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CatenaryWalker

[TR] Middle Gunsight Peak - SW face 6/26/2016

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Trip: Middle Gunsight Peak - SW face

 

Date: 6/26/2016

 

Trip Report:

My friend Carl and I (Ben) climbed Middle Gunsight Peak on June 26. We left Seattle in the evening of the 24th, and camped near the Field's Landing ferry stop on Lake Chelan. We caught the express ferry the next morning which got us into Stehekin at 11am, where we got the bus to High Bridge. After eating lunch we got on the PCT heading south at 1pm.

 

We hiked on the relatively flat trail for about 9.8 miles to the confluence of Agnes Creek and Spruce Creek. After fording the Agnes we started heading uphill at about 6pm.

 

We followed Spruce Creek upstream for about 1000ft before turning right and heading directly uphill. It seems that we turned too soon because we quickly became ensnared in a patch of slide alder. We lost maybe 20 minutes traversing a few hundred feet to our left, although the frustration of the experience made it seem longer.

 

Carl looking tired of bush bashing:

20160625_182355.jpg

 

We eventually made it into clearer terrain, and started making faster progress uphill, although continual small route finding challenges, many mosquitos, and the general sloggyness of the slope kept things fairly miserable.

 

After about 3000 vertical feet of this, we were out of the trees and we should have started side hilling towards our destination. For reasons that are hard to understand in retrospect, we continued to trend uphill as we traversed left. At some point it became impossible to keep moving leftward on the slope without going down a lot or continuing up, which is what we did until we reached the top of the ridge. Looking at the map later, I see that we climbed 4000 vertical feet from the river crossing to the ridge.

 

Sun setting on mountains and mosquitos:

20160625_201815.jpg

 

On the top of the ridge it was much easier to move in the direction we wanted to go, but it quickly became clear that the recommended bivy location near peak 7070 was still a ways away, including losing much of our prematurely gained altitude and then gaining it again. It was also at this point nearly completely dark, we were out of water, and pretty completely knackered. The only reasonable thing to do at that point was to stop if possible, and fortunately we were able to find flattish bivy spots on the top of the ridge, and a snow patch to melt for water. It was 10pm when we settled on our bivy location.

 

We started walking around 7am the next morning, and made our way over to the better bivy spot. On the way, we found a nice little stream pouring off a rock into the snowfield, and were able to fill up our bottles. We left most of our food and sleeping gear at the new bivy spot, and started heading up the Blue Glacier towards the notch where we would transition to the Chikamin Glacier in order to approach the climb.

 

Because of our more inclusive definition of notch, we ended up climbing to a depression in the ridge in between what the guidebook author considers to be the first and second notch to the south of the Gunsight group. When this location turned out to have a large drop on the other side, we made our way along the ridge to the "second" notch, from which it was possible to access the far glacier.

 

Here's the view of the ridge going south from the Gunsights group, with its various notches:

20160626_190839.jpg

 

Making use of a nifty boulder with duct tape already in place to smooth out the corners, we rappelled onto the Chikamin and retrieved our rope. From there it was a pretty quick snow traverse to the base of the climb.

 

Approaching the west face of the gunsights:

20160626_122726.jpg

 

We were racked up and ready to climb around 1pm. The route was originally intended to go up the gulley between middle and south gunsight, but the guidebook suggests that if the snow in the gulley is too sparse, which it was, it is possible to start the climb on the rock to the left of the gulley.

 

We agreed that the most likely looking route starting outside the gulley was a line starting about 50 feet to the left. The rock looked solid for as far as we could see. Carl got on lead and headed up.

 

A little while after Carl had disappeared from view, he starting shouting "rock!". It was clear from his tone that this was not a drill. I like to think that in the moments I had to respond I was able to take into account that Carl had trended left, and correctly moved to the right, but I can't rule out that I had a 50/50 shot and got lucky. There was also a small overhang to my right, so I pressed myself to the wall and cowered under that as best I could.

