BETA PHOTO: The North, Middle, and South peaks, from the West.
The Gunsight Peaks are a group of granite spires that are located just east of the Cascades crest, surrounded by the Chickamin and Blue glaciers, and just east of Dome Peak. Their location is one of the lower-48's most remote, and this has likely kept the number of visits and established routes comparatively low. The climbing is some of the best in the Cascades, with steep granite crack and face routes in an amazing setting. There are 4 major summits along a N-S trending crest. The Northeast Peak, North Peak, Middle Peak, and South Peak. The largest faces are the West face of the North Peak, and East Face of the Middle Peak. The middle peak is highest, narrowly edging out the North Peak for that honor.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for The Gunsight Range:
First Ascent by Jim Nelson and Carl Dietrich in 1986 at 5.10 A2, The route went 20 years before a repeat, and 21 years later (2007) saw it's FFA by Max Hasson and Jens Holsten, 5.11+Pitch 1 - Rated 5.7 by the first ascentonists, this pitch is more like 5.9 or 5.10a, with less than obvious gear. Climb up a pillar, cracks, flakes, and occasional knobs, generally straight up. A belay can be made at ~40m on a small (think one foot) stance.Pitch 2 - The crux pitch. Follow thin cracks and knobs to the...[more]Browse More Classics in WA
It is time to re-think the approach to Gunsight described in "Selected Climbs in the Cascades" by Nelson and Potterfield, 1993. According to a 2008 ranger report, an additoinal nine miles of the Suiattle River Road has to be hiked to reach Downey Creek. Also, hiking Bachelor Creek was reported as getting very brushy in the same NCNP route conditions summary. Climbing Dome Peak as an approach is very committing. I was once stormed into Agnes West Fork and it really sucked. Finally, crossing a glacier like the Chickamin is a bit of a crap shoot for small parties.
So how to get to the best route in the Cascades? I like the Skoog beta:
The standard approach these days is to approach from the east side of the range via the Pacific Crest Trail that extends up Agnes Creek. While still a major undertaking it is much more reasonable than coming over the top of Dome Peak particularly if carrying gear for the hard rock routes.
First you need to get to Stehekin at the the northern tip of Lake Chelan. Take the boat www.ladyofthelake.com or you might be able to take a float plane (last I heard it flipped while landing at Stehekin killing a couple people. I'm not sure if they're back in service). If you take the boat take the Lady Express and meet it at Fields Point to minimize what can be a very long boat ride.
A shuttle bus runs to the PCT at High Bridge and will leave Stehekin shortly after the boat arrives.
From High Bridge hike the PCT approximately nine miles. The forest here suffers from extensive deadfall. In early summer 2007 we had to crawl over, under or around well over 300 trees (we stopped counting) that had fallen across the trail. You need to leave the trail and forde Agnes Creek just downstream of it's confluence with Spruce Creek. This is ~ 2 miles past Swamp Creek Campsite. Leave the trail when it crosses a short wooden boardwalk (~20 feet long) over a swampy area. This is a very obvious and unique landmark on the trail. Hopefully there is still a good log for crossing the creek as it is wide and fast.
Once across Agens Creek head upstream maybe 200 yards to avoid a brush filled avalanche path. Now punch it straight uphill on game trails ~2500 vertical feet until you break out of forest. Begin a long, steep uphill traverse to the northwest gaining another 1000' or so until you cross an open shoulder at 6400' where you catch your first view of Gunsight Peaks. From here a level traverse (stay high) leads to a beautiful granite filled basin approximately 1/2 mile east of Blue Lake.
Continue traversing up and left (west) to the ridge crest and follow it west towards the Gunsights. Wonderful campsites are found on the ridge crest between Blue Lake and the Blue Glacier.
Give yourself two days for the approach. Day 1 to the crossing of Agnes Creek and then a relatively short Day 2 to camp below the peaks. We tried it in 1 day from home and pulled into the beautiful granite basin completely destroyed. Day 2 was a waste.
When planning the return keep in mind the last boat leaves Stehekin at 2:00 pm and the shuttle from High Bridge leaves at 12:15pm, 3pm and 6:15pm. We hiked all the way out in one day, caught the 3pm shuttle then arranged for a 5pm flight downlake getting home late that night. Otherwise you could hike out over two days then catch the 12:15 shuttle downvalley and the 2 pm departure of Lady of the Lake II (slow) or have an afternoon/evening to kill drinking beer on the deck of the lodge that overlooks the lake, before taking the Lady Express downlake at noon the next day. Certainly well deserved.