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[TR] Gunsight, Dome, Sinister - SW Face, NE Face, Chickamin Glacier, N. Face 7/18/2013


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Trip: Gunsight, Dome, Sinister - SW Face, NE Face, Chickamin Glacier, N. Face


Date: 7/18/2013


Trip Report:

From July 18-24 2013 Mason G., Thad N., and I spent three days camped just east of the glorious Gunsight Mountain climbing it and the surrounding peaks.


When you are faced with an approach that takes two days it is only logical to spend at least that much time climbing at your destination right? So for a two day approach three days of climbing completely makes sense until day 5 or 6 when your body starts to wonder why you are treating like it owes you money!

This trip is most definitely inspired by previous trip reports on this site of fellow CC.comer heading out to the Gunsight range via Stehekin to experience inclement weather, long approaches, and suffering at its pinnacle. Sounds like a great idea and fortunately we had AMAZING weather during our stay at this wonderful remote location.


Thursday, July 18 Day 1-

Logistics. This is the day you make your way through the rigmarole of catching a boat and shuttle and working your way through the unexpected masses of tourists heading out to Stehekin on A Sunny Thursday morning. I think there were over 100 people on the Lady express that morning. We left Everett at 5:30 AM and caught the ferry at 8:30 AM arriving at Stehekin at 11:00 am, caught the 11:15 AM Bus, NOT the 11:20 the driver was VERY clear on that, and started hiking out at around 12:30 or 1:00 PM.


On the approach to Stehekin.

After the 8 mile bus ride we hiked the 8.6 miles up to Swamp Creek camp and called it a day at around 5 PM. It can't have imagined trying to get to high camp the same day.


Hanging out at Swamp Creek Camp.


Friday, July 19 Day 2-

Today was the day of leaving the civilized PCT trail and heading up the South side of Asa Mountain to get to our high Camp, described by previous reports of trips to the area. The approach definitely circumvented a lot of slide alder, but did not disappoint when it came to the vertical gain of steep rocky slopes.

We headed up the trail about 8-10 minutes and crossed at the first big log.


Pretty sure its the same log pictured in JasonG's trip report.


From here it is a short bit of slide alder, only 400 vertical feet or so, and on to glorious open slopes up to the ridge line. 04_bush_wack.JPG

Slide alder and vine maple, it was a bit of a fight to get through. :battlecage:



Short section of slide alder we came up and across.



Great views up Agnes Creek. Some good granite slab on the right with a short easy approach, go get that developed!



We came across this sweet little snow patch at about 4800 feet and was able to fuel up on water and take a break from the sun.



Thad cruising up the final rocky section with his hefty hefty back pack.


When we finally gained the ridge the great mountain views began to materialize and our future days goals were in sight.



The good side of Agnes can be seen on the approach and we thought we might climb it until we saw the other side that you actually climb on, not quite as aesthetic looking.



First views of Gunsight with the iconic cannonhole and Sinister on the left in the background.



We set up camp at the site recommended in Tom Sjolseths TR, it was a nice spot and had great views of Glacier Peak.


Saturday, July 20 Day 3-

After an approach that was only about 2 miles long but had us gaining 4000+ feet in the blazing sun and took almost 8 hours we decided to go for something a little easy the next day. We set our sites on the SW face of Gunsights Middle peak (main summit) based on Fred Beckys description of the route as Sustained and aesthetic 5.6. What could beat sustained 5.6. What we found was the SW face that is loaded with options for climbing. I can't say we followed his route but what we climbed was quite enjoyable. From our camp we headed out around 6:30 AM and cruised through the Gunsight col. at the south end of the range and crossed around to the west side of Gunsight.


First views of Sinister and Dome from the Gunsight notch.


We traversed north above the Chickamin glacier and headed for the gully between the south and middle peaks. After simuling up the loose and chossy gully I headed left up a loose face at the second chockstone and cut left again around a left facing corner to hit the lowest part of the face along the climbers left edge of the face. From here we stuck along the ridge crest for two pitches of good quality alpine climbing.





Gunsight west face. Started climbing at snow finger in middle of picture.



Starting up the gully towards the SW face.



Loose face on climbers left in the gully.



Mason Cruising the second pitch on the SW face toward the summit.


Now a little summit pron.



Tomorrows Activities.


Glacier peak of course.


From here it was one rap down to the top of the gully and one more rap down the east side of the mountain and back to our site.



Rapping from the south middle peak notch down to the Blue Glacier. It is a VERY chossy gully.


My original idea for the trip was to camp at the saddle between Icy creek and what I 've been calling Blue lake for some reason. Unfortunately after the big approach climb we were so tired we couldn't bring ourselves to finish off the last mile. But we had big alpine plans for the next day so in order to get an earlier start with less of an approach we dumped our gear at the saddle and went back to the original camp site and moved our stuff up to the Icy creek saddle cutting 1 mile of the approaches for the next two days. It proved to be an invaluable move.


