Gannett on July 3, 2008

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    • #7837
      [Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum]
      [By: Will M. on September 1 2008 at 12:06 PM]

      This trip was in the planning stages for 2+ years. A job change at the end of 2006 forced the postponement for a year while I accumulated vacation time. Our plan was to drive to Wyoming, climb Gannett Peak, drive through and visit Yellowstone National Park, and then head to Montana and climb Granite Peak. From there we’d drive back to Redmond, WA.

      I began an aggressive training program at the beginning of March with workouts 4 – 5 times per week. I included running for cardiovascular and treadmill climbs (with weight) for leg strength and endurance. The net result was a loss of 20 pounds, and what I thought was the best shape I’ve been in for hiking in a long time, maybe ever. Joe is naturally in good shape, but he also supplemented his routine with pack weight exercises.

      Joe arrived at SeaTac around 9PM on Friday, June 27. We spent Saturday getting our gear organized, and picking up our food and any remaining items. An early departure was planned for Sunday.

      June 29 – We awoke at 4:30, and were on the road at 5:30. This was going to be a 930 mile drive, and we wanted to have some daylight left when we got there. We took 3-hour driving shifts, only stopping to change drivers and refuel. At 9PM (MDT), we arrived at the Glacier Trail trailhead near Dubois, Wyoming. There is a long dirt road to get here, so once here we decided to stay and car camp. There were about 10 other cars present. I slept in the car and Joe slept outside on the air mattress with only a sleeping bag. The mosquitoes were not bad that night, and the sky was cloudless.

      June 30 – We awoke around dawn, and spent quite some time getting our packs together. This is a 25 mile one-way hike to reach Gannett Peak, so we wanted to have everything we needed for 5 days. It was 8:30 by the time we were ready to begin hiking. My pack weighed 58 pounds, Joe’s was 54. And that was without water!

      The first 3 miles followed a river in a generally gradual uphill route. At Bomber Basin, the Glacier Trail splits from the Bomber Trail, and we headed up a series of switchbacks. These took us another 3 miles and some 2000’ in elevation gain. And it was getting warm by now. At the top of the switchbacks, we entered a meadow where we could see the trail stretch in front of us for a couple of miles. At least the gain was more gradual here. We also took a long break here, and realized that we were very tired. This was going to be work!

      At 2, we reached Arrow Pass, a 10,900’ pass that marked the crest of our first day’s hike. While there we heard thunder and saw the storm clouds that are quite common in the afternoons here. After another break we descended toward the lakes and the Wind River valley. The trail was never easy footing, always having rocks, water, or some other obstacles that required your attention. We reached Philips Lake first, and enjoyed a break near the water where Joe cooled his feet. While there, we spoke to an exiting group of 3 women and 1 man that had successfully reach Gannett. They were only on their 3rd day! They told us they hiked in 22 miles the first day, summited the second day, and were now heading out. Incredible! We pushed on past Double Lake where there was quite a bit of snow on the trail. We even lost the trail once and bushwhacked until finding it again. This was also where the mosquitoes decided to join the party, and there were lots of them! Traveling past a number of meadows, we saw a cow moose across the river.

      We finally reached Star Lake, and found a nice campsite in the woods on the edge of the lake. We were whipped, and gladly took off our packs for the last time that day at 5:30 after traveling 12 miles. We were now back at 9200’. The evening was again cloudless, and we truly felt “off the grid”.

      July 1 – We got up and ready by 7:30, ever mindful of the skeeters. This was another long day of hiking. The trail is never flat or up, but constantly up and down. The up sections were always painful, reducing us to what seemed like a crawl. We knew there was stock on this trail, and the droppings were quite visible. This morning, we passed a group of 7 pack animals lead by a man on horseback, returning from somewhere ahead of us. He seemed to be happy just plodding along.

