Ascent of Gannett Peak on 2018-07-05

Climber: Brian Webb

Date:Thursday, July 5, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Gannett Peak
    Elevation:13804 ft / 4207 m

Ascent Trip Report

We decided on the Glacier Trail out of Dubois, instead of the shorter (but much harder summit day) from the south.

This was both the most challenging and most scenic hike I've ever done. To give some perspective, I'm a fairly avid hiker who has done quite a few 2-week backpacking treks in various parts of the country. I'm also a highpointer and have summited quite a few mountains, but this was by far the most challenging for a variety of reasons. First, the trail itself is brutal. I'd estimate around 80% of your steps are on rocks (not smooth, pebbly rocks, but jagged ones sticking out of the trail). Where it's not rocks you have to content with mud, water, and even sand. Rarely is it flat or easy. Second, you gain almost 11,000 cumulative vertical feet, all of it at high altitude. Third, once you summit you still have 23 rugged miles to hike out--after you're worn out and tired. All that to say, mentally prepare yourself for a rigorous and very difficult hike every step of the way.

Day 1: We got to the trailhead late afternoon and decided to put in a few miles that first day. I couldn't find any trip reports about camping 2-3 miles in, but there are at least two very good spots (one at the far end of the first large meadow in Bomber Basin and the other at the last meadow before you head up the switchbacks). Both of these are very nice spots with good access to the creek.

Day 2: We meant to get to Star Lake, but we decided to stop at Double Lake to avoid the afternoon rainstorm. Both lakes are BEAUTIFUL and have nice camp sites. If I were to do it again, I'd push to Star Lake to get that extra mile out of the way before the next day. This day wasn't particularly long, but the switchbacks and gaining the ridge was quite the challenge.

Day 3: This was a grueling and long day. The trail gets rougher after Double Lake, particularly as you begin to face challenging stream crossings. The Downs Meadow Bridge is partially out, and crossing there without getting wet is difficult. I recommend switching to water shoes here, as it will save you time (and probably wet boots). There are many spectacular sights along the trail and this is a gorgeous place. Past the Ink Wells trail junction there are 1-3 other river crossings that will require switching to water shoes. The first two major ones you can probably manage if you have good log crossing balance, but the last crossing before ascending toward the tree line will definitely require water shoes. We camped just above tree line in a beautiful meadow by the river with the best setting of any place I've ever camped. You can't miss it--just left of the trail as you begin to emerge from the tree line and as the glacial stream turns to head up the final valley toward the glacier. Pushing farther will get you a better summit day, and you may want to consider it, but we really enjoyed this site.

Day 4: Summit day. Long and challenging. Roping up is a must for glacial travel, so don't be fooled by other trip reports on this site that recommend doing it in your tennis shoes. If you know what you're doing you're unlikely to fall through a crevasse or need the rope, but even professional climbers die from simple or unexpected mistakes when they don't use appropriate safety equipment.

The trail is easy to follow before it gets lost in the moraine field. At that point, just rock hop the moraine boulders to get to the base of the glacier. Instead of going directly on Gooseneck Glacier, we followed the advice of some other climbers and cut left around a large domed rock onto Dinwoody Glacier first. We followed this rock field (staying on the right side of the glacier) until we came around the other side of the dome. We then took crampons off and ascended several hundred foot of rock to gain the Gooseneck Glacier. This allowed us to skip a very steep and icy looking patch of the Gooseneck Glacier which you can see straight on from the moraine field. We continued to ascent on the left side of the glacier and up a steep couloir. The Bergschrund was starting to open midway up the couloir (at the steepest part), but it was easy to get around. While this was the steepest part, the most dangerous section was next--where we had to follow the glacier up and right toward the summit ridge. The exposure here is significant with a very short runoff before a steep drop. We belayed each other out from rock outcroppings a couple times for extra security. The summit ridge was fairly straightforward.

On the descent we were fortunate to avoid a lightning storm, which we could see in the distance, but avoided us. I highly recommend leaving camp as early as possible. 2 or 3 a.m. would be a good start time and to be off the summit ridge before noon. The weather was surprisingly warm (almost hot), even high on the summit, so don't overdress.

The remaining days were challenging hikes out, particularly after we were so exhausted from our summit day.

In terms of equipment. We did not bring a bear canister, but hung our food from trees. The high camp was difficult, and we got a bit lax (handing it a mere 5 feet off the ground), but I guess we got lucky. Trekking poles are a MUST! And make sure your boots are in good condition--mine got chewed up by the trail. Literally, the soles came off on the return. Don't overpack your clothing, as it gets warmer here than you might think. I used a 15-degree bag and was too warm most nights.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6304 ft / 1921 m
    Round-Trip Distance:50 mi / 80.5 km
    Route:Glacier Trail
    Trailhead:7500 ft / 2286 m
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope

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