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Gannett Peak

Wind River Range
The Wind River Range

Hidden deep in the Wind River Range, high above jumbled moraine and glacial ice, towers Gannett Peak, Wyoming’s highest mountain straddles the boundary between Fremont and Sublette Counties along the Continental Divide.

Gannett Peak, Wind River Mountains
Gannett Peak, Tallest Mountain in Wyomng

Geographically, Gannett Peak is the apex of the entire Central Rockies, the largely continuous group of the chain occupying the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Named in 1906 for American geographer Henry Gannett, the peak is also the highpoint of the Wind River Range. The mountain slopes are located in both Bridger-Teton National Forest and Shoshone National Forest. Gannett is also the highest peak within what is better known as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The 896-acre Gannett Glacier, which is likely the largest single glacier in the American portion of the Rocky Mountains, flows down from the northern slopes of the mountain. Minor Glacier is situated in the western cirque of the peak while Dinwoody and Gooseneck Glaciers can be found on the southeast side of the mountain. When high on the mountain one could imagine they were in Alaska because of all the glacier action.

Gannett is situated on the border between two large wilderness areas, the Bridger and the Fitzpatrick. The mountain is the most remote of all the state high points in the lower 48 states. Using the primary route, it is a 40-mile round-trip to the summit from the trailhead. As such it is almost always climbed as part of a backpacking trip, although I know three guys who did it round trip from the car as a day trip. The climb involves trail hiking, cross-country hiking and scrambling, and glacier travel. It was first climbed in 1922. The trip includes traversing glaciers that contain deep crevasses that in early spring that can lay hidden under a coat of shallow snow. Ropes, crampons, ice axes and the knowledge on proper usage are essential.

Gannett Peak is a remote and rugged mountain 25 miles north-northeast of Pinedale, reaching it requires a two-day approach through some of the most beautiful areas in the Wind River Mountains. Gannett Peak is commonly climbed on a four to six day round-trip and is considered amongst mountaineers as second only to Alaska's Mount McKinley in difficulty of state high points. However, many climbers rank Gannett Peak behind both Mount McKinley and Montana's Granite Peak, which, in 1923, was the last state high point climbed.

To make the trip more enjoyable, it is also recommended hiring porters or pack animals to haul gear. Guides and services are available in Pinedale, Jackson Hole and Dubois.

Be aware that this is very remote country, and potential dangers are part of the wilderness experience. You must be prepared to take care of yourself in case of an accident. Help is a long ways away, and you cannot count on your cell phone being able to have reception out to call for help. It is wise to ravel with at least one other person and log a travel plan with a friend on where you are going and when you will return. Know basic first aid and carry a first aid kit. The most common dangers in the high reaches of the Bridger Wilderness are high altitude sickness, hypothermia, and dehydration.

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