Sunday July 21 Day 4-

This was our big alpine day. Today we were getting our alpine start and leaving the rock shoes at camp for a two summit push. We had our eyes set on the N. Face of Sinister and the Chickamin Glacier on Dome. Both routes were super fun alpine adventures that made for a full day of snow with steep slopes crevasse navigation and big glacier travel. We set the alarm for 3:30, alarm being my brain since my watch alarm did not ever seam to wake me, and left camp with the rising sun at around 4:30.

We made a b-line for the N. face of sinister hoping to make an early summit so we could push on to Dome.



N. Face of Sinister from Dome peak. The line heads up on the left side of the bergschrund at mid slope and stays consistent at about 60 degrees for 1200 feet and doesn't let up until you are about 60 feet from the summit. It is a straight burn and churn alpine push. We placed on mental picket at the schrund and otherwise simul soloed the whole beast in just under 1 hour. No stopping on a slope like this, just get er done!



Leading along just past the schrund.



Looking down the slope, a little perspective.

We each had two tools per say, but it was mostly plunging the ice axe and kicking steps, great snow climbing conditions with maybe two or three icy steps in total.

We hit the summit at 9:30 AM enjoying the great views from a summit that seems to be visited much less then it's slightly taller neighbor.



Thad riding the summit block.



I found this piece of tat sitting right next to the register. I have never seen a piece of webbing in such condition. I ripped it apart with my hands. It seems to me that if you can carry it to the summit you can carry it out, which is what I did.



Here's a few CC.comers that have made this trip. I think these guys were one of the last to sign the register before us. Mason gives a special shout out to his former instructor Steve Trent at the Skagit Alpine Club Teaching climbers to drink since 1896!


From here it was on to the next objective of the day Dome via the Chickamin Glacier


It would involve some route finding to get there. Fortunately we had a great view of the entire route and I was able to map it all out in my head except for the final section up to the summit.


First we had to get off Sinister so we descended the west ridge then headed north only to hit a Crevasses that was blocking our descent. After a short rappel on the west side of the crevasse we headed west and began making our way up the glacier. We had set a turn around time of 2:00 PM which was perfect and right about when we hit the summit of Dome.



Contemplating some large crevasses along the way.



This is the final crevasse we had to cross before heading up the last snow field to the summit. Originally I wanted to head out at the far left of the crevasse and when we got there to check it out I looked up a soft 60-70 degree snow slope with a fall down a 1000+ foot rock band onto a crevassed glacier. I thought better of the path and we headed back to the west end of the crevasse and we were able to climb one roped pitch over a steep snow bridge with flat snow and deadman anchors at the top and bottom of the crevasse.



Heading up the final snow field to the summit block which was a rocky scramble for the last 100 feet or so.



Hanging out on the summit block which has a fun exposed ridge traverse to access the true summit.



Good summit shot of Mason.


We left the summit at 2:45 or so after hanging out and enjoying views for about a half hour. We did a protected downclimbed of the last crevasse we crossed and headed down the easier part of the glacier and back to camp



Downclimbing around the crevasse snow bridge.



Parting shot of Dome peak from the flats of the Chickamin Glacier


We got back to camp at 7:00 or so exhausted from the long day but with a great feeling of accomplishment that everything was going so well on the trip.


Relaxing at camp after a long day in the alpine.

The following day would be the coup de gras if we could pull it off.


Monday July 22 Day 5-


We were pretty trepidatious about what to do on our last climbing day. We were all very tired at this point so we knew we weren’t going to get an early start. Thad and I had both had our eyes on the NE face route put up by Sol and Martins in 06, but Mason isn't that strong of a rock climber. Somehow though we convinced ourselves that we could just climb a pitch and still bail if we didn't like it. Some kind of one pitch at a time thing. We kept this mentality going until low and behold I was hangdogging my way through the crux and bringing the boys up the amazing slab pitch on high.



East face of Gunsight from the Blue Glacier. Sol really picked out a gem on this face. Great cracks and stunning position.



Thad working the double cracks on the first pitch. IMHO this pitch was a slap to the face and was almost as hard as the described crux. No warm up for this short but sustained crack pitch.



Heading through the crux on pitch 3. wild stemming on thin nuts in an amazing position just blew my mind once I figured out the sequence.



Thad getting in the amazing corner crack on pitch 4. This pitch leads to a semi-hanging belay that is tight for three. It can be easily linked with the next pitch for a great long pitch and I wish I had.



Mason following the great thin hands corner on pitch 4.


No shots of the actual crux of the climb as you can't see it from the anchors. I was able to get it with some hang dogging. Crucial advice would be to save a #1 for the splitter on the face.



In alot of ways this was my favorite pitch. It is such a clean slab in amazing position. It is definitely R rated as I was only able to get about one good piece for the length of the pitch, but it was right near the hardest climbing and the friction was spectacular. We also cleaned 5 alpine draws form what I am assuming was a party that bailed in 2010 and mentioned it on Mt. project. Can't say it was booty as it looked pretty weather worn, but it went in the pack to be taken out.



Mason cruising around the left side of the slab were you traverse to join up with the SW face.


