Summit of Gannett Peak via Tourist Creek

In August, three friends and I attempted and completed a summit of Gannett Peak, the state highpoint of Wyoming. We used the Tourist Creek route, summiting from the East face of the peak. Below is a detailed report from our climb.

The climb is tough, but the views are worth it!
(Photo: Gordon W. Dimmig Photography)

We accessed the Tourist Creek basin from along the Green River. There is no trail up the bouldery and thick outflow, and the climb was tough and exhausting. Care should be taken when hiking with packs, as some of the boulders are unstable, and a twisted ankle or broken leg could easily derail the climb before it begins.

Looking down upon the Green River, snaking through its valley. The seemingly endless boulders make the climb tough, and potentially dangerous. We conquered it without injury, but not without bruises and bloodshed. (Photo: Gordon W. Dimmig Photography)

From the Green River to our basecamp along Tourist Creek.

After gaining the Tourist Creek valley, we spent a “rest day” at one of the flat, vegetated areas along Tourist Creek. On our summiting day, we left camp at 7:00 am. As you will see later, we would probably advise future climbers to leave a few hours earlier than we did. The drawback is that leaving before dawn requires navigating tough boulder fields in the dark, which would certainly add to the travel time, and danger of injury.

We made our camp in a lovely meadow, tucked into a world of stone.
(Photo: Gordon W. Dimmig Photography)

Traversing along Tourist Creek eastward, we turned south and began climbing towards a large, nameless (at least on Google Maps) lake that lies west of Pinnacle Ridge. Each side of the lake appears to be as easily traversable as the other, however we passed on the east side.

The first leg of our journey.

After passing through the saddle at the far end of the lake, views of the Well’s Creek valley appear, as well as the first views of Gannett Peak. A small pond should also be able to be seen a few hundred feet below the saddle. From this point, we angled west and headed across the steep slope on the north side of the Well’s Creek basin. Our aiming point was another small saddle on the north side of the valley. This was done to avoid dropping the entire way down to Scott Lake, which would have required regaining the lost elevation. Once through the saddle, we continued towards the outflow of the long, skinny lake that sits below the slopes of Gannett Peak. Similar to before, this section was steep and bouldery. The only difference being we were walking across the slope, instead of up it. It was a little tricky at times, but by choosing our routes carefully, we traversed it without much trouble.

Our first views of Gannett, beneath the morning sun. At this point we had our first realization of the effort our climb would require. Well’s Creek is visible along the right side of the photo, with Scott Lake directly to our right. This photo is taken from the saddle seen near the center of the photo below.
(Photo: Gordon W. Dimmig Photography)

By working our way across-slope, we were able to save a significant amount of elevation drop/gain, without much additional effort.

After passing the long, skinny lake along its north shore, our hike truly became a climb. We took a sharp turn southward, as we felt this the easiest path up the steep, rocky terrain that lay before us. After a short climb, we headed west towards the gap between two large outcroppings. This brief section included a lot of boulder-hopping similar to previous terrain, however we did encounter several small snowbanks that posed a slipping hazard. Care should be taken over this section, as a slip could easily derail your climb with Gannett Peak in sight. Once we scaled the steep gap between the outcroppings, we arrived at the foot of Minor Glacier. We continued our way up a rock “hill”, before stopping where the granite ran out and ice began.

Hiking past the long, skinny lake and climbing to the toe of Minor Glacier.

We chose a path that angled up the steep boulder slide to the right of the photo, before climbing through the small gap that has glacial runoff flowing through it. (Photo: Gordon W. Dimmig Photography)

At this point, we are standing in the gap mentioned in the photo above. By continuing up the small rock hill in the center of the photo, you will arrive at the toe of Minor Glacier on a peninsula of rock.
(Photo: Gordon W. Dimmig Photography)

At this point, we took a final rest before our ascent, and strapped on our crampons. Minor Glacier is not overly steep, and we had very easy traversing with the aid of our cleats. Hiking the Glacier could feasibly be done without crampons, however i the slide would be a long one if you were to slip.

Our route from the toe of Minor Glacier to the summit of Gannett Peak. (This photo is a rotated, 3D view of the summit. North would be to the left of the photo.)

Our route was clearly laid before us. We headed straight for the rock “V”, before angling up the steep col. The dangerous finger of snow referenced below lies 2/3 of the way up.
(Photo: Gordon W. Dimmig Photography)

After reaching the end of Minor Glacier, a long stretch of loose scree lies between you and the ridge. Most of the travel is pretty straightforward, however the rocks are very loose. We made sure to stagger ourselves while climbing, to avoid kicking rocks on one another.

When we climbed in mid-August, we did not encounter as much snow as shown in the photo above. However, there was a particularly tricky snow finger that stretches across the col. This was one of the most dangerous parts of the entire climb, as the snow was melting, very steep, and very slick. We hugged the extreme upper edge of the snow, and made it across without any significant issues. But, a slip would result in a several hundred yard slide into a boulder pile. We found anchors placed in the rock along the upper edge where ropes could be used to reduce this danger. Take extreme care while traversing this snow finger.

It is easy to see why our hearts were in our throats as we crossed.
(Photo: Gordon W. Dimmig Photography)

Past the snow finger, there is another long stretch of loose scree that is relatively straightforward, after which you will finally gain the ridge of Gannett Peak. Turning south, you will encounter a few hundred feet of rock climbing, some of it moderately difficult. We completed this without the aid of any ropes, but the ridge was exposed enough that a lot of scary what-if scenarios ran through our head as we climbed.

Sitting in the saddle of the ridge, with the a few hundred yards of rock climbing between us and the summit.
(Photo: Gordon W. Dimmig Photography)

Eventually, the steep ridge levels off, and it is easy walking to the summit. Congratulations!

Conquered!
(Photo: Gordon W. Dimmig Photography)

Gordon on the summit!

Additional Thoughts

  • Be sure to keep an eye on what weather is developing behind you, as storms seemed to move westward while we were there. We noticed several thunderstorms heading our way while we climbed, but luckily all of them veered away from Gannett, and thus we did not have to abort our summit.
  • We started our ascent at 7:00 a.m. and summited by 2:30 p.m. I would advise starting earlier, as the snow had started to melt and become slick until we arrived at the peak. However, there probably isn’t much use in starting too early, as the miles of boulder hopping along the way would be very dangerous and tedious by headlamp.
  • We summited Gannett Peak using only crampons. However, I would advise against this. It is easily possible to do it this way, but it makes the margin for error much less. Our thinking was that since none of us we had experience with climbing ropes, we would put ourselves at a greater risk using gear with which we were unaccustomed. If I was to do the climb again, I would buy a climbing rope and become familiar with using it beforehand. There were several anchors placed at some of the trickiest parts along the way.

 

Happy Adventuring!

Ethan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *