Agnes Mountain and Gunsight Peak 8198 via Stehekin + PCT / 艾格尼絲山

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Agnes Mountain and Gunsight Peak are two remote peaks inside Glacier Peak Wilderness. Together they share a joining ridgeline above Icy-Spruce Creek. The latter also makes one of the excellent rock climbs in the Cascades.

Agnes Mountain from Gunsight Peak
Agnes Mountain from Gunsight Peak

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Agnes Mountain and Gunsight Peak at a Glance

Blue Slam = Agnes Mountain + Gunsight Peak
憂鬱滿貫=艾格尼絲山+瞄準峯

Access: Stehekin, Washington
Round Trip: 33.2 miles
Elevation Range: 1600′-8198′
Gear: helmet, ice ax, rock & rope
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no

July 17-20, 2020

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Day 1 – Friday, July 17
Approach to 5000′ Camp
Night 1 – 5000′ Camp

Day 2 – Saturday, July 18
Icy-Spruce Creek Pass + Anges Mountain
Night 2 – Icy-Spruce Creek Pass at 6760′

Day 3 – Sunday, July 19
Gunsight Peak
Night 3 – Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

Day 4 – Monday, July 20
Exit


Day 1

Approach to 5000′ Camp

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Preface on Agnes Mountain and Gunsight Peak

Before the trip, I had reached out to several people but heard crickets. I get it. If I didn’t have a list, I likely wouldn’t give these peaks a thought. But then Patrick agreed to come along at the last minute. I was grateful for him taking days away from his fiance and two small kids.

Patrick and I met at Chickamin Slam. Then we followed up that trip with Bonanza Slam. Our last trip together was Mox Peaks in the Chilliwacks. I didn’t think anyone would be away from family for that long. But I wasn’t about to refuse the offer!

Lady Express arriving
Lady Express arriving

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Lady Express Ferry

It was my first time on the Lady Express boat. Most of us headed up to Stehekin, which meant we’d be in tight spaces for several hours. SoI wasn’t sure how effective social distancing would be out here on the water.

I don’t remember seeing a “face coverings required” sign when I boarded. But I read through the Lady of the Lake COVID-19 Policies page beforehand. Glad everywhere I looked, people had on their masks. The two-hour boat ride went by in the blink of an eye with a nap.

McGregor Mountain above Stehekin Valley
McGregor Mountain above Stehekin Valley

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White Bus to High Bridge

The Red Bus wasn’t running this year because of the outbreak. So the Stehekin Valley Ranch provided transportation services for the season. We shared the bus with two other parties. One was a group of four climbers on their way to climbing Goode Mountain and Storm King.

Later we all got off the bus at High Bridge after an 11-mile ride up the valley. Then we took a lunch break before continuing. Patrick was eager to get going. So we made a last-minute gear check and then went south on Pacific Crest Trail.

Stehekin dock
Stehekin dock

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Pacific Crest Trail to Agnes Mountain

Views in the forest were minimal. Then after we lost sight of McGregor Mountain behind us, the walk became uneventful. But I was glad for Patrick’s company. So we talked just about anything to pass the time. He must have packed the entire produce aisle because his pack was huge!

At 8.2 miles in from High Bridge was the Swamp Creek junction. We took a foot taping break there just as the memories of climbing Dark Peak surfaced. After walking for another 1.5 miles, we reached the confluence of Agnes Creek and Spruce Creek at last.

Agnes Creek
Agnes Creek

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Crossing Agnes Creek

We started looking for logs to cross the raging Agnes Creek. The first one near the camp looked like the one other parties have used before. But we continued on the trail in the hope of finding something larger. Patrick felt uneasy walking on the small log.

After having no luck upstream, the small log was our only option. It took acrobatic moves to get ourselves and the heavy packs to the down tree. Then we each scorched to the other side over the two annoying upright stobs in the midpoint.

Crossing Agnes Creek
Crossing Agnes Creek

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Crossing Spruce Creek

We had forgotten all about this second creek crossing until we neared Spruce Creek. Luckily, the only down tree over the creek was beefier. So we took turns and carefully walked right to the other side. But the battle was far from over.

Soon, we entered the open forest north of Spruce Creek. I had initially wanted to go up the slopes. Then we would traverse west over the top of the two north-trending gullies. But shortly, it became too brushy to navigate. So we backtracked toward the creek, which would be the only water before camp.

Spruce Creek crossing
Spruce Creek crossing

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5000′ Camp Below Agnes Mountain

It only took a short traverse east before we stopped. Then we knew that the only feasible way was up and not to drown in a sea of vine maples. From 3000′ to 3600′ was excruciating, as there was no easy way around the continuous brush.

As luck would have it, we found animal trails and then followed them for a while. The steepness persisted as we reached the semi-open forest at 4000′. Since we left the creeks, Patrick had been feeling ill, but he managed to pull through to 5000′.

Glacier Peak Wilderness's dreams
Glacier Peak Wilderness’s dreams

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Day 2

Icy-Spruce Creek Pass + Anges Mountain

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

En Route to Icy-Spruce Creek Pass

We awoke to another glorious day! Our first goