The northwest face of Sunshine is primarily used as a descent route after doing the Redcloud/Sunshine combination via the standard Redcloud ascent route. However, if you need to climb Sunshine by itself, this is an alternate to the Mill Creek route....and.....the route can be done from the standard Silver Creek Trailhead. This descent route is also much safer than the prohibited scree slope route below the Redcloud/Sunshine saddle.
See the main page for directions to the Silver Creek - Grizzly Gulch trailhead.
From the trailhead, hike northeast on the standard trail following Silver Creek. At 1.5 miles, several large cairns mark a trail intersection. At the cairns, cross the creek to the right (south) and pick up a good trail which heads south into the South Fork drainage. Follow a good trail generally south as it meanders through low conifer, then enters the gully above treeline. Note that the 1/24 USGS quad shows the trail crossing South Fork creek to the west. This is incorrect
in that the trail always stays on the east side of the creek. The trail gradually fades somewhat when it reaches the talus after about 1.5 miles, but stay in the bottom of the main drainage gully and you will see a faint trail and cairns. Once in the upper basin below the cliffs, continue following cairns and a faint climber’s trail to the right (west) and ascend an obvious weakness (steep gully) in the cliffband (see photo). There is an initial 10-foot section of class 3, but it quickly turns to loose class 2. Due to the loose rock in the gully, be mindful of your partners below you. At the top of the cliffband, look for cairns and a faint climber’s trail that switchbacks 600 feet up the talus on the northwest face of Sunshine. The faint trail culminates at the northeast ridge of Sunshine about 200 feet below the summit. At the ridge, turn right (south) and climb 200 ft of talus to the summit. Descend your route.
If using this only as a descent route:
Descend Sunshine Peak for 200 feet via the Northeast Ridge to just below the summit block. After 200 ft, look down to the west and find cairns and a faint climber's trail which begins traversing the northwest face of Sunshine. Switchback 600 ft down the talus to a bench and the top of the cliffband. A large cairn will mark the descent gully through the cliffs. Take care in the gully since it is steep and loose. A short class three section is at the bottom. Once at the bottom, make your way to the bottom of the talus drainage and follow the ditch/gully until reaching a good trail. Inside the bottom of the ditch/gully, a faint trail and cairns will help guide the way. Expect about 2.5 miles and 2000 ft of descent through talus before reaching the good trail. Follow the trail along South Fork Creek until reaching the intersection with Silver Creek. Go left (west) at the Silver Creek intersection and hike for 1.5 miles to the trailhead.
Ascent of Sunshine round trip mileage is 8 miles with 3600 ft elevation gain. If you are using the this as a descent route after the Redcloud/Sunshine combination, the round trip mileage is 9.6 miles and 4100 ft of elevation gain.
Standard day hike gear. Good sturdy footwear is recommended due to the 2000 feet of talus which must be negotiated.