 

Fortunately it turned out not to matter. The daypack sized rock came down about 20 feet to my left and 10 feet away from the wall. It definitely got everyone's hearts racing though. Carl got to a belay spot and brought me up, and as I got past the first half of the pitch it became clear why that big rock had come down. What had appeared to be a good route from the base quickly transformed into the chossiest of choss hauls just out of sight of the base.

 

The next pitch included a hair raising step across from a precarious looking block, and moves certainly beyond the 5.7 grade. I can only assume that we were well off route from the alternative start that the guidebook suggests, although visual inspection on the way out still left us unclear about where we were supposed to have gone.

 

In any case the second choss pitch brought us to the shelf where the climb up the gulley would have brought us. From there we traversed left onto the rib that separates the southern from the western face, and continued up on much more solid rock with some fun knob climbing in places. Two long pitches took us to the top. We took turns scrambling to the final summit block, one of the pointiest I've been on. It was a very cool summit, especially in retrospect because at the time I was quite stressed about the dangers of rappelling with all of the loose rock we'd seen up to that point.

 

Shot looking down from the summit block:

20160626_154329.jpg

 

Two raps from the summit brought us to just above the shelf where we had joined the correct route. At this point we could start trying to descend our ascent route, which would have had the advantage of bringing us directly to our boots and crampons, or we could descend the gulley as the guidebook recommends. We knew that there was plenty of loose rock the way we came up, but the snowless top of the gulley did not look that appealing either.

 

We opted for the gulley, which was definitely the right choice of the two. Our third rap brought us into the gulley, where we were able to walk down a short way to a tremendous chock stone with many shifting boulders piled on it. After carefully choosing the least shifty of these we were able to rap to a shelf on descenders left of the gulley, just barely reaching it with our 60m rope. From there we did two more raps, the final one from nearly the mouth of the gulley allowed us to stay on rappel as we angled across the snow down to where we had left our boots.

 

Here's the final rappel from the bottom of the gulley across the snow to where we left our stuff:

20160626_172647.jpg

 

The transition from the Chikamin up to the "second" notch was not much trouble for us, but I suspect a bergschrund will start to open soon. The descent from the notch back onto the Blue Glacier included some narrow passages between rocks, so that side of the access to the notch may also become more complicated as the snow recedes further.

 

We made it back to our bivy by 7pm, in time to enjoy some glorious sun and then sunset colors in this spectacularly remote location as we relaxed and cooked.

 

Really cool to have been on top of that perfect point of rock:

20160626_192658.jpg

 

The next day we schlepped from our high camp back to High Bridge in time to catch the 6:15 bus back to Stehekin, where we had a swim and then a delicious dinner at the restaurant. I ate way too much of their homemade ice cream, which is now somehow keeping me awake even after these three very long days, so I'm lying here under my tarp writing this instead.

 

Gear Notes:

Single rack to 2"

 

Approach Notes:

Even on a long day near the solstice such as we had, you would have to be a pretty burly hiker and have no route finding issues in order to reach the high camp in one day starting from High Bridge, given that the ferry and bus schedule don't allow you to start hiking until after noon. If I do this again I'll probably try to have enough time to do the approach in two days.

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Why did you guys decide to go in from Stehekin as opposed to Downey/Bachelor Creek?

 

it's probably smart they did. We found the col at dome unsafe and bailed on sinister after I set off a microslide.

 

 

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Why did you guys decide to go in from Stehekin as opposed to Downey/Bachelor Creek?

 

We chose it because it is the recommended approach in Blake Herrington's new Cascades Rock book. I think it's shorter and easier, except for the ferry ride. But that was rather enjoyable.

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Luke,

 

Great to hear that your trip was a success! For the first half of our trip, every time we were dragging our rallying cry was "those guys are still running!"

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Why did you guys decide to go in from Stehekin as opposed to Downey/Bachelor Creek?

 

We chose it because it is the recommended approach in Blake Herrington's new Cascades Rock book. I think it's shorter and easier, except for the ferry ride. But that was rather enjoyable.

 

You've come a long way from dry-humping tents, Carl! :)

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