This is the easiest route to the summit, both in terms of approaching the mountain and climbing the mountain from the east side. The route reminded me of the East Face of Chimney Rock. There are approximately five pitches of technical climbing ranging from Class 3 to Class 5.4. Some of these pitches can be freeclimbed--particularly the first pitch (Pitch 0). Exposure is here and there. In addition, there are five rappels (and maybe a belayed downclimb off the summit). Bushes dot the face. Some of these are used as rap anchors.
Our route followed the rap stations but didn't seem to jive with Beckey's description. He talks about reaching the notch immediately south of the summit tower. We finished immediately northeast of the summit tower. Perhaps the route Beckey was using (Beckey hasn't climbed Tupshin; his info is secondhand) is the original East Face route but now not the standard.
The rock is generally solid when you need it to be (steeper bits) but enough eroded sections and debris lurks to make rockfall a problem. Rock is ancient gneiss.
Time: Allow for three hours to make the approach from Bird Creek Camp or one hour less from a camp at 5,800 ft in Bird Creek. Then add 2-3 hours on the face.
Gain: 3,500 ft to base of face then 700 ft on the face.
This is the shortcut approach from Bird Creek Camp on the Devore Creek Trail. To get to the face from the 5,800-ft level in Bird Creek itself, see the Main Page.
See this picture for more information.
From Bird Creek Camp (where Bird Creek joins Devore Creek; 4,200 ft) climb up and right up steep woods at a bearing of 325 degrees (35 degrees west of north). If you look on the map you can see a narrow forest finger reaching up to 5,800 ft on the south side of the creek draining Tupshin's east basin. You basically want to aim for the open slope to the immediate left of this forest finger. The initial several hundred vertical is inconsequential other than the odd rock outcrop to wind around. There are some underbrush sections but mostly the forest is open with windfalls here and there. Continue diagonalling up and right until the creek draining the east basin comes within earshot.
At somewhere around 5,200 ft the slope becomes sub-alpine and forms a minor rib where the right side descends more steeply to the creek. This steep right side becomes the aforementioned forest finger. Stay on the rib. It comes to blocky terrain with short cliffs. Work up and around the blocks and cliffs (Class 3 max) to a flat spot on the rib at c. 6,800 ft. The East Face will now be visible from here.
Descend 100 ft rightward off the flat spot to the basin below. Hike up the streamside, continuing rightward past a waterfall to the upper talus and scree basin below the face.
A gully cuts high into the center of the face. The gully is cleaved in two by a rock outcrop. Farther to the right is another gully in a chasm. Climb up snow (to 30 degrees in the top of the gully) or talus and scree later in the season to the right side of the cleaver. Look to the right. Two parallel ramps lead rightward for about 100 yards. The lower, rightmost one is easiest and ends at a rappel station.
Pitch 0 (Class 3+)
This pitch can be free-climbed. It is easier to free-climb up it than down it so you may wish to rappel it later.
Ascend the lower, right ramp on slabs and steep dirt to a bush on the right with a rap station. Belay up your second from the rap tree.
Pitch 1 (Class 3/4 with 5.2 Option)
Immediately beyond the rap tree of Pitch 0 is a 20-ft block/horn. On its left is an eroded cut. On its right is a ledge leading around the block. You have three options to continue:
Option 1a (recommended): Go over the top of the block. Class 5.2 but with good holds and pro and solid rock.
Option 1b (unpleasant): Go up the eroded cut. Class 4 but loose and largely unprotectable.
Option 1c (exposed corner): Take the ledge to the right to go around the block. Exposed Class 3 far corner. Rope drag issue if you protect at the corner
Once past/over the block, move left on easier terrain to the main wall of the face. A Class 4 weakness in the next wall allows access to the next rap station, which can be seen from the rap station below. The weakness is a quasi-chimney about 50 feet high. Belay up your second from the rap station.
Pitch 2 (Class 3)
Lead out right from the rap station for 40 feet on a wide ledge and then go left up a depression with stair-steps to the next rap station. I believe this rap station is around a bush. This pitch could be free-climbed. You could even combine Pitch 1 and 2 in a long simulclimb pitch. Belay up your second from the rap station.
