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Sunlit Summit

Mount Koven

Elevation: 13,293 ft.

Prominence: 448 ft.

Isolation: 0.8 miles

Technical Difficulty: Class 5.0

Mount Koven Guidebook


From the summit of Gannet, an array of impressive peaks is visible circling the horizon, but Gannett’s northern neighbor blends into its surroundings, just another low, jagged ridge. Yet the view from Gannet Glacier or Scott Lake tells a different story: Koven stands up as a sharp serrated blade, overshadowing the higher peaks with sheer ferocity. This summit is a narrow slice of rock standing precipitously above the void. The peak was named after Theodore Koven, who made many early Wind River ascents with his brother Gustav and Paul Petzoldt. After Theodore died on Denali, Petzoldt and partners named this peak in his memory on the first ascent.

General Considerations

No matter the route choice, Koven is one of the hardest and most remote Wyoming 13ers. It has been climbed from both western (Scott Lake) and eastern (Glacier Trail) approaches, though the eastern Gannett Glacier approach is usually preferred. Note that the Gannett Glacier has large crevasses fields. Approaches to this peak are as demanding as a major climb themselves, and are described separately before the summit routes. In the early season, a very serious, fickle snow route bypasses some of the major difficulties and offers a class 5.0 route to the summit, but by mid-summer, the rock difficulty is 5.4 or higher by all established routes.

Approach A: Gannett Glacier – Class 2, Moderate Snow

From the Glacier Trail crossing of Gannett Creek just above Floyd Wilson Meadows, leave the trail and bushwhack west to treeline. There are some cairns on the north side of Gannett Creek. Be careful not to be tricked into following the unnamed tributary which joins Gannett Creek just above the trail crossing. From treeline, clamber through the unstable moraine towards the glacier. Numerous options present themselves for gaining the upper Gannet Glacier; one recommendation is described.

From the moraine below Bastion’s east face (above a snowmelt tarn), a snow or scree chute leads to the tiny saddle west of Point 12025. From this saddle, a short step brings you to the upper plateau of the Gannett Glacier, where climbers can follow an ascending traverse to skirt above the main icefall (beware of crevasses regardless) and reach the base.

Approach B: From Bastion Peak – Class 2, Moderate Snow

Descending Bastion’s Route 3 delivers one to the upper slopes of the Gannett Glacier immediately adjacent to Mount Koven. In early season, snow fills the broad couloir reaching nearly to the eastern subsummit of Rampart, but in late season it melts out to unpleasant scree and dirty ice. See the description under Bastion Peak for more details.

Approach C: Western Gullies – Class 4

From Skinny Lake (Lake 10795) above Scott Lake, one group accessed Koven via a steep couloir which cuts through cliffs below the Bastion-Koven col and gains the Divide at the base of Koven’s west ridge, calling it the “Russian Roulette Couloir” and recommending that future climbers avoid this approach due to unstable scree with dangerous voids.

Koven has also been climbed and descended from the west via an improbable fractured gully system that reaches the Divide just south of the base of Koven’s south ridge, at the Koven-Sachem saddle (Sachem is the unofficial name for the small summit between Koven and Gannett). From the cirque below the base of the Minor Glacier, which harbors an unnamed lake, weave through slabs, talus slopes, and grassy ledges towards the base of Koven’s imposing western face. Find the base of the right-angling gully system; from here, several hundred feet of loose scree, broken up with class 4 slab cruxes, delivers you to the base of the south ridge.

Route 1: Southeast Face – Class 5.2, Very Serious Snow

In the right conditions, this is likely to be the easiest route to the top, but it should not be underestimated. In the early season, before too much melt occurs, a steep snow couloir leads directly up from the Gannett Glacier through the peak’s eastern rock face, reaching the south ridge just south of the last major gendarme.

Once on the ridge, the large gendarme can be bypassed by ledges on its west. Look sharp to find the easiest route through the final summit difficulties by exploring convoluted blocky terrain just east of the crest (low 5th class). Depending on one’s comfort with steep, exposed snow climbing, the lower face may feel considerably harder than the rock crux.

When the snow has melted, the underlying rock of the southeast face is class 5.5, consisting of loose, sandy climbing around unstable overhanging blocks. The author made the mistake of climbing this route in September and would not recommend it to anyone once melted due to the plethora of steep, loose terrain. In mid- and late-summer, the north or south ridge routes should be used instead.

Route 2: South Ridge – Class 5.4, Moderate Snow

This route has emerged as somewhat of a standard way to gain the summit of Koven since it is the easiest route that avoids the fickle, steep, and ephemeral snow of Route 1. However, Koven’s south ridge demands respect: even experienced climbers tend to pitch out portions of this route. The terrain is so fractured, and the routefinding so intricate, that multiple parties are unlikely to follow exactly the same path; what follows is a general outline of what to expect, not a step-by-step guide. Depending on the exact route chosen, climbers have reported difficulties anywhere between 5.0 and 5.5, but the consensus tends to the upper end of this range.

From the upper Gannett Glacier, begin an upward traverse along the east side of the south ridge, only rarely climbing on or near the ridge crest. Some parties have stayed entirely on the east, but ledges and chimneys on the west side of the ridge offer alternative ways to bypass the ridgetop gendarmes in some cases. The terrain includes a mix of slabs, bulges, blocks, and crack/chimney systems. The exposure is usually severe on both the east and west sides of the ridge.

About halfway up, it is possible to climb closer to the ridge crest, threading between dramatic pinnacles. Alternatively, at least one climber has reported finding scrambling terrain on interconnected ledge systems entirely below the ridge crest on the east side. One way or another, continue climbing until you reach the top of the major snow gullies that form Route 1, from which the summit is close at hand.

Route 3: North Ridge – Class 5.5, Moderate Snow

An even more serious technical challenge can be found by climbing Koven’s north ridge from its saddle with Rampart. The crux reportedly consists of a slabby west-side traverse pitch, and much of the remaining route is easier.

Mount Koven Map

Click title to show track
East Face / South Ridge Route
Full South Ridge Route
North Ridge Route

Mount Koven Panorama

Mount Koven Photos

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