Ascent of Gannett Peak on 2016-07-21

Climber: Mark Smith

Others in Party:Austin D. Smith -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Glenn Campbell
Date:Thursday, July 21, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Gannett Peak
    Elevation:13804 ft / 4207 m

Ascent Trip Report

Gannett Peak via the Glacier Trail

We regarded Gannett as a major project. It proved more arduous than we anticipated. We approached on the Glacier Trail out of Dubois, expecting 44 trail miles, 50 total miles, and 6,200 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead. But spread over five days, how hard could it really be?

Day 1 was largely consumed climbing 3,300' out of the Torrey Creek drainage with full packs to gain Arrow Pass, then descending to Double Lake toward the next drainage south. Having to do over, we would have hit the trail earlier in the day and pushed to Star Lake. The best sites at Double Lake are found at the south end of the lake. Star Lake has several premium sites at the northwest corner. Honeymoon Lake is far enough off the trail to discourage it as an overnight destination.

Day 2 completed the descent of about 2,000' to reach the Dinwoody Creek drainage. Again, we started too late in the day and consequently didn’t reach trail’s end by nightfall as we were not able to keep the pace we expected. Near the junction with the Ink Wells trail we thought we finally had our first glimpse of the peak, bus alas, we later discovered that Gannett isn't visible until just before the end of the Glacier Trail.

By now we had learned that the Glacier Trail presents three unexpected difficulties. 1) The trail is so torn up by pack animals that most footsteps are on rocks or diagonal steps to avoid rocks. We were not able to keep the pace one could expect on a better surfaced trail. 2) The trail has one significant creek crossing after another. Searching for the best spot to cross, walking on narrow logs, jumping precariously from rock to rock, or giving up and fording to one’s knees is par for the course. We made at least ten non-trivial creek crossing each direction. Several of these consumed quite a bit of time. 3) The trail has at least 2,000’ of unexpected ascent. Many miles of the trail parallel various rivers. The trail, unfortunately, isn’t graded to keep a slow but steady incline. Up ten feet, down ten feet; up twenty feet, down twenty feet; mile after mile one is either climbing or descending. Rarely is the trail flat.

Day 3, summit day, went well. Gooseneck Glacier is certainly steep. We had two crevasses to cross, but both had generous snow bridges. We stayed roped for the traverse from the top of Gooseneck Glacier to the summit, following rocks on the ridge but stepping in snow. The complete lack of a runout encourages cautious climbing. On descent to opted to rap the Gooseneck Glacier with our 60m rope using existing anchors.

Days 4-5, back to TH.

A successful ascent all things considered. The Glacier Trail presents many impressive vistas. Take moleskin and a full bottle of DEET or equivalent, lest you collapse from blood loss. Total elevation gain on the round trip is about 14,000'. The Glacier Trail approach makes sense for state highpointers with limited alpine experience. For more experienced mountaineers the Titcomb Basin route is recommended.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:14204 ft / 4329 m
    Extra Gain:4000 ft / 1219 m
    Round-Trip Distance:50.5 mi / 81.3 km
    Trailhead:7600 ft / 2316 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Days 4 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Days 3 Hours 

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