Ascent of Gannett Peak, Wyoming via Titcomb Basin and Gooseneck Couloir – late aug02
Team: Gary Hehn, Jon Jumnoodoo, Dave Stephens
Sixteen miles of trail led us past the spectacular vista view at Photographer’s Point, scenic lakes, and stunning alpine terrain to the upper Titcomb Basin. We debated making camp on Dinwoody/Bonney Pass to make the climb day more reasonable as the base of the climb was still six miles and 2000 feet up and 1500 feet down over the pass. But, the thought of exposing ourselves to the daily lightening storms and the lack of water on the pass weighed our decision to camp in upper Titcomb. It was going to make for a long climb day.
After sitting out one weather/rest day we started early, working our way up to the pass in the dark. We reached the pass around 6:00am and were greeted by a little creature that had us baffled. It scampered along following us through the snow and rocks, performing gymnastic stunts, twirls and spins, bouncing here and there off the rocks, weaving in and out, then stopping short to give you a curious look. One couldn’t help chuckling at its antics. What was this weasel doing on a 13,000 foot pass miles from what one might consider its habitat?
Yesterday’s storm struck violently at 11:00am. We debated continuing and after Dave’s lobbying to give it a go we decided to do just that, hoping today’s storm would give us more time. We descended to the Dinwoody Glacier, crossed it passing a huge moat, and scrambled our way up over rock to the Gooseneck Glacier.
The Gooseneck Gully/Couloir was covered by a thin (~1 inch) layer of snow left by yesterday’s storm. Beneath that was the rock hard ice of the Gooseneck, exposed by a stubborn drouth and the late season. The ice looked ancient and dirty; choked with rock debris. Placing an ice screw in that would surely trash it. So, I opted to place strictly rock pro along the right side of the route. This made for a nice mixed exercise, the pro was good, and we completed the ascent of the couloir with one running belay.
Once we reached the top of the Gooseneck we made a mad dash, class 2/3 scramble, for the summit, praying that today’s storm would allow us the summit and a descent before unleashing its fury! Our prayers answered we got some quality summit time. Although, we knew it couldn’t be long.
The descent of the Gooseneck has a bit problematic with our short, 120 foot, rope. If I remember correctly it took five separate raps and seemed to chew up time in huge ravenous gulps! We were in a race to retreat ahead of the brewing storm. As soon as we reached the Dinwoody Glacier the storm unleashed terror on the heights! Lightening flashed all around above us. We separated and plodded across the glacier. Fortunately, the storm wore itself out in time for us to work our way up and over the pass and down into the darkness.
We were beat, Jon was walking like a zombie but, did a great job getting himself down off the pass without a hitch. Eighteen hours after leaving our camp we straggled back into it. We fixed ourselves a hot drink, wallowed in our satisfied weariness, and crashed!
Next day, we spent most of the morning relaxing and spreading our gear out on one of the rock slabs of the upper Titcomb Basin to dry. Then Jon got trail head fever. And so, he set the pace and we hiked out.
gear: 6 tri-cams, 6 small wired stoppers (wedgies!), 3 ice screws, ~6 single slings, 2 double slings, 1×120’x10mm rope.
each of us also carried 1 ice axe, 1 cordelette, and crampons.
belay off! gary