Gunnshy Peak With Spring Snowpack
Peak 6218, also known locally and unofficially as Gunnshy Peak
, is the second-highest mountain in Wild Sky Wilderness of Washington. In the Cascade Alpine Guide: Volume 2
(book), Fred Beckey refers to this peak as Jumpoff Ridge
. However, despite technically being the highpoint of Jumpoff Ridge which branches to the north from the Gunn massif, the mountain has become much more commonly known as Gunnshy Peak by local mountaineers and hikers.
The highest mountain in the wilderness area, Gunn Peak (6240'), is located only 0.70 miles to the east and is only 22' higher in elevation. Gunnshy Peak is a tall horn that rises from the western end of a long ridge connecting to Gunn Peak. Over the years, many people in areas west of the Cascade Mountains have misidentified Gunnshy Peak as Gunn Peak. That is because Gunnshy Peak is what is seen when viewing this mountainous region from communities such as Gold Bar, Sultan, Monroe, or Everett. From most of those vantage points, Gunn Peak is located right behind (east of) Gunnshy Peak, with its slightly higher elevation kept out of view due to its distance from Gunnshy Peak. Despite the similarities in elevation and location, Gunnshy Peak often is neglected and unvisited by mountaineers, typically in favor of climbing neighboring, higher, and more prominent Gunn Peak.
Gunnshy Peak (left) and Gunn Peak (right)
There is no official trail for Gunnshy Peak, although a path does exist for over half of the route. The second half of the route is mostly open terrain and fairly straightforward for moderate-to-experienced mountaineers. 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 southeast, splitting from the Gunn Peak route near Point 5760+.
The peak is generally considered non-technical but potential summiters cannot take 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, minor scrambling, and over 5000' of cumulative elevation gain await those attempting this mountain via the standard route. Many people consider finding the start of the steep forest trail or ridge trail leading towards Point 5842 ("Tailgunner") as the most difficult parts of the standard route. With that said, those who are successful will likely feel a sense of accomplishment for the achievement, and on a good weather day will be rewarded with far-reaching 360° panoramic views.
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. A Northwest Forest Pass (parking pass) is required to park in either location.
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 an old 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.
Sample Sketch For Beginning of Standard Route...
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.
Hiking Up Steep Forest Trail
7) The path turns right near the base of the cliff, dropping slightly before heading uphill.
8) The path then leads steeply down to a narrow waterfall/stream gully. This waterfall been known to have medium-to-large size in Winter & Spring, or be mostly-to-entirely dry during Summer & Autumn. Find the best way across for the conditions. Be careful of slick rocks.
NOTE: Conditions of this stream gully change considerably throughout the year. Use extra caution to cross and ascend this gully.
9) After briefly ascending from 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 left side 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 Point 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, in-between Peak 5842 and Gunn Peak.
13) At the eastern base of Peak 5842, briefly climb down (Class 1-2) rocky slabs to the east-trending gully below.
At Base Of "Tailgunner" (Peak 5842)
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. Gunn Peak can be seen protruding further north from behind the hill.
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.
North View From "Tailgunner" (Peak 5842)
15) Once on the north side of Point 5760+, continue west towards a saddle (5360'-5400').
16) From the saddle, descend at an angle in the direction of Gunnshy Peak, dropping approximately 200' in elevation into vast open slopes to get beyond a rocky buttress.
Brief Descent From Saddle
17) Then gradually ascend northwest until near the summit ridge.
Ascending Open Slopes
18) Continue ascending towards the summit block, which remains just out of view.
Ascending Towards Summit Ridge...
19) The summit (6218') requires a minor Class 2 rock scramble.
Gunnshy Peak Summit
16) From the saddle, descend down towards Gunn Lake. The lake is approximately 600' lower than the saddle. Whether or not the lake needs to be reached depends upon current slope conditions (i.e. snow, ice) and whether a water source is needed.
17) Once at or near Gunn Lake, continue traversing west until north/above the western half of the lake.
18) Ascend due north up sometimes dirty, sometimes rocky, sometimes boulder terrain towards the summit.
19) The summit (6218') requires a minor Class 2 rock scramble.
Gunnshy Peak Summit Rock
: Approximately nine miles hiking distance with 5000'+ cumulative elevation gain
Gunnshy 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.
Beckey calls Pk 6218 "Jumpoff Ridge" but I'm not in support of this moniker. True, though, Pk 6218 is the high-point of Jumpoff Ridge
When to Climb
Gunnshy Peak can, in theory, be climbed year-round. However, much of the terrain is avalanche-prone and icy during Winter and Spring months. 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.
Regardless when the peak is climbed, if weather is favorable then great views should make the trip worth it.
More Great Views!
Wild Sky Wilderness allows backcountry camping on a "Leave No Trace" basis.
The primary location that potential Gunnshy 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. Other options include near Gunn Lake or on a flat area near the summit of Gunnshy Peak, although each of those options are preferable as bivy sites.
NOTE: Gunn Lake typically remains snowbound through Summer months and into Autumn, and occasionally has been seen covered by snow and ice year-round.
Gunn Lake During September 2012