Tim Weydeveld and Steve Romeo skin towards
the North Face of Gannett Peak on the Gannett Glacier.
It pretty much snowed all night and we spent a lot of time banging on the sides of the Megamid and packing the snow around it’s sides so we wouldn’t be engulfed as the snow piled up it’s sides. We lingered in the tent until close to 8am, but when I emerged I saw what looked like to be clearing skies. A cry of “bluebird” rustled the rest of the crew and soon we were all up ant at it, making coffee and eating oatmeal.
Since the weather was marginal the night before, we didn’t really have a plan for the day, but after a brief pow-pow, we decided to head up the Gannett Glacier in the direction of the North Face of Gannett. We had to descend a little bit in order to catch the draining up to the Glacier. Soon enough though, we were out of the thicker trees and pointing our ski tips to the west and back uphill.
Views entering the Gannett Glacier drainage.
It was great to be skinning up the Gannett Glacier and it looked like about 4-6 inches had fallen overnight at the higher elevations. As we ascended, I was getting excited because it seemed like there was a good chance we might be able to nail the North Face…which to me…would have been icing on the cake for the trip.
As we got higher and higher…things looked better and better, the sun was blazing though and we all stopped top lather on the sunscreen. Looking to the east though, we saw low level clouds and precipitation moving up the canyon. I continued to charge towards the face though…trying to stay positive.
Photo: Jeramie Prine
Randosteve heads towards the North Face of Gannett Peak
To me…conditions seemed almost perfect, with a bit of fresh on top of a smooth crust. A delicious recipe for ski (or freeski) mountaineers. Though maybe a bit on the warm side and some threatening weather moving in, the stoke factor was high. As we got closer to the face, I could see the hesitation in the rest of the team. We stopped for a bit below the face to discuss our options.
Photo: Jeramie Prine
Randosteve makes turns on Gannett Glacier.
We were so close to the summit, I felt like we could almost touch it. The route looked in pretty good shape…like most of the pictures I had seen of it. A steep, open face, bisected by a cliffband that looked like it would require a little side stepping and slipping to get through. Granted it was a little intimidating considering our location, far from civilization, but I was confident we could do it. However, as we discussed the plan, snow started to peal off the rocks above.
After hemming an hawing for a while about whether to continue, I finally gave in and decided that with the current heat and approaching weather (kind of a catch 22), the risk was a little too high to be booting up the face with a bunch of fresh snow hanging above our heads. The rest of the crew tended to agree…so we pulled the plug.
Jeramie feeling small in the Winds.
The skiing back to camp was some of the best turns I have had in at least a month. Big, open terrain, amongst outstanding scenery, with cowboy powder to boot and we were able to open it up making big and fast turns…chewing up vertical quickly. Tim and I stayed high and right towards the bottom the canyon, making a big traverse back to camp so we wouldn’t have to put our skins back on while Jeramie and Chris continued downward and followed the route we had taken in the morning.
One of many snow storms during the trip.
It was early afternoon when we got back to camp and it wasn’t very long until the snow really started falling again and we were back in the tents, getting ready for what looked like a long stretch of trying to stay dry. A small break in the weather allowed up to wolf down some grub, before settling in for the night. When morning came, it looked like 6-8 inches of new snow had fallen over night, which would really bump the avalanche danger upward. Considering the think clouds and low visibility at high elevations, in addition to the new snow, the consensus was to pack up and start the slog back the trailhead and hopefully be able to contact the “guide” for a pick up a day early.
The snow fell off and on as we moved out the canyon and along Dinwoody Creek and the winds ripped up high, sounding like a jet engine. We set up camp near the junction of the Ink Wells and Glacier trails just as the weather seemed to bump up to a higher, nastier level. Quickly, we had a fire going and started to eat most of the remaining food we had to lighten the load as much a possible before head back up and over Scenic Pass the next morning.
Camp near the junction of the Glacier and Ink Wells trails.
It was back to teton-style as we made our way up steep terrain to the Ink Wells area and the wind sounded even fiercer than the day before. As we got closer and closer to Scenic Pass, the vis got worse and worse…making navigation a little tricky. Chris and Tim had a GPS with them which help reassure us that we were headed in the right direction. Our progress slowed down greatly as we got closer to the trailhead though, with the new snow covering our tracks and the trail we had come in on. I started to get a little frustrated while a searched for the route, finally finding the trail and easing my nerves.
Finding the easiest way up to Ink Wells.
Unfortunately, the cell phone didn’t have any service at the Cold Springs trailhead, so we were forced to camp in the water logged high meadow and what looked like poop from nearly every mammal in existence. Finding drinkable water without boiling seemed grim and I crawled into the Megamid, keeping to myself and trying to make the morning and our pickup time come quicker.
Deteriorating weather approaching Scenic pass.
The sun welcomed us in the am and I got out of the tent and relit the fire, spending some quality alone time soaking up the heat. Soon enough, the rest of the boys got out of bed and we repacked our backpacks on last time. Our pickup came 15 minutes late and for a little while, kept us wondering if it was even going to show up. Considering the weather, I feel like we were lucky to even summit Gannett and this trip and it felt great to have skied the highest peak in Wyoming. Thanks to Jeramie Prine for the invite and to Chris and Tim for the company and entertainment. As always, a trip into the Winds is always and adventure and I look forward the next one.