Randosteve summits Gannett Peak
When I’m in the mountains, it’s one of the few times I rely on my alarm to wake me up. Needless to say, it wasn’t until 2:40 am, and the second time my Suunto CORE beeped, that I arose out of a restful sleep. I could hear the winds ripping up high and wondered what I would see poking my head out of the tent. I was psyched when an infinite number of stars were visible above, indicating clear skies for the time being. High winds are a lot more manageable when it’s sunny out. The rest of the crew moved slowly out of their sleeping bags and we all stumbled around in our own worlds, finally moving out of camp via headlamp at around 3:45.
Ghost skier sighting near Gannett Peak.
The skin up Dinwoody Creek is very straight forward, so we were able to zone out for the time being and think about whatever. I was thinking about how much I missed Randokitty already and how psyched she would be for me if I was successful at skiing Gannett on this trip. Soon enough though, the sun began to rise and the views and route up the Gooseneck Glacier dominated my attention. From below, it looked as though nearly all the crevasses where still covered, but we still gave them a wide berth considering we were traveling without being roped up.
Clouds begin to roll in as the sun comes up.
After about 2000′ of climbing from camp, the terrain got steeper and firm enough to warrant putting the skis on our backs and donning crampons. The brief stop gave us a chance to examine the weather more closely, noting that clouds seemed to be developing quickly and the summit of Gannett was now in and out of the clouds. We paused for a bit more, discussing our options, but in the end…we decided to press on, as the weather pattern seemed unsure of itself for the time being.
Beginning the climb up Gooseneck Couloir.
As we approached the base of the Gooseneck Couloir, the summit was still in the clouds, so we took a more substantial break and refueled. I wolfed down one of fourteen ProBars I brought on the trip…two for each day. The clouds lifted slightly while we ate and drank, giving us a bit more confidence to push further and we got back in the rhythm as we booted up the couloir. The wind was still ripping however, dropping the wind chill to around zero and I had been wearing my Arc’teryx Dually Parka for the past hour…even while climbing.
WyomingSplitride makes his way above Gooseneck Pinnacle.
I lingered back a bit to snap a few photos of the boys nearing the top and peered over the ridge to eyeball the line Koch had ridden back in 1992. It looked in good shape and not too gnarly…definitely doable with the right conditions and trip itinerary. First things first though and just bagging the peak and any descent was priority for now. As I neared the summit, I felt like I could reach up and touch the clouds…which moved by at considerably fast rate. It wasn’t very pleasant on top…with the wind and all…so we all quick got our gear together and transitioned for the descent.
On the summit ridge of Gannett Peak.
Though not the most extreme route off the peak, the Gooseneck Couloir route does traverse over some big cliffs at the top and when the snow is frozen solid, like today, can mess with your head if you let it. One by one we made the traverse to the south and we all regrouped on the shoulder before heading further downward, towards the couloir. Though it was a little nerve racking having the cruise just inches about our heads, the mixture of clouds and sun made the views of the surrounding peaks all the more spectacular and it was hard to not be distracted by their beauty.
Power to the people…splitboard style.
The snow continued to stay frozen and the pitch steepened a little as we skied the couloir. Lucky then snow surface was very smooth and consistent, making the skiing pretty enjoyable considering its hardness. As we got lower, we all picked our own lines and I found a nice, steeper pitch that had softened up a little to the skier’s right and let the Voodoo’s work their magic. Arcing big and fast turns down on the moraine, we regrouped again down in the flats to relax and rehydrate, happy to have scored the peak on our first attempt.
Randosteve skis below Gooseneck Glacier
Though the wind was still cranking, the sun was shining down low, so we rallied to ski some more, because you never know what the next day might bring. We headed towards a nice wind feature on the Dinwoody Glacier that continued up towards Mount Woodrow Wilson. After about halfway up the route, our steam started to fade and the wind, along with now graybird skies, was taking its toll on us and we pulled the plug before the top of the peak…but high enough to still ski the majority of the route and get some more fun skiing in.
Randosteve skis by a cool formation on the Dinwoody Glacier.
As a skier, I was able to glide all the way back to camp and Jeramie didn’t seem to mind us not waiting for him to switch his snowboard back to split mode. To top it off, we were even able to make some turns right to the edge of the rock we camped near. Gotta love that! We celebrated our success at camp with libations and coffee, but as the day got old, the weather picked up again and we huddled in our tents until bedtime. Unsure of what the following day would bring.