2020 – Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range, Wyoming

The purpose of our trip to the Wind River Range was to summit a mountain called Gannet Peak. At 13,810 feet, Gannett Peak is the tallest mountain in the state of Wyoming. We had climbed tall mountains before such as Long’s Peak, but this mountain was on another level. Gannett is in a very remote location. It takes multiple days of hiking just to get within range of making a summit bid. In addition, you must climb steep sections of mountain that are covered in snow, traverse glaciers, and cross snow bridges. My Dad had watched some videos of other people completing the summit and felt confident we could do it. Hayden and I were very nervous about the preposition.

In order to get to Wyoming we flew into Salt Lake City, rented a car, and drove over to the Wind River Range. On the drive over my Dad could not stop yelling, “UTAH!”. We got there when the sun was setting and popped our tents in a campsite right next to the parking lot. The next day we started hiking! For how remote this location was, it was surprising how many people were out on the trail. We passed all sorts of people, rangers, and trains of horses/mules. The trail was well maintained and we went up and down some rolling hills. After covering 10 miles, we had made it to our campsite at Seneca lake. We brought a can of refried beans to make bean burritos, but we forgot a can opener. This led to us smashing the can with rocks and ice axes until it finally sort of opened. Also, after we setup camp a friendly couple name Matt and Kayla made their own camp next to us along with their two dogs. One dog was a bloodhound that sounded like a locomotive when it was hiking up hill and the other dog looked like a husky and it would growl at you if you stopped petting it. Kayla told us about another person who set up in the area that seemed confused. He kept asking people where his tent was when it was sitting 10 feet away from him. We weren’t exactly sure what was wrong with him, but it’s possible he was completely exhausted or struggling with altitude. In any case, it’s dangerous for somebody to be wandering around the woods in that kind of state, so Kayla decided to call for help via her sat phone. The next day at about 5am we woke to a distant noise. It was a rescue helicopter! Everyone scrambled to get there cameras recording. About a minute after I poked my head out of my tent, the chopper flew right overhead and landed a couple hundred yards away. The wind force from the blades actually snapped one of my tent poles! It was all very dramatic and kind of exciting, but in the end the man refused to consent to being rescued and the rescue workers had no choice but to leave empty handed. I have no idea how things turned out for that guy.

Our hike on day 2 took us deep into Titcomb basin. Along the way we passed numerous mountain lakes, clouds of butterflies, and fields that were empty except for boulders randomly strewn about akin to the way a toddler leaves their toys out. It’s called a basin because your are surrounded by mountain ridges on all sides.

At the end of Titcomb basin, the only path forward is to go up and over the ridge. An area referred to as Bonny Pass. The way people summit Gannett Peak is by camping out just below Bonny Pass and then the next day you leave super early in the morning climb out of the basin via Bonny Pass. This is when Gannett Peak first comes into view. Then you must descend down the other side of Bonny. The bottom of Bonny Pass and Gannett Peak are separated by Glacier fields. You must traverse Dinwoody Glacier. Between Dinwoody Glacier and Gannett is a Bergschrund which is a large clifflike crack between the glacier and mountain. There is an ice bridge the spans Bergschrund until it melts sometime later in the year. Once you’ve tackled all of these obstacles you get to start the actual mountain climb which involves 3000 snowy feet of elevation gain. Then you have to go all the way back the same way to the original camp on the otherside of Bonny Pass. For average climbers this entire trek takes about 20 hours and people often start the trek around midnight or 2am.

As we hiked deeper into Titcomb Basin and Bonny Pass came into view I knew immediately that I would not be going over that pass. The ridge was very steep and covered in a wall of ice. We would have to use our crampons and ice axes to safely ascend it. My Dad had down played the technicality of this part the whole time. He said the ice axes and crampons were mostly precautionary and we probably wouldn’t even need them. As I stared at Bonny Pass, I kept repeating, “We can’t do that. It’s way to dangerous.” My Dad was determined to go for it, but in the end my brother and I convinced him to call an audible and do something different. We never even saw Gannett Peak! To this day my Dad is adamant that we could have summited the mountain. I know that I am capable of climbing it, but it is an incredibly technical and arduous climb. I would never attempt it without having either put way more time and practice into using all the tools necessary to complete a climb of that nature or had an experienced local guide to lead the expedition. Also, while my family enjoys doing some tough hikes, I’ve realized that there is a limit to how much hiking we enjoy doing. 20 hours of hiking is at least 10 more hours than I want to do in a day. An ideal day is leaving at 7am and setting up camp around 3 or 4pm.

In the end, we decided to scramble up some nearby steep terrain and just explore the area. We ended up climbing to a glacier and getting to walk around on it. We also found a formation that we could climb atop and get a great view of the basin below. We took some great pictures/videos and had a really good time up there. When we had our fill of the high mountains we returned to camp, ate some lunch, and started hiking back out of the basin. Matt and Kayla had shared with Hayden the coordinates of the location where they planned to camp this day. It was a campsite at Island Lake, so we made a beeline right for it. When we got there Matt and Kayla’s tent was exactly where they said it would be and we got to spend another day hanging out with them and their pups! It was really nice to put the stress of Gannett Peak behind us and this part of the trip was really enjoyable. After our stay at Island Lake we hiked to another campsite just a few miles from the trailhead. My brother and I had a good time trying to get creative shots for the video we planned to make about the trip. We shot different timelapses of us breaking camp or the clouds going by overhead. We continued to see tons of dogs, horses, and mules on the trail. The last day only took about 2 hours for us to hike out back to our car.

After the backpacking trip we drove back to Salt Lake City and we even had an extra day to explore a little bit. We visited a history museum at the University of Utah, the giant Mormon temple, the Delta Center where the Utah Jazz play, and we ate some great food. The end.