[Published in Apex to Zenith #51 – Fourth Quarter 2000]
I am writing to let you know that I reached the top of my 49th state high point, Wyoming’s Gannett Peak, on July 19, 2000. My husband, Moe Bell, who achieved his 50th on Denali in June 1999, accompanied me. At first, he wasn’t thrilled about doing Gannett a second time, but it turned out to be a wonderful trip.
We paid Ramona O’Neal to drive us across the Wind River Indian Reservation from Crowheart to Cold Springs (and actually her daughter, Emi, did the driving). Roads don’t get much bumpier than that one. From there, we backpacked 14 miles along the Ink Wells Trail and the Glacier Trail to the end of Floyd Wilson Meadow. On the first day, we saw a huge herd of elk at Scenic Pass (~11,000 feet) and spent the night at Echo Lake, where our bug netting came in handy.
The next day, we made some very difficult crossings at Klondike Creek and another creek near the end of the meadow. On sunny summer days, heavy runoff from the melting glaciers makes these creeks swollen and treacherous by afternoon. That night, we camped near the end of the Glacier Trail in a beautiful high meadow laced with little pools and streams. We saw marmots and deer nearby, but they obviously weren’t used to people and did not approach us.
Though we could have used a rest day, the clear weather convinced us to go for the summit on day three. We were off by 4:30 a.m. and had crossed the long boulder field and reached the bottom of the glacier by 6. We put on crampons, set up our rope, grabbed our ice axes and headed up the glacier. Fortunately, the snow was firm in the early morning, and the snow bridge was still intact. We moved upward at a steady pace and made the summit at 10:05 a.m.
We were the only group approaching from the north that day, but we encountered three parties that had come over the pass from Titcomb Basin. We spent little time at the summit because the snow was getting soft and sloppy under the warm sun. It was slippery going down, especially on the steepest slopes. We each lost our footing at least once, but self-arrest was pretty easy in the wet, heavy snow. We were back at camp by 2 p.m., tired but satisfied. I’d made an unsuccessful attempt on Gannett from Titcomb Basin in ‘98 (the snow bridge was gone), so our accomplishment was especially sweet for me.
We spent the fourth day resting and enjoying the scenery. We noticed microcosms of miniature wildflowers in nooks and crannies all around us. We took many photographs, but they couldn’t quite capture the beauty of the place. The next two days we hiked out, camping once more at Echo Lake, where an enormous bull moose came within 30 feet of our tent.
Now I have to decide whether to attempt Denali. The biggest drawback is leaving my husband and two children for three weeks. We’ll see.
[Ed. – By our records, Carrie is the 15th woman to visit the 48 state highpoints, and Carrie & Moe are the 10th couple to achieve that.]