A Plug For The Route
Historically many parties have chosen to descend the scree and talus gullies down into the South Fork basin when hiking Redcloud and Sunshine instead of retracing their steps back over Redcloud. This is a poor option for two reasons: (a) the scree gullies are unpleasant and dangerous due to loose rock that is easily dislodged, and (b) descending the scree gullies causes erosion and the stewards of the land request you not do this.
Alternatively, Sunshine Peak’s Northwest Ridge is a nice way to make a loop out of the Redcloud/Sunshine Hike. This route makes for an equally pleasant descent or ascent, allows you to bag the 299th tallest peak in the state – Sundog, will help you avoid the crowds on the standards routes, and minimizes the damage to the environment.
From the Silver Creek Trailhead hike up the trail to the junction with the trail that goes up the South Fork basin. Cross Silver Creek and the South Fork of Silver Creek and gain Sunshine's northwest ridge. When I did it there was a nice snowbridge across the Silver Creek and I ended up crossing the creek about 100 yards south of the trail junction. It doesn't really matter what path you take - just try to gain the ridge as soon as possible.
Once on the ridge, the route finding becomes trivial. The ridge is surprisingly sharp - even at low elevations through the trees - and it is easy to stay on the crest. Although it looks intimidating from below, there is no bushwhacking involved. The forested section of the ridge is mostly shrub-free and the going is easy. There is a bit of deadfall to avoid but this is easily done.
It took me an hour from leaving the trailhead to reach timberline. From timberline just follow the ridge to the summit of Sundog. The ridge is mostly well-packed, stable talus.
From timberline it took me another hour to reach the summit of Sundog. From Sundog continue scrambling southeast down the ridge to the saddle with Sunshine Peak. From the saddle you can choose whatever path you want to reach the summit of Sunshine. I chose to continue my southeastern trajectory to gain Sunshine's west ridge as soon as possible. I found the rock on the West Ridge somewhat more stable than the talus of the Northwest Face. Continue hiking up the ridge to the summit. It took me a little over three hours to reach the summit of Sunshine Peak from the Silver Creek Trailhead.
For more information and photos visit the Sundog Page.
No special gear is needed. Just bring standard kit for hiking in the mountains.