OverviewGunn Peak is the highest point of Wild Sky Wilderness, with a summit elevation of 6240'. The mountain is also the 29th-most prominent peak in Washington, with 3651' of prominence. The mountain is fairly isolated, with the next highest peak being located over 10 miles away. The summit offers a complete 360° panoramic location, with far-ranging views of jagged peaks and rugged valleys in all directions, solidifying its place as the "crown jewel" of the Wild Sky Wilderness area.
Despite these positive aspects, the mountain summit sees relatively few visitors, especially when compared to other nearby peaks such as Mount Baring or Mount Index. Much of this can be attributed to the stigma this peak has of having a hard-to-follow approach route and troublesome bushwhacking, which is not necessarily correct if truly on-route. In addition, the peak is further from view and less recognizable from the closest major arterial (Highway 2) than Mount Baring or Mount Index. Plus, the mountain has substantial elevation gain within a short hiking distance, possibly making for a long, arduous summit day more than many hikers and outdoor enthusiasts might like to endure.
Gunn Peak is located in the west-central side of the Sky Peaks region of Wild Sky Wilderness. Although the peak is the highest mountain in the area, its next-closest peak (Jumpoff Ridge, nicknamed "Gunnshy") is commonly mistaken as Gunn Peak. This is because the summit of "Gunnshy" is located only 0.70 miles northwest from the summit of Gunn Peak, and is only 22' lower in elevation. If driving east along Highway 2 from the lowlands west of Wild Sky Wilderness, such as from the cities of Everett, Monroe, or Sultan, and/or looking east from those areas, the horn-like pinnacle of "Gunnshy" is easily seen but Gunn Peak is hidden behind it. This is the reason many people mistakenly confuse "Gunnshy" as Gunn Peak.
There is no official trail for Gunn Peak, although a path does exist. Occasionally the route is flagged/ribboned by hikers, but being in a wilderness area it is generally frowned-upon to leave the flags/ribbons behind. The standard route approaches the peak from the south and involves no worse technical difficulty than Class 3 scrambling and some bouldering, although technical rock climbing options are available for those seeking such trips. Many people consider finding the starting location or the start of the steep forest trail as the most difficult parts of the standard route. Along the standard summit route is a famous narrow rock ledge on the north side of the peak near the summit that gives many people pause, especially if snow-covered or icy, due to the drop-off and exposure, and many people have been known to turn around early when the upper slopes are wet, snowy, or icy.
Potential summiters cannot take even the standard route for granted; a lot of mountaineering aspects are encountered on the route. A sometimes trivial beginning, at least one creek crossing, a very steep forested trail, a waterfall crossing, possible brushy areas, at least one ridge crossing, boulder fields, scrambling, a narrow rock ledge traverse, and over 4000' of elevation gain await those attempting this mountain via the standard route. With that said, those who are successful will likely feel a sense of accomplishment for the achievement.
The peak is named after an early pioneer miner, Amos Gunn. Amos Gunn was the founder of the nearby town of Index. The first ascent of Gunn Peak was made on July 18th, 1915, via Lewis Creek. The party consisted of Dr. H.B. Hinman, Walter Eriksen, and Louis Lesh. They required multiple summit attempts of Gunn Peak, finally summiting on their fifth attempt.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE STANDARD SOUTH APPROACH:
STARTING AT HIGHWAY 2 IN BARING, WA:
1) From Highway 2, turn north onto Forest Road 6024, which some maps and people reference as either 635th Place NE or Barclay Creek Road.
2) After 4.3 miles, the road ends at the Barclay Lake Trailhead. Either park at the trailhead parking area and begin hiking (see below), or turn the vehicle around to park closer to the actual starting point.
3) Within several hundred feet west of the parking area, on the north side of Forest Road 6024, there is narrow spur road heading downhill (located ~4.2 miles from Highway 2).
NOTE: It is recommended to either park along Forest Road 6024 near the entrance to the spur road, or at the Barclay Lake Trailhead parking area, rather than on the spur road itself. The spur road is so narrow in various places that it might prove problematic to turn a vehicle around or park on the side of it, although there might be room for a couple of vehicles to park near an old firepit. The walking distance along the spur road is minor, so parking along Forest Road 6024 or at the Barclay Lake Trailhead does not add much distance or elevation gain/loss to the trip.
4) Follow the spur road for 300'-400' walking distance until reaching a firepit.
NOTE: Do not keep following the abandoned road much further than the firepit, as that road leads away from the intended route.
1) Just beyond the firepit, locate a faint (possibly brushy) path heading briefly east into a thick forest.
2) The path leads to a log crossing (or possibly rock-hopping) of Barclay Creek.
3) The north side of Barclay Creek is the brushiest section of the entire route, and it might be easy to lose track of the real path. The important thing is to keep heading north until reaching an old abandoned roadbed.
4) Once at the roadbed, turn left (west) and follow the road (for approximately five minutes) several hundred yards to an old firepit where a well-defined path leads north. There might be one or two paths that look correct along the road beforehand, but those paths quickly dead-end (brush-end) and the true path appears more-used and well-defined.
NOTE: The sketch provided by Paul Klenke (see below) can be very helpful with the hiking directions listed above.
5) Follow the path to the base of the forested slope (~2300' elevation), after which the trail steepens considerably.
6) The steep forest trail gains ~1600' elevation in 0.75 miles, until reaching the based of a cliff.
7) At the cliff there appears to be a "T" junction with two options, left or right. Turn right (east), dropping slightly before heading uphill.
