Tupshin Peak is perhaps the most interesting mountain in this area of the North Cascades (the area I call The Stehekin Triangle*). It is interesting both to look at and to climb. Visually, the mountain appears as a series of turrets running in three different directions (south, east, and northwest). The highest turret--the castle keep--is in the center and rises about 200 feet higher than the others. As for the climbing, the mountain has no easy route to the top, easy being a relative term. All routes are technical in nature. If it weren't for the loose nature of the rock (ragged old gneiss), the peak would yield some nice technical routes. Of course, the remote setting of the peak would deter most rock climbers from taking it on.
The peak is located 1.5 miles NNE of the slightly higher Devore Peak. Both summits are often climbed on the same outing, for both are members of the Washington Top 100 (Tupshin only barely). In fact, the usual suspects climbing these two peaks are those working on the Top 100. Due to the hassle of getting to these remote peaks, it makes sense to do them both.
Tupshin means 'needle' in the Chinook jargon.
A last note, it has been reported there is a rock glacier below the North Face.
The total persons to stand on this summit probably numbers in the fifties. Most now use the East Face route.
West Face: Everett and Ida Darr on September 11, 1940. They made an attempt of it in July of that year after successfully making the FA of Devore Peak. They stated their intentions to climb Tupshin in their entry in the Devore register--their original register is still up there. Unfortunately, they were weathered off in their bid. They returned in September to complete the project.
East Face: Ken Liebert and Sam Grubenhoff on August 21, 1982. The East Face is now considered the standard route.
Northeast Side: (presumably up the North Face) Bob Nielsen and partner(s) in 1993 from a start at the Stehekin airstrip.
East Ridge Traverse: Bob Nielsen and Blake Herrington attempted a traverse of the serrate ridge all the way from Bob's cabin on the Stehekin River 7,000 ft below. They ran out of time (other commitments in town that night) else would have been successful. Then, on August 9, 2005, Blake Herrington and Tim Halder completed the ascent all the way to the summit. They rated it Grade III+, Class 5.7 (trip report).
* for an explanation, see the Dark Peak page.
Note that Tupshin Peak is often combined with nearby Devore Peak for the Top 100 afficianados. Both can be climbed from the same camp at 5,800 ft in the Bird Creek drainage or from a camp on the Devore Creek Trail called "Bird Creek Camp" on the GreenTrails map.
The approach to this peak will take longer than the climb, probably. But if you're wise to shortcut procedures, you could save time. First of all, you need to find yourself in the town of Stehekin. See the Getting There section on the Dark Peak page for the specifics.
Take the $5 shuttle bus (or catch a ride or ride a bike or walk it) from Stehekin Landing 4.4 miles up the road to Harlequin Bridge (rust-colored). Cross the bridge and continue for 300 yards, going past the Harlequin Camp road on the left to a wye. Go left at the wye and follow the road around past the town maintenance yard to the Stehekin Airport (grass airfield). Follow a dirt track southeastward on the east side of the airfield to its corner. The Stehekin River Trail more or less starts here. It first crosses on boardwalks over marshy ground to the other side of the airfield to a trail junction. Go left at the junction and follow the mostly flat trail southeastward for 3 miles to the signed Devore Creek Trail junction (1,160 ft). This junction coincides with the short trail continuance to Weaver Point on the shores of Lake Chelan.
Special note: If you take a float plane to Stehekin you can arrange to be dropped off at Weaver Point thus saving 3.7 miles of flat valley walking to get from the Stehekin River Road to the start of the Devore Creek Trail. The only stipulation is that your party size on the plane has to be least two people.
The trail first ascends in 30-something switchbacks in approximately 2 miles to reach the Glacier Peak Wilderness boundary at 2,300 ft. I'm referring to the point where you come upon the wilderness sign, not the supposed boundary as shown on maps. After that, with a brief respite from the up, you'll be thinking your work is done for the day. But, ah, not so.
For the next 3+ miles the trail climbs up and up and up, never easing off. To make matters worse, the trail does not see much traffic and is therefore brushy in the middle third. It's never hard to follow just that the encroachment from the sides adds to the insulting incline. Your imprecations would be even louder if the brush were wet too.
As a helpful hint, if you can manage it, do the trail in the late afternoon when the sun has descended behind the mountain slope. It's a grind and who needs the thermal truncheon above you adding to your woes?
Finally, at about 4,100 ft, the trail enters significant timber beyond a creek (the creek draining the east side of Tupshin). Shortly thereafter the trail reaches Bird Creek at 4,200 ft. Bird Creek Camp is about 50 yards before the creek crossing. It is the ONLY designated camp in that area of trail. There is space enough for three tents + a cook area.
From Harlequin Bridge, allow for 4 hours to get to Bird Creek Camp.
There is only one route worth discussing: The East Face. I don't know anyone who has done the West Face route and therefore could only paraphrase Beckey's Cascade Alpine Guide. Even Beckey admits there is some uncertainty as to the route. I suppose if you were also doing White Goat Mountain the West Face route would be more accessible and therefore worthwhile.
There are two routes to get to the East Face. One is from the 5,800-ft level in Bird Creek and the other is up the steep hillside from Bird Creek Camp on the Devore Creek Trail. The latter is a shortcut from Bird Creek Camp. It shaves an hour off the ascent and at least as much on the descent.
For info on getting to the 5,800-ft level in Bird Creek see the Bird Creek section on Devore's Southeast Ridge route page. From that point, the idea is to bear NNE up the sub-alpine slope to the broad shoulder at 7,000 ft on Tupshin's lower South Ridge. Turn the corner slightly, descending slightly to avoid cliffs as necessary, to reach the upper east basin below the face (c. 7,500 ft). The upper basin is a talus fan (snowcovered in early season). It is about one mile from Bird Creek to the base of the East Face.
For info on getting to the East Face via the shortcut, see the East Face route page.
There is no red tape for this part of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Leave No Trace ethics should be prescribed to. This would include red tape or green tape or yellow tape or orange tape or multi-colored striped tape to help guide your way back through the brush. DON'T FLAG ROUTES THROUGH OR AROUND BRUSH!
When To Climb
Tupshin Peak can be reasonably climbed from May to October. In early season, snow may amply cover brush in lower Bird Creek if you choose to go that way. (The steep sidehilling on the Devore Creek Trail could be a problem if snowcovered.) Moreover, the brush will not have leafed out thereby affording long sightlines through it. Early season snowcover will carpet the tedious talus, but lingering snow will be a factor on ledges and ramps on the East Face. Bugs will be more of a problem in the heat of summer. All told, I think June or July would be most excellent.
Several Campsites are available off of Stehekin Valley Road. The most useful one for late arrivals would be Harlequin Camp just across Harlequin Bridge. Weaver Point also has campsites. Other than that, you'll want to either camp at Bird Creek Camp on the Devore Creek Trail (4,200 ft) or carry the weight of all that heavy overnight gear to the middle basin of Bird Creek (5,800 ft). I think the latter is a waste of time and energy unless you'll be in a blazing hurry on summit day. That is, if you want to climb both Tupshin and Devore on the same trip, you cannot really do them both in a day (or you maybe could if you're extremely fast). You could do Tuphsin and White Goat in one day or Devore and White Goat in one day, though.