      This was the day we had to get past the convergence zone of a number of feeder streams into the Wind River. There was a guy rope across Gannett Creek that made it easy to cross, and the others had logs or rocks. Overall we didn’t have any problems crossing. However, once across, we got off trail. An hour of bushwhacking and route finding eventually returned us to the trail, but not without expending some valuable energy. Shortly after regaining the trail, we were threatened by a thunderstorm and decided to call it a day. The hastily assembled tent provided relief from the rain, although it never rained very hard. We were so tired after traveling 11 miles that we couldn’t go on anyway. We were still not at our desired high camp, and had to make some decisions about our plans.

      That night we adjusted our plan of attack. Having spent two days getting this far and being exhausted, we decided to have a short hike tomorrow to the base of the mountain, rest for the remained of the day, and scout out our route up the glaciers. We thought we could begin our hike out if the summit climb was not too difficult, and still return to the trailhead on day 5.

      A bonus for us was the Northern lights display. Although we couldn’t see it directly, the reflected light was flashing al night long.

      July 2 – We were up early, anxious the get to the mountain. When walking around, Joe found there was a much better campsite than ours about 50 yards away. It was higher, and more defined. Someone had left a pair of Cabelas hiking boots there which were now chewed up a little. These play a role in our story later.

      After a 2 hour hike across snowfields and boulder fields, we reached the base of Gannett, and set up the tent on the snow near the water exit of a large snow tarn. We took advantage of a group from NOLS that was preparing to leave after a month in the woods. They told us about the route and confirmed there were no problems or threats on the mountain. With their input and the trip reports we had, we devised a scheme for the morning. The day proved to be a beauty with no storms all day. We prepared the next day’s equipment and packs and got to bed early, before dark. With the added bonus of no mosquitoes, Joe even took a quick bath in the tarn! The sun was warm and clothing dried quickly.

      July 3 – Summit Day! We were up and ready early, and left for the summit at 5:10. Before leaving camp, we saw the headlamp of another hiker about halfway up the mountain. Someone was ahead of us, yet we didn’t see any tents in the basin!

      The snow was lightly frozen, so walking in crampons was a delight. We worked our way to the Dinwoody glacier, and followed the tracks. This was typical glacial travel, and not very dangerous. About 600’ up there was a snow bridge that crossed over to the Gooseneck glacier. From there it got a bit steeper, but again more typical of the snow travel I’m used to in the Cascades. True to the beta we received, there was no bergshrund to navigate. We were making good time, even with the stops to put on or take off crampons as we alternated between rocks and snow fields. We saw the party in front of us making their way up the summit ridge. They were just leaving the summit when we got there, and told us they came in from Bonner Pass, the Southern route. They needed the earlier start as they had to go back over Bonner Pass on their way out, and the snow softens as the day progresses.

      We reached the summit at 8:30, taking 3’ 22”. Number 45 for me, 14 for Joe. We had it all to ourselves, and the views were great. We couldn’t find a summit register, so if there’s one it may have been covered in snow. We spent about 30 minutes there, and then headed down. We caught up to the earlier party. They were a guided group, and were traveling slowly. There was glissading on the way down, with Joe taking more advantage of it then me. The plunge stepping was almost as effective. We were quickly back down, arriving at our tent at 10:30, for a total trip time of 5’ 18”.

      After some lunch, and a nap, we packed up and left the area at 1PM. By this time the thought of leaving the hiking boots on the trail was just too much for Joe, and he said he wanted to carry them out. I applauded his thoughtfulness, but didn’t offer to carry one! The packs were already very heavy and getting heavier (psychologically). We reached our earlier campsite, and Joe tied the abandoned boots to his pack.

      We were now able to follow the actual trail along the river, with a minor detour through the woods when the snow became too deep over the trail. When we got to the convergence of the feeders, we got a surprise. The water level had risen considerably. Although we could still cross Gannett creek using the guy rope, the second feeder had risen above the logs we used on the way in. We had no way to cross without getting wet. As we pondered the least damaging way to cross, we wished we had a second set of shoes so we wouldn’t get our hiking boots wet. Standing there talking to Joe, with his pack sporting the old boots, I remarked, there’s a set of boots we can use! The idea was like a breath of fresh air. Surely they would fit one of us. Karma was in full bloom.

