Gunsight Peaks-West Face & South Ridge Date of Climb:
7/10/2006 Trip Report: Just The facts:
July 8-10 saw myself and John Frieh climb the North, middle, and South Gunsight Peaks. We did the 2nd ascent of the North Peak's W. Face (new route or variation of the 1986 route), and we believe our route on the South Peak was a new line entirely. It was a great trip to a very remote spot.The Narrative:
On the morning of the 8th, we set out from the Agnes Creek trail, and climbed to the Chickamin Glacier where we set up camp for a few days in the "Patagonia of the North Cascades."
We were really hot, tired, and dehydrated from the approach, but decided to give the 1986 Nelson/Dietrich route a try, on the towering West face. I led a 40m pitch of sustained 5.9 on awesome granite.
I climbed past two sets of bail gear, one of which we believe belonged to Forest Murphy's attempt a few years ago.
(He had previously told John that they were off-route). After stopping at a saucer-sized belay perch and bringing up John, he lead up about 20' to where a wide roof intersected our line and all cracks thinned out. I was nervously trying to balance on my one-foot belay ledge when I heard a sasquatch-like scream and saw John flying through the air. He had taken a ~20' fall and was luckily caught by a 1/2" cam he'd placed below the roof. We decided to call that our "recon" attempt and go back to the shade of our tent and re-hydrate.
On the 9th we braved the 5 minute approach back to the route, climbed back up to the first day's belay spot, and John led out again.
We were able to work together to ID a likely looking crack to get past our prior high spot, and some A1/A2 moves on hand-tied aiders got us past the roof and into a set of good looking flakes. The next pitch (#3) was my lead, and I started out with some free moves up to 5.10ish before resorting to A0 cam-hanging as the crack widened and flared. With a mix of aid and free moves I lead to the next belay and John got the security of a top-rope on a beautiful fist-jam flake pitch.
Too much fun...
For pitch four, the flake/corner system went through a couple of small roofs and continued to be fairly vertical the whole way. John was grateful for the #5 camalot as he climbed up more vertical granite to a belay at the first moderately comfy ledge on the face. I followed mostly free, but with some definite rope-tugging on sections as well.
From here I grabbed, the rack, and led straight up into P.5, a dark corner straight over our heads.
This was a really fun free lead for me, as I knew we were getting close, and the climbing was a good mix of stemming, face features, and crack jams. The top of the corner visible from the belay spot is the top of the route. You literally mantle up from the corner onto the flat summit terrace.
From the exit move atop P.5, you could easily flick a rock out a few feet and it would free-fall to the base of the wall.
We didn't see any of the three bolts used by the 1986 party, we climbed the wall in 5 pitches (as opposed to their 7) and we encountered bail gear of other climbers who felt that they were NOT on the previously established route. We don't know how much is shared between the two lines, but maybe Jim Nelson could add some input. It's rad to consider that the only other ascent of that face was done the year I was born.
After looking at the old summit register and reading the autograph of some guy named Fred Beckey, we scrambled to the North/Middle peak notch, and climbed a solid pitch of low-5th class to that summit as well.
On the 10th, John and I decided to try to climb the South Peak as well. From the Gunsight-Blizzard Col we climbed North along the ridge crest, before dropping off the ridge to the right. It would be best just to stay to the right of the ridge on easy snow and slab. Eventually we reached a clean right-facing corner and began the route. The corner went at 5.7, and I led up and continued to the ridge crest on cool chickenheads and face features and belayed up John.
From here John took the lead on a balancy and memorable traverse pitch across a giant cannonhole, and into the last notch before the South Peak.
From here, one more pitch of mid-fifth class led to the south summit. From this summit, you can rappel the last pitch, and then make one overhanging 90' rappel onto the snow down the east side. We're calling this the South Ridge - South Gunsight (Grade II, 5.7, 3 pitches)
Overall this was an amazing few days in the mountains. Thanks John Scurlock for the really inspirational photos!
(Scurlock's shot of the 3 summits) Gear Notes:
glacier gear, full set of nuts, full set of cams, pink tricam. Approach Notes:
Should have been a week or two later for ripe huckleberries.