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[TR] Gunsight range - West face-north peak 7/25/2007


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Trip: Gunsight range - West face-north peak


Date: 7/25/2007


Trip Report:

Inspired by CC.com trip reports Jens (Holsten) and I got on a boat last week and headed towards the fabled gunsight range.




Though this website can sometimes be a waste of time, even a repository for spray and slander (mine own included) I feel sort of obligated to return the favor, as without the info gleaned here our trip may have never been. Anyway, enough bullshit.


The trail up Agnes creek was uneventful right up to five mile camp, where the trail crew had stopped. Immediately after this we encountered the aforementioned hundreds of blow-downs and developed a cowboy like posture after so much straddling. A light cloud cover didn't do a whole lot to abate the heat, but it was better than nothing. We had hoped (foolishly) to knock off the approach in a marathon afternoon, but after reaching the spruce creek turn off decided to bivy. This was a smart decision, as darkness would have found us stranded on a 50 degree hillside suffering in the rain. Instead we camped on the river and ducked in the tent when the light showers hit.


Not a whole lot to say about the next day, just some straight suffering up a hill. Blake and company humbly understated this phase of the journey, we were just glad to find the mountain. Several hours later we hopped onto the blue glacier in the afternoon heat, hoping not to get creamed by an ice fall. We walked right by what was to be our basecamp, intent on making it over to the chikamin. After some sketchy recon we discovered our mistake and settled in to one of the most amazing bivies ever.




Wednesday morning we ambled over the pass above our camp and roped up for the super loose step down onto the gigantor chikamin glacier. A mellow crampon session found us at the base of the west face, I only fell into one talus hole where I nearly lost control of my bowels. The route is gained off a rad traversing ledge which beats the hell out of some ungainly moat. As almost everyone else has said the rock quality is superb, if a bit grainy the higher you get. If this wall was a little closer to the road I don't think this would be the case. Anyway, I headed up just to the right of Blake's cairn and wound my way towards the fabled crux pitch.




It seems like Nelson and Dietrich (I think that's his name) veered right on the second pitch and climbed a very thin corner before moving back left to the belay which supposedly needs bolts. Again, no bolts were found in situ, leading us to conclude that Jim Nelson had a bad memory. The second belay would be more comfortable with bolts, but they certainly aren't necessary. Jens tentatively made his way upwards, made a tenuous move left of thin flakes and was still unconvinced that the pitch would succumb to our assault. However, move by move, he found unanticipated decent holds, good gear, more positive flakes (a trademark of this wild wall) and uncanny knobs, all of which took him past the crux to a well deserved victory whoop. Here he is crushing.






I also managed to scrap my way up this stellar pitch, which left us exhilarated but also a little nervous about the rest of the climb, which wasn't quite over yet. The next crack system looks sort of like a hand crack off the belay, unfortunately its a shallow flaring flake. It does accept gear however, and after a little bit of pansying around I commited to the steep lieback. Another flake follows the first, and I did a little more pansying, unsure if our relatively light alpine rack would get me to the next stance. Luckily the crack finally turns into hands, where I was able to recover enough to run it out to a little knob belay where I plugged in the last of my gear, the four camalot and a blue alien. Here's Jens following.




The final bit of steepness supposedly contained some crux wideness, which Jens so graciously allowed me to lead, but it ended up being a little less difficult than the third pitch, which didn't dissapoint me in the least. Jens led one more shorty to "flat ground" and we eventually found a way up onto the crazy summit blocks.




The library is about to close so I'm just going to leave it at that for now. I'll give everybody some time to slander and wrap it up when I get the chance. Suffice to say, the rock is good, almost as good as Index.




Maybe even better than Mt. Stuart.



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Neat pictures Max, fun to see. Aaron, we'll definetely have to climb is ze alpine soon. Also, I felt the crux pitch clocked in at about 11c, so 11+ is a good grade. Most importantly, the climbing is great and it's all there. Gastons, jams, knob pulling, jugs...a varied pitch, steep and fun. What a fantastic area, I cannot wait to go back.

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Nice work Jens and Max.


Re: Jim's memory... I remember wishing for bolts when I was leading pitch 2 especially after going for a 15' the day prior on it. I think everyone has shown the route goes with out them but as far as Jim's memory who cares... considering the breadth of Jim's accomplishments I can completely understand not being able to recall each exact detail of every climb.


Ratings... Does this sound right?








What did you think the fourth pitch was rated? Did you think the upper thin crack just above the wideness was the crux of that pitch?

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No disrespect whatsoever to the venerable Mr. Nelson, his accomplishments speak for themselves. It's just fun to knock guidebook authors for slightly inaccurate info, which I think is good and helps retain a spirit of adventure that guidebooks can sometimes kill.


Anyway, to wrap up our trip...

After topping out on the North peak and peering over the edge to the dark, rather foreboding east side Jens and I realized how little we knew about the descent. We rapped off a collection of old slings and considered scrambling/rappeling straight down the slabs below, but then thought better of it. We had the description for Gunrunner, so decided to go with a sure thing. Taking the path of least resistance (and most loose chozzel) we somehow avoided all the good rock in this section of the traverse, but we were pleased to tag the summit of Main and South gunsight. The newer rappel slings were all there as promised and though my rope is shy of 60m by about 20 feet we managed to rappel just far enough every time. The last one landed us in the moat and after stashing the rock gear and donning the glacier apparel we moseyed over to our camp, moving quickly through the slabalanche zone.


The descent proved a little brushier than the approach, but gravity was on our side and we reached the creek with smiles on our faces. I commenced to frolic in the water in my undies while the more sober Jens paused shoreside. A night spent at fivemile camp capped it off and we made the boat with time to spare for a beer in stehekin.


This part of the Cascades blew me away and I'm in awe of the pioneers in this region. The accomplishments of Beckey et al really start to become clear after such an undertaking. I'm also very impressed with your drive, John, to keep going back to that approach (4 times!!) is truly inspiring.


Per the ratings, that seems pretty accurate. I thought the third pitch was harder than the fourth, though I'm not sure where you belayed exactly. Maybe I was just expecting some heinous OW. My mental crux definitely came on P3, it's steep and pumpy and I really didn't want to blow it. I think I may have avoided that thin crack near the top by wandering to the right (guess we have to go back to get the real send). It looked good but I had summit fever aka path of least resistence mode.


That pretty much wraps it up, thanks for the positive comments and inspiration.



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Taking the path of least resistance (and most loose chozzel) we somehow avoided all the good rock in this section of the traverse, but we were pleased to tag the summit of Main and South gunsight.

The rock was a bit looser on that part of the traverse, but I think I was going more for the path of nice looking rock than the path of least resistance, which ended up being one good 5.8 or 5.9 pitch to the main peak, downclimbing, and about 2 somewhat loose low 5th pitches to the south peak (in the dark). Anyway, good job. :tup:

Edited by Dannible
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After climbing the west face Matt A and I did two double rap rappells down the North Ridge to a notch then two more down the west side. This brought us right back to the big ledge at the base of the route. Excellent descent with solid anchors, easy pulls and no loose stuff to mess with your ropes. Also ment we could leave our boots etc at the base of the climb.

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