Jeramie Prine splitboards through Ink Wells on the way to Gannett Peak.
When WyomingSplitride from Landiego (aka, Jeramie Prine from Lander) invited me to join him and his cousins to ski Gannett Peak (highest in Wyoming) in the Wind River Range, I jumped at the chance. For the past 2-3 years now, Gannett has been high on my ‘hit list’, and I was hoping I would be able to get the monkey off my back this time.
Chris, Jeramie, Tim and Steve.
Jeramie’s plan was to approach Gannett from the Cold Springs trailhead, which sits on the Fort Washakie Indian Reservation and requires one to hire a guide to drive you to it. The cost is very inflated and you also have to buy a permit to legally be on Indian land. Honestly, besides being kind of a racket IMHO, I think one could consider this approach ‘cheating’, since it gets you 10-12 miles closer than any other trailhead. But hey…at least we are still earning our turns. Right?
A herd of elk disperse on the way to Cold Springs trailhead.
I’m addicted to my quad lattes theses days, so I opted to wake up early and get one last caffeine fix in before making the drive to Crowheart, Wyoming and meet the crew at 7am. After some paperwork, Moni…the ‘guide’, loaded us into her pick-up and began the drive up to the Cold Spring trailhead. Herds of elk, pronghorn and deer scattered as we gained the high meadows and from the looks of the road, one could tell that very few people use this trailhead. We said goodbye to Moni, with a predetermined pickup scheduled in a week and we quickly got our boots on (two on tele, one splitboarder and me…the AT’er) for the teton-style (hiking with ski boots on) approach.
WyomingSplitride skins towards Scenic Pass
As we slowly got further from the trailhead, we first crossed off reservation land and into the Fitzpatrick Wilderness, and for some reason…that felt good. The snow was patchy at first, but soon enough, we were out of the trees and looking at an all snow route up to about 11,500′ and Scenic Pass, just west of Dinwoody Peak. Some dark clouds loomed overhead and we feared of thunder and lighting while high on the pass, so we were pressed to get over it as soon as possible.
Tim gets the first views of Gannett Peak
Coming over Scenic Pass, one gets a fantastic view of Gannett Peak from the east. Lucky for us, it was still out of the clouds and we could see the entire mountain. Gaining some energy from the mountain, we continued to follow trail markers across the high, wind-swept landscape and down into the Ink Wells area. Thought the snowpack was getting thin, we managed to keep our skis on the majority of the way through it, but were forced to remove them for most of the descent down to Dinwoody Creek and the main Dinwoody, Gooseneck and Gannett Glacier drainage.
Traveling through Ink Wells
On the way in, we had high hopes of the canyon bottom still being filled with snow, making travel fast and easy on skis. Unfortunately, it looked like we would be walking for quite a while, adding weight to our already overflowing backpacks. We started up the creek with our skis on out backs, but after about a quarter of a mile, we put them back on our feet and tried to link snow patches together. We must have transitioned from skiing to walking, then back to skiing, at least twenty times in the first 1-2 miles, really slowing our progress down.
Patchy snow down in Donwoody Creek.
The original plan was to hike all the way to basecamp in one day, making the shuttle to the Cold Springs trailhead truly worth the money, but the spotty snowpack and periodical bushwaking brought us 3-4 miles short of our objective as the day got late and the sun low in the sky. We set up camp and made a fire (rare on ski trips for me…so a nice bonus)…and started to lighten the load on our backs by nipping at bottles filled with alcoholic beverages.
As usually, I was ampted in the morning and out of bed quickly, psyched to get further up the trail where I could rid myself of the 55lb monkey on my back. We managed to find a place to cross Dinwoody Creak without getting our feet wet and continued to about treeline before stopping and finding a place to call home. We camped at about 10,200′, just up a bit towards the Dinwoody Glacier and choose this spot because it was out of the wind (unlike the wind tunnel of the upper canyon), had access to water (saving us time and fuel not having to melt snow for water), had a big flat dry rock to chill-out on and was in a spot where we still had relatively easy access to Gannett Glacier to the north.
Views of peaks an couloirs from camp.
Though we didn’t have views of Gannett from camp, it was definitely on our minds and we discussed the plan for the following day. Priority was placed on bagging Gannett, so we set our sights on the Gooseneck Couloir route first. The last thing I wanted was for us to be running late if things heated up quickly, so we decide we would wake up at 2:30am and get an alpine start. We were all in our sleeping bag before sunset and light snow tapped the tent as well drifted off to sleep.