8) Soon a waterfall crossing is reached. Continue following the path down to the narrow waterfall/stream gully, and find the best way across.
NOTE: Conditions of this stream gully change considerably throughout the year. Use extra caution to cross and ascend this gully.
9) After briefly ascending the waterfall/stream gully, re-attain a very steep forested path heading up from the right (east) side of the gully.
10) The forest soon breaks in favor of brushy open meadows at the southern base of a large rock buttress (~4000' elevation). Side-traverse east along the base of the rock buttress for ~75 yards, until reaching the southwestern entrance to a large gully.
11) Stay to the left of the gully, close to the western ridge slopes. Just prior to entering the gully try locating a steep path leading up to the western ridgetop looming above. The approximate coordinates of this trial junction is: 47.80424, -121.45269 . If the ridge path junction is missed, then nearly the rest of the leftside soon becomes cliffy and virtually unascendable until reaching the upper slopes of the large gully.
NOTE: The large gully can be ascended directly, but is full of slide alder that can greatly slow down the gully ascent. There are several small channels and gullies leading to the ridgetops above, from the upper northern end of the gully.
12) If the ridge path is located, follow it up to the western ridgetop and then north along the ridgetop until reaching the west-east-trending ridgetop (~5400' elevation) that connects Peak 5842 to Peak 5760. This ridge is locally and unofficially referenced as the Gunn-Barclay Divide.
NOTE: Do not confuse Peak 5760 with Point 5760+. Peak 5760 is located ESE of Peak 5842, along the same ridge. Point 5760+ is located immediately northeast of Peak 5842.
13) At the eastern base of Peak 5842, briefly climb down (Class 1-2) rocky slabs to the east-trending gully below.
14) Switchback down the gully along steep, loose slopes for ~250' elevation, towards an open basin, to get around Point 5760+ to its north side.
NOTE: Do not attempt to climb over Point 5760+, as it has cliffs on its north side. However, some people have suggested that going around the west side of Point 5760+, possibly even around Peak 5842, might be a suitable alternate route option.
15) A large boulder and talus gully is encountered on the north side of Point 5760+. Side-traverse northwest along talus terrain, then head north directly up the boulder gully, trying to use the easiest route seen.
16) Once at or near the southwest corner of the massive rock buttress looming above, on the east side of the mid-upper gully, turn right (east) and locate a steep rock gully (referred to as a "hidden ramp" by some people).
NOTE: Do not continue to the top of the main boulder/talus gully, as it abruptly ends at a cliff.
17) Ascend and scramble (Class 3) the steep rock gully ("hidden ramp"), on which many rocks and dirt might be loose. The easiest route might be to ascend the right side of the gully towards hemlock trees, rather than the gully itself (which is commonly wet and unstable).
NOTE: Use extra caution for this route section, as this slope is very steep and rockfall is common. Some people rappel down this slope, especially when snowy, icy, or wet.
18) Once above the gully, side-traverse east across an upper talus basin, passing below the upper south face of the mountain. Turn north and uphill towards the small notch between the two upper "horns" of the peak.
19) Climb over the notch. Briefly descend and then ascend a narrow dirt ledge along the upper north face of the mountain.
NOTE: Use extra caution for this route section, especially if snowy, icy, or wet. This ledge has a steep drop-off with a lot of exposure. Many summit attempts have been turned around at this location, due to conditions, lack of appropriate gear for adverse conditions, etc.
20) Once beyond the ledge, scramble (Class 2-3) rocky blocks to the summit.
June 16, 2011: The page owner of the Route page containing the standard route apparently removed the route description today, making that Route page unusable and forcing me to detach it from this main page. As a result, I have created a description for the standard route for this main page.
Red TapeGunn Peak is located within Wild Sky Wilderness. Wilderness regulations apply. Please contact the Skykomish Ranger Station for current conditions, rules, and forecasts.
A Northwest Forest Pass (parking pass) is required if parking a vehicle at the Barclay Lake Trailhead parking area or along Forest Road 6024. Technically, any vehicle parking within 1/4-mile of the trailhead, which would include the spur road, requires the use of a Northwest Forest Pass.
When To ClimbGunn Peak can, in theory, be climbed year-round. However, much of the terrain is avalanche-prone and icy during Winter and Spring months. Winter ascents are not recommended. Climbing gear needs to compiled and used accordingly, based upon conditions. During most normal snow years, optimum months to make summit attempts would be July through September. The waterfall crossing is less trivial (and less wet) while water levels are low in late Summer, making that the favorable timeframe for most summiters of the peak.
During Spring and Summer, expect to encounter some brush in the beginning sections of the standard route. There are a lot of young alder and thick evergreen forests, as well as some Devil's clubs & salmonberry bushes. Nothing overwhelmingly troublesome, just something to consider.
CampingWild Sky Wilderness allows backcountry camping on a "Leave No Trace" basis.
The primary location that potential Gunn Peak summiters might choose to camp is along the west-east-trending ridge connecting Peak 5842 and Peak 5760, or within the basin (~5150' elevation) located downhill and north of that ridgeline. Small tarns and snowmelt pools can be found near that area, for water sources.
Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 2 (Third Edition) by Fred Beckey; Pages 39-40
Climbing Washington's Mountains by Jeff Smoot; Pages 159-163
RECOMMENDED TRIP REPORTS:
Trip Report From My Own First Personal Ascent (from October 2010)
Trip Report Showing Gunn Peak and Gunn-Merchant High Route (from September 2003)
Trip Report Showing Snow-Covered Standard Approach (from June 2002)