. Good thing because 30 seconds later Bob dropped up to his knees into a crevasse. We crossed several other small crevasses then continued down to the hardened ice, and then it began to rain. Lovely! I’ve only been rained on while on a glacier twice, and both times were with Bob. Fortunately there was no thunder or lightning and we continued on. We walked along the top of the giant “moat” and the rain stopped by the time we were on the rocks below the Gooseneck Pinnacle. We took a nice long break in a bivy site as the skies cleared. Back onto the snow and up Gooseneck Glacier. A bit more rock then snow again (notice a trend?) Finally, gaining more elevation we were heading towards the berschund trying to pick a line across it when Kevin looks over his shoulder and notices the smaller section of the berschund and the two (quickly melting) snow bridges across it. WooHoo! We do a 180 degree turn and Bob gets next to the lower, and slightly larger, snow bridge while then rest of us brace for a potential collapse. Bob scoots across without incident and starts climbing straight up the steep snow. Next is Sharon’s turn to cross, which she does easily. Kevin thinks light-thoughts while crossing, then I lightly tip-toe across. Straight up the steep snow while we start baking in the radiant heat from the glacier. Our summit chances were increasing by the minute! More rock hopping then a final 100ft of steep snow before the ridge to the summit. We all stood on the highest point in Wyoming at 13,804ft just before 9am. High-fives, pictures, eating, gawking at the views, etc. We only spent 20 minutes on the summit as the softening snow was a major concern. We reversed our route back down paying extra attention getting back across the snow bridge. We all let out a sigh of relief once that was done and had camp on our mind. Rock, snow, rock, snow, glacier, moat, glacier. Re-crossing the Dinwoody Glacier there were small rivers pouring down the glacier. Both Bob and I stepped in slush puddles soaking our legs. We took our crampons off for the last time and we picked our way up the 600ft to Bonney Pass. Surprisingly, it went quickly and easily. We found a much easier way back down into Titcomb Basin foot-sliding down snow whenever possible. The last 1.5miles seemed to drag on, but at 2:45pm we rolled back into camp (9 miles and 5K) and found our stash of Wyoming Pale Ale’s still chilling in the stream. A mighty tasty beer followed by food and a nap, then we packed up camp and headed to Island Lake where Keith and Beth were camped. Squishing back down Titcomb Basin, time went quickly then the thunder started behind us, soon the wind changed and the rain drops started. Wonderful! I stuffed my gear into a trash bag in my pack and put on DriDuck’s. That was enough to keep away the deluge, and in under 2hrs and 5 miles later we found Keith and Beth’s camp perched on a rise above Island Lake. What an awesome spot!!! The views and the sunset were spectacular as the skies colors danced across the lake and surrounding jagged granite peaks. Food, water, laughs, pictures, bed. Sleep did not come easy for me and it felt like I was up most of the night.
7/22/12: Up early with home on my mind. After all of the usual morning camp chores we were all packed up and on the trail by 7:10am. The “restoration site” was now an EPA SuperFund site. Of course it was uphill first for a nice warm-up. We all plugged along working out the kinks and chatting away. Near Lower Senecca Lake, Kevin and I put the legs into overdrive and started plowing through the miles. The landmarks were ticking away and we had lunch at the brewery on our minds. Back at Photographers Point we knew we just had about 5 miles left. You can tell how close you are to the trailhead by the types of people coming up the trail! After 12 miles and ~2000ft elevation in 4hrs and 20mins, the car was in sight. WooHoo! Just in time since all seven layers of skin were gone from my shoulders. A change of clothes and a beer were needed, deserved, and enjoyed. Lunch at the brewery then the 7 hour drive home mucked up by an accident on I25 and some construction. I got home shortly after 9pm to chug some cough syrup and to shower off layer of DEET, sweat, and dirt. Plans are already in the works to head back to the area with Jean for a relaxing backpacking trip around the lakes… after the mosquitoes die.