2018/5/29 – Sheep Mountain / 綿羊山

Summit block
Summit block

Photos from this trip can be found here.

One of the seldom climbed high points next to Barlow Pass off Mountain Loop Highway. Up until now I hadn’t heard too much about this mountain. And judging from the route descriptions I came across online, this was going to be another trip full of type 2 fun.

While en route to the South Fork Sauk River crossing, I briefly chatted with two gals heading to Gothic Basin. Trailhead to the basin had been moved to about quarter of a mile before the river crossing since my last visit in the area climbing Cadet Peak. A large, distinct trail sign had been placed by the junction to aid hikers.

River crossing
River crossing

Photos from this trip can be found here.

On the other side of the river, we immediately scrambled downstream (north) looking for the northeast-trending tributary of Sauk River that crossed an old spur road at 2,400′. Another option would be to hike the Monte Cristo Trail for another 1.5 mile to the spur road junction, then head north for under 2 miles to the 2,400′ stream crossing.

Following the dry stream bed, we scrambled east past the spur road, and then hopped onto the ridge on the north side before the ravine started to form. Lots of down trees and brush to negotiate in lower parts of the ridge, then terrain became more open but steepened quickly. We continued to ascend parallel to the ravine on game trails.

Put your paws where I can see them
Put your paws where I can see them

Photos from this trip can be found here.

At 3,400′ the ridge took a slight turn due north-northeast, as we periodically bypassed cliffs from the west. At 4,000′ we began to traverse northeast toward the next gully to the north that came directly off of the summit block. Snow patches appeared at 4,800′; we arrived at the nose of a buttress at 5,200′ and entered the snow-filled gully.

Ascending on snow using crampons was much safer than scrambling on steep, loose rocks on climbers left. Terrain steepened at 5,500′ just as the gully narrowed to a full body length width wide. My main concern was punching through the snow finger, as the constant sound of running water could be heard directly below me. Pup got ahead and waited farther up in the gully.

Steep snow finger crux
Steep snow finger crux

Photos from this trip can be found here.

I got off snow at 5,600′ and scrambled through thick brush above cliffs to 5,700′, where I safely exited the gully onto the wide-open, snow-filled west face. Last several hundred feet of gain to the summit block was done on much easier terrain. The report I read mentioned steep heather through this section sans snow.

Summit block entrance marked by a lone tree had lots of loose rocks, which I constantly kicked down despite my best effort to avoid doing so. Carefully getting up a couple of big steps later and we were finally on the summit. Weather had been cloudy all morning up until the moment we reached the summit block. We enjoyed a long stay in an afternoon full of sunshine.

Stillaguamish to Sauk River Valley panoramic view
Stillaguamish to Sauk River Valley panoramic view

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Like its next-door neighbor Lewis Peak west of Barlow Pass, Sheep Mountain offered immense views into both South Fork Stillaguamigh and South Fork Sauk River Valleys. Morning clouds around Mountain Loop Highway corridor had since lifted, so we were treated with lots of views.

High points in the Stillaguamish River Valley–Vesper Peak, Sperry Peak, Morning Star Peak, Big Four, Dickerman Mountain, Long Mountain–were mostly visible. In the Sauk River Valley, I could see White Chuck MountainDel Campo, Silvertip Peak, Bedal Peak, Mount Pugh, and Sloan Peak. Although top of the latter two were capped in clouds the entire time.

Gemini Peaks to Big Four Mountain panoramic view
Gemini Peaks to Big Four Mountain panoramic view

Photos from this trip can be found here.

On the way down back in the gully, I faced in and down climbed on steeper parts of the snow finger–a bit too icy to plunge step safely. Back in the forest I quickly descended through slippery duff with the aid of microspikes to avoid sliding. I also found a better place to negotiate down trees and brush encountered on the way in.

We worked hard for the rewarding views on this mountain for sure!

Access: Gothic Basin Trailhead
Gear: helmet, ice axe, crampons, microspikes

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