Pitch 3 (Class 4 with 5.hard Options)
From the rap station, continue up just right of the belay for fifty feet (Class 3). Up and left are two hard Class 5 options in a concavity along the natural line of the pitch just below the next rap station: an out-sloping, high-angle "ramp" with awkward moves and limited protection or an overhang with right-jutting flake. I initially tried the ramp but found it hard to protect above the crux. I did not wish to make a 12+ foot fall. Plus, I hadn't gone to Tupshin to do any hard 5th Class stuff. I next tried the flake but it was more of the same (face holds and an awkward move past the flake). Both options are doable for the more adventurous. I backed off about 40 feet to check out a ledge leading way out to the right along a wall. Mark didn't think it looked promising but I had a look anyway.
The ledge was mostly Class 3 with one Class 4 spot. It ended at a bush perhaps 60 feet right of the Class 5.hard area. Beyond the bush the ledge terminates at an acute corner near the East Ridge proper. Going back left at the corner leads one to a good belay atop the wall the ledge cuts across.
Move the Belay (Loose Class 3)
If you take the bypass ledge you will want to move the belay horizontally left about 80 feet to the rap station above the 5.hard concavity of Pitch 3. You can see this rap station from the belay atop the rock wall. The traverse goes up and over and down an eroded cut then across an easier ledge.
Pitch 4 (Class 5.4)
From the rap station lead up over a Class 3 bulge to the gravelly base of a chimney. It's not really a chimney but a right-facing corner with deep crack. There is limited pro in the crack (we used a .75 green BD cam at knee level to start). A softball-sized rock is wedged in the widened crack in the corner (could have been placed there by a person). The rock is pretty solid but I don't know if I'd sling it. The crux moves are getting up past this wedged rock (i.e., the first 15 feet from the base of the corner). Past the crux the corner ends and becomes more like a concavity. Easier Class 4 climbing was found to the right. A rap station is over that way too. Bring up your second from the rap station.
Pitch 5 (Class 3, Class 4 in early season)
The final scramble to the summit.
Move up and left on Class 3 ledges to the obvious crest below the northeast side of the summit. Continue leftward for 30 feet or so until you are forced to go left up a chossy wall or right. The rightward option will be steep snow plunging to the North Face in early season. Later in the year it will probably be merely a blocky scramble. If the chossy wall is the required route only the first moves onto the wall will be Class 4. Above that the terrain becomes blocky Class 3 then Class 2 for the final 20 feet to the highest point. A 50m rope will not quite reach the highpoint so you will need to simulclimb the last 30 feet or so. A suitable anchor can be found near the summit cairn. Before that it's all just loose boulders.
From the summit a belayed downclimb might be easier to work than a rappel due to the lack of rap anchors on that side.
Caution: At least two of the rappels we made with our 50m rope barely made it to safer ground. It is highly recommended that, if you also have a 50m rope, you tie knots in the end of the rope so you don't rappel off the end.
Rap 1 From the rap station above the concavity of Pitch 4. With rope-stretch due to rappeller's weight, a 50m rope barely gets one down to the base of the right-facing corner. Be careful. Downclimb the 30 feet from the base of the right-facing corner to the rap station below it.
Rap 2 Down Pitch 3. The rappel goes past the 5.hard concavity. Have a good look at what you did or didn't accomplish on the way up. Downclimb a few feet to the rap station around the tree.
Rap 3 Down Pitch 2. The rappel goes down the stair-step depression to the rap station on the wide ledge.
Rap 4 Down Pitch 1. The rappel goes down to the rap station at the top of Pitch 0. With rope-stretch due to rappeller's weight, a 50m rope barely gets one down to the base of the eroded cut left of the block/horn above Pitch 0. Be careful. Move right a few feet to the rap station there.
Rap 5 Down Pitch 0. Goes back to the base of the ramp next to the cleaved gully. Downclimb the rest back to the snow or talus in the gully.
50m rope at least; 55+ meter would be better
A medium-sized alpine rack comprised of 3-4 cams, 3-4 nuts, and 2-3 hexes. We used the green BD .75 at least three times.
Ice axe in early season. In late season leave it in camp (or even at home). You won't need it on Tupshin but could need it on Devore Peak if you'll be doing that one too.