After skiing the South Couloir on Fremont Peak and returning to camp, we anticipated the arrival of our good friend Reed Finlay, who was coming to join us to attempt to ski Gannett Peak, the highest peak in Wyoming, the following day. Originally, when I was planning this trip, my thought was to ski a different peak on our second day in Titcomb Basin, push a camp closer to Gannett after that and then attempt Gannett on our third day. However, Reed was there to try Gannett with us, so plans changed and we decided to give Gannett a try from where our camp was now. Our current camp was only three miles further from the peak than our camp would have been, but after you’ve spent so much energy getting to where you are already, that three miles could be the difference between success and failure, and I was a little uneasy about how things would go.
Anyway, Reed showed up at about 6pm, making it into Titcomb in only 8 hours, compared to our 10 hour jaunt breaking and packing down the trail. We celebrated his arrival with hot-drinks and nips from the bottle, and discussed our plans for the following day. Everyone was still fired up for Gannett, so we set our watch alarms for 3am, after dinner consisting of ramen and Tasty Bites.
Sleep ended way too early, but I rolled out of the sleeping bag like a soldier, fired up the stove and did my morning ritual that doesn’t seem to need coffee to get moving. We launched from camp with an up-beat tone at about 4:15 and started the march along the shores of Titcomb Lakes as the sky began to lighten. We spread out quickly, which usually isn’t a good sign, but we regrouped at the head of the basin and continued to make our way up to Bonney Pass.
On the way up to Bonney Pass, my legs and energy level deteriorated quickly and I resorted to rest-stepping for the entire 1,500′ climb. Clouds began to fill the sky, adding an ominous feel to the day and soon I found myself at the pass and staring at an amazing view of Gannett reflecting the early morning sun.
Having skied with Reed about a gazillion times, I knew right away by the look in his eye that he was feeling the effort of the previous day. Brian was a little more motivated, maybe since he hadn’t skied Gannett before (Reed and I have), but not enough to really push things and the weather, especially for only being 7:30am, was actually relatively threatening. The decision was easy and there was no way our mind and bodies were going to be able to focus on the planned objective. After about an hour of lingering at the pass, we pulled the plug and skied on rock-solid snow to the base of Bob’s Towers to re-asses.
At this point, I was pretty indifferent about the rest of the day, internally thinking about what to focus my sights on the following day, but Brian stayed focused and lured us up to a high point above Sphinx Glacier, which sits below Woodrow Wilson and The Sphinx. This was our first time into this zone, but I’ve admired the couloir that splits Woodrow Wilson’s summit massif and the cool wind ridge feature that forms on the glacier below. I knew my legs weren’t up for the 50+ degree couloir today, but at least skiing the wind-fin would be fun.
After a lunch break battling the wind on a ridge above 13k’, we clicked in and began our descent. Traversing to the skiers left, I arrived at the wind-fin, which was much more impressive up close. Its skier’s left side dropped steeply into cool gully and I watched as Reeders dropped in and make turns in the gut. It looked really cool, but I stayed high on the glacier and soaked up the views that I would say rivals any mountain vista in the world. The Wind River Range is truly a wild place and I like the fact that it is difficult to get back here to ski, which enhances the remote feeling you get when you are there.
Back in the basin, the temps began to soar as the sun’s rays reflected off the mass amounts of granite which tower up to the high peaks in the basin. The wind bringing in weather from the south also made staying hydrated nearly impossible and my head felt like a raisin by the time we reached camp. We all cashed out for a little while and on occasion, graupel pattered the mega-mid as we rested and recovered for the next day skiing in Titcomb Basin. To be continued…