      After trying them on, Joe said they wouldn’t go on his feet, so onto mine they went. Our plan was to have me take my pack across, return for Joe’s pack, and he would “skip” across the water in true orienteer fashion, minimizing the amount of water getting into his boots. The deepest part was about 18”, so after removing my shoes and socks and pant legs, I waded across. The cold water felt good on my hot feet! 10 minutes later we were across, and decided to leave the boots on a tree for the next party needing to cross. I guess Joe was rewarded for his selfless act of carrying the boots that far.

      We continued toward our goal, a beach-like area we passed on the way in. At 7, we got there and were happy to drop the packs. This was about 7 miles from our base camp, leaving 17 more to the trailhead. The site had a large escarpment near it, and it wasn’t long before the elk and antelope arrived to get to the river. And the mosquitoes remembered us! Thankfully I’m a firm believer in better living through chemistry, and carried DEET powered bug repellent. It really works!

      July 4 – We were up early again, shortly after day break. The 17 mile hike to the trailhead was mostly uneventful, and very long. We were struggling the last 6 miles or so. While approaching Arrow Pass, we passed a group of 2 women and 3 men. They were carrying large packs, so we chatted. Turns out they are with an outdoor Christian group, and had been in the woods for 6 weeks. Their packs were at 80 pounds, and that was after they gave up their crampons, snowshoes, and harnesses during a restocking visit a week earlier. And they were in great spirits. Talk about feeling inadequate. We reached the trailhead after 10 hours, and really needed the rest.

      We went into Dubois, got a motel room, and cleaned up after 5 days in the woods. That felt good. We also were so beat we questioned our ability to go to Granite. We decided to rest for a few days, and then make the decision. Would not recommend the motel we stayed at, the Wind River motel.

      July 5 – We spent most of the day in Dubois, doing laundry, washing the truck, and visiting the local attractions. Ever hear of a tie hack? Well, Dubois was the center for them in the early part of the 20th century, and has a museum. They also have the largest herd of big horn sheep in the country, and they come down from the mountains in the winter to feed.

      Around 2 we left town, having decided that going to Yellowstone was a bad idea as it was the 4th of July weekend. We went instead to Cody, having a great dinner at The Trailhead in Riverton along the way. In Cody, we were in the middle of a major bull riding competition, and the place was packed. The town is definitely a place for night life. We headed out of town to the Buffalo Bill Dam, and a nice public campground with mountains on either side. Very nice.

      July 6 – We returned to Cody to shop for more supplies, but their only outdoors place didn’t offer the stuff we wanted. While there, we gave the lady behind the counter a full report on our hike to Gannett. We took two scenic highways North into Montana, highway 296 from 120 to 212, and then route 212 across Beartooth Pass. There is still snow on the mountains there, and extreme skiers are still making runs down what look like impossible slopes. After driving through a thunderstorm, we ended up in Red Lodge, and got a room. This place was nice, and I’d recommend it. It is called the Alpine Lodge, and includes a hot made to order breakfast.

      See Granite trip report for the rest of the story!

    • #7838


      [Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum]
      [By: Linda Jagger on December 9 2008 at 5:51 PM]

      Howdy, saw this one report, and it says see Gannett report and I dont seem to be able to find a link. Can you email me or give me full link to your full report. Thanks. We hope to go next summer and Im trying to read all I can. Trying to decide which side/route is best to go. Any thoughts you would have would be appreciated.
      • #7839


        [Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum]
        [By: Will M. on January 17 2009 at 11:54 PM]

        It took me a little while to figure out what you were asking, but I did. My last comment on the Gannett report references the continuation of my HP trip to Granite. Sorry, but this is all I published. Happy to tell you more privately.
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