Gannett Peak, Wyoming, via Wells Creek
(Gannett Peak in one day!)

8 Aug 2004 - by Peter Bakwin

Gannett Peak (13,804 feet) is the highest peak in Wyoming and one of the most challenging of the state high-points due to the long approaches and difficult climbing required. The standard route (from Elkhart Basin via Dinwoody Pass) is about 50 miles round trip, and the shortest route (which we took) is probably 35 miles. Buzz Burrell and I decided to give it a go. Studying maps and route descriptions was confusing, so eventually we just picked what seemed to be the shortest route. Starting at 3:00 a.m. from the Green River Lakes trail head at 8,000 feet we would jog 12+ miles up the Green on a basically flat trail, then leave the trail and negotiate the Wells Creek drainage into a large basin below the peak.

We started running up the flat trail at 3a.m. and it took about 3 hours until we got to Wells Creek. Leaving the trail we crossed the Green on slippery logs by weak pre-dawn light. Lower Wells Creek was all rock hopping, slow going. Eventually we entered a steep gully will sheer sides called "The Cleft". At first the Cleft was a lot of fun, rock hoping and scrambling right next to a beautiful cascade. But, about halfway up we were pinched off between the un-crossable creek and a cliff. The only route forward was 100+ feet 5th class (5.6?) climbing on exposed slabs. All we had for protection was about 80 feet of 5mm kevlar cord. Buzz free-soloed the route and then belayed me up in a couple of pitches.

Reaching the top of The Cleft we were finally in the sun! And, we finally got a view of our objective looming above. We picked our way around Many Bug Lake and Scott Lake, and strolled through some beautiful alpine meadows at 10,000 feet. We crossed Minor Glacier and ascended a couloir on some steep snow (using light-weight Kahtoola crampons strapped to our running shoes, I carried a Black Diamond Raven Pro ice ax, which weighs almost nothing.) On the summit ridge there was some 4th class scrambling on pretty good rock. We made the summit a bit before 1 p.m., 9:40 after starting. The weather was fantastic!

The return was uneventful as great weather held all afternoon. We had to rap off the technical section of the Cleft using our 5mm cord! Running down the trail along the Green felt good after hours & hours of rock hopping. I made it back just before dark, after over 18 hours out, and Buzz came in a bit later.

Now we know why Gannett is seldom done in a single day!


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