A challenging alpine climb to a rarely visited summit in Wyoming's Wind River Range that took two attempts to complete
The Sphinx, Mount Woodrow Wilson, and Pinnacle Ridge preside over the west side of Dinwoody Glacier in early morning. We're stopping for minor adjustments shortly after leaving our camp at a small tarn labeled Elk Lake on my map.
Gannett Peak, the highest point in Wyoming, as seen from Dinwoody Glacier. The famous Gooseneck Glacier is obvious.
Turret Peak (far left) is located at the end of the southeast finger of Dinwoody Glacier. It shares a saddle (known as Elsie Col) with Mount Warren which is the summit directly to the right. Dinwoody Peak is somewhere to the right of Mount Warren.
The Sphinx and Mount Woodrow Wilson as seen from Dinwoody Glacier. We climbed these from the opposite side (Titcomb Basin) a few days later. The route we climbed on the Sphinx is the ridge on the right side (northwest ridge). It ended up being easier than expected - 4th class with a few 5.0ish moves. We scaled Mount Woodrow Wilson via a steep couloir on the south face which can't be seen from this side.
Turret Peak and Mount Warren as seen on the trek toward Elsie Col.
It was an easy snow climb to Elsie Col. Later in the season this becomes scree and ice and crevasses are visible.
Dominic and Adam poke around at the start of Turret's west ridge. They're ready to tackle the task at hand.
Adam and Teresa scramble along the beginning of Turret's west ridge as Mount Warren dominiates the scene.
Turret Peak's impressive west ridge (right) as seen from just east of Elsie Col. The steepest part of the ridge near Elsie Col (more of an arete at this point) is avoided by climbing steep, but easier rock to the left. The knife edge ridge crest is then regained several hundred feet above the col and the rest of the route is more or less along the top.
Bonney's vague route description was all we had to go on. He starts out with: "To turn the lower part of the arete, traverse left into a couloir, then back to the ridge up a subsidiary couloir..." We took this to be that first couloir. We made a hard right near rhe start of the snow into what we believed was the subsidiary couloir. It can't really be made out in this picture, but its just a bit past where Adam is standing.
Teresa negotiating the initial part of the couloir. Pinnacle Ridge and Gannett Peak can be seen in the background.
Adam climbing some steep 4th class terrain on the right side of the initial couloir. Some of the west ridge's many pinnacles can be seen high above him.
Dominic and Teresa scramble up steep section of 4th class rock to reach easier terrain above.
We took this to be the "subsidiary couloir" in the route description. A bit of 3rd & 4th class scrambling (with arguably one or two 5.0ish moves) took us up the slightly icy gully until we came to a natural exit point on the right side. This is the point at which we roped up and the climbing became harder.
Teresa near the minor crux of the subsidiary couloir as seen from the exit point above. The initial snow-filled couloir can be seen below.
Dominic leading up the first roped pitch in an attempt to regain the ridge crest above. He and Jim led the toughest pitches and were happy to have rock shoes. The rest of us wore either approach shoes, light boots, or trailrunners and did OK. Fortunately there wasn't much smearing required.
Jim leads up behind Dominic on a different rope.
Dominic topping out on the exposed knife edge ridge, a spooky place to be! Pinnacle Ridge and Gannett Peak can be seen in the background.
Jim leading what would turn out to be the crux pitch. After regaining the crest we were forced to climb on its left side for a bit on sketchy rock.
The weather took a rapid turn for the worse. While anchored in to the exposed ridge we heard the loudest buzzing of our lives. There was nothing we could do but set up a rappel and bail. It began snowing heavily. Here Dominic miserably awaits his turn to rappel.
Dominic on a double rope rappel down the subsidiary couloir.
Teresa rappelling the bottom of the subsidiary couloir back to the initial, larger couloir. A rappel wouldn't have been completely necessary if the rock wasn't wet.
The following day we returned for a second attempt. Here Jim is making the last moves to regain the exposed knife edge ridge once again.
Dominic leading up the crux pitch on the left side of the ridge with a belay from Adam. Loose rock made it a scary undertaking.
Jim squirms his was up the crux pitch for a second time. He was the only one who made it this far before we bailed the day before.
Once we regained the ridge at the end of the short crux pitch we found easier climbing - 3rd, 4th and easy 5th class terrain often with much exposure. We remain roped up for the rest of the climb to the summit.
Adam belays Teresa up some of the ridge's easier terrain while I climb behind her on a different rope with a belay from Dominic. Jim gets a brief rest.
Turret Peak has two main summits and Bonney and Kelsey both state that the southern one is highest. Most of the reason we chose the west ridge route was because it supposedly deliveres one directly to the south summit without having to pass over other gendarmes. Here Jim is leading what we believe may be the final pitch. Another summit with a cairn just out of sight on the right has us mildly concerned.
After gaining the southern summit we were convinced that the northern one was actually taller - it had a cairn and Jim's sight level indicated it was higher. Much cursing of certain authors ensued. The climb of the true summit looked difficult, but Jim led down to the notch between the two to check it out. Amazingly he reported that it look OK. Here Dominic is leading that final pitch. It turned out to be 5.0 - 5.2, a relief.
Jim enjoying a short breather on the hard earned summit.
Adam making the final easy moves to the summit. It was a happy feeling indeed.
Dominic, Teresa, Adam and Jim on the summit of Turret Peak basking in a great accomplishment. There's no time for rejoicing though as the weather is looking iffy and we still have a heck of a lot of work ahead of us.
A single rope, 30 meter rappel got us back down to the notch between the two summits.
Adam leading back up easy terrain from the notch to the southern summit. I'm still waiting for my turn to rappel off the true summit and into the notch. With five reople and three ropes we tried to move as efficiently as possible.
We employed various tactics to traverse, downclimb, and rappel parts of the ridge to get back to the crux pitch and couloir system. Thanks to Adam, Jim and Dominic for downclimbing some of the easier pitches to make things more pleasant for the rest of us.
Mighty Gannett Peak as seen from Turret Peak's west ridge.
Double rope rappel down the subsidiary couloir.
Teresa making the last short rappel back into the initial couloir. We could have downclimbed here if we had to but since our rappel anchor was already in place from the previous day, all of us except Dominic rappelled. He cleaned the anchor before making the short downclimb.