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Sunshine TR


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Began hiking in to the route at 2am on Sunday the 29th and got to the base of the routes (both Sunshine and Elliot Headwall) at 4:30am. We were prepared for either route but we saw that there was an upper 'shrund running from above Horse Shoe Rock all the way across the headwall with a small place to pass on the right or left. Crossing that

would have been the crux, but the long traverse over to the middle of the headwall (on 50-60* ice) would have been tiresome as well. It looked like the route would have gone by linking ice fingers with only a little climbing on kitty litter but we decided that it looked less than fun.

We headed straight for H Shoe Rock and crossed the lower 'shrund on a little vertical ice and headed straight up. We found 3-4 sections of vertical ice 12' high or less which were no trouble with two tools. It was my first time using the new Rages and they pretty much did the climbing for me. We did not follow the Sunshine route proper since we did not angle right toward the ridge; we went straight up on 45* ice. The freezing level was 8000' so we had great cramponing on a fun mixture of alpine and water ice. We topped

out on Cathedral Ridge about 150' from the summit ridge and continued up on feathery

ice to the totally dry summit ridge. We looked down every major route on the mountain

except Cooper and Wy East and they all looked to be in great shape because of the

lowish freezing level. We heard only one small episode of rockfall when we were climbing up beside the Elliot Headwall.

The sky was clear for most of the night and only began to cloud up as we neared the summit. We went down the south side since we didn't want to downclimb the 1000'+ of

ice we had come up. The South Side route was interesting; the 'shrund is huge and you

can see the dirt at the bottom. There was one place to cross it where there was a bunch of ice wedged in the narrow part near the rocks to skier's right of the Pearly Gates.

I reccomend the route in late season when the freezing level is 8000' or lower. As the season wears on there may be a bit more rock/scree exposed but there was none on our climb until the summit ridge. In fact, I would not hesitate to climb the Sandy Headwall if the conditions were the same. The Sandy is pretty much the same -maybe a bit steeper in places. This year however, I don't think there is enough snow above the Elliot

Headwall to provide that elusive 1000' of water ice we were after.

We carried a full alpine rack and 13 screws but didn't rope up. If you go, (and want pro) carry a few screws for a running a belay and maybe a cut-off picket or two. The carryover took 8.5 hours with 6.5 being the upward portion.

Ignore the naysayers; do the route. It was a blast.

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