From here we had to do two pitches, one long and one short to reach the summit. I though it might be due to the fact that we were using 50 meter ropes, but at the end of the first pitch it appeared that another 10 wouldn't get you to the summit. The climbing along here went at about 5.8, in hindsight I would have traversed for a pitch then headed straight up to the summit instead of hugging the ridge line.


We hit the summit around 5 PM quite satisfied with the days work and how well everything went. It didn't take us that much longer to climb this route then the SW face.



This is my interpretation of the route we took and the belay locations based on Sol's description in Mt. Projects.



From the summit we followed the same rap line down to the Blue glacier as we took the first day.


The only task we were left with was retrieving bags from the base of the climb, which became a bit more of an adventure then we intended, but one always has to save the best for last. Note to remember is it's not over until you our down and out of the mountains.


In order to make the climb more enjoyable we put one set of boots and one axe in a single pack for the three of us with the intention that I would head back around, retrieve the other packs and bring them back to the base of the gully we rappelled down from. In order to do this I had to go around a small but fully open crevasse that touched the east face and headed south below the gully. This would add a good chunk of time to the day. Thad thought that I might be able to get past the crevasses on a single line with both ropes tied together. I figured why not, what’s the worst that could happen I fall into a crevasse and die...

Well the plan worked great. I worked down the fixed line hugging the wall and around the crevasses. Grabbed up the packs and got back on the line and prussiked my way back up to the base of the gully. It was work for sure, but much less then going around the crevasse. So the guys then set up the double rope rappel while I sorted out their bags and attached each one to their ice axe plunged into the snow. Thad came down got off rappel grabbed his bag and starting getting his boots on. Then Mason cam down. I went over and began to fiddle with the rope to make a good pull and Thad noticed that Mason was not quite making his way to his ice axe promptly. Since we were on a 35-40 degree snow slope with a crevasse below us and Mason was wearing rock shoes Thad warned him to grab his ice axe, which he did, pulling it right out of the snow. This wasn't quite the point of the comment since his bag was hanging off the ice axe. It was immediately free and slid right down the slope into the crevasse waiting below. We were all stunned at the occurrence. It was most likely due to the fact that we were extremely tired and not thinking straight any more. Fortunately there wasn't anything of great importance in the bag except for the bag itself which was kinda needed for the getting out the next day. After contemplating how we might be able to retrieve the bag right there and then we decided that sleeping on it and approaching the crevasse from below was a much better idea. We headed back to camp with one more early day ahead of us.


Tuesday July 23 Day 6-



We got an early start that day and headed back up to the Blue glacier with the hope of lowering Mason into the crevasse from below to fine the pack. As we approached the crevasse with Mason in the lead he crept up to the edge and peered down. SUCCESS! The pack was a mere 10 feet down sitting on a snow pile.



Pack sitting just inside the crevasse.


We spent about an hour or so setting up an anchor, lowering Mason down and belaying him back out when he climbed out. This got us back to camp and on with our descent by 10:30 AM.



We packed up our camp and headed out and down the side of Asa Mt. which unfortunately was just as long and even harder to get down.

We slogged onward all the way to High Bridge that night in order to catch the early shuttle the following day.


A Sight for sore eyes after 5 days of seeing no one but 2 planes in total.

There were no spots at High bridge camp so we slept just across Agnes creek in a little flat spot.


Wednesday July 24 Day 7-

Getting on the shuttle was a slap in the face when we got back to the Stehekin lodge. About 20 people piled on the shuttle and it was civilization right in your face real quick. I said it sounded like flamingos, Thad described it well, it was like a cocktail party.

We made the obligatory stop at the Bakery and loaded up on our first real food then worked backwards, slowly picking up speed as we moved back into our normal lives of not defying death.


Parting shot of the iconic West face of Gunsight. Go get you some!

Daniel Coltrane



Gear Notes:

Keep it under 50 pounds or pay the price.

2 50m 8.2 mm ropes, 10 alpine draws, 5 runners and tat for rappeling.

Single set of cams and nuts for SW face.

2 pickets and 2 ice screws for Sinister and Dome. One picket was lost to slide alder on approach and screws were never used.

Double set of cams and some RP's for the NE Face. Don't forget the RP's.

Crampons, ice axe and 1 tool can be nice for steep snow. 1 hybrid tool and 1 short pole got me through though.


Approach Notes:

It will not be easy making it into one of the most remote locations in the lower 48 states. If it was it wouldn't be one of the most remote locations in the lower 48 states. Take two days and go through Stehekin, it's worth it, and from what I hear it is still easier the the west side approach, plus the bakery is to die for.

Edited by Riley81
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Nice work! We were up there around the same time and climbed the S Face of Gunsight on a high traverse from Holden to Stehekin. We saw your footprints to the base of the gully between S and Main. I didn't remember that gully being quite that crappy last time I climbed it (we solo'd it that time), but this time I was happy to protect it.

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Hey Tom thanks for the TR you posted before. The approach info and map was very helpful. I just thought of the gully as part of a classic Beckey style climb. A little snow, a little loose gully and a little sandbagged rock. Everything that makes a Beckey route good and get you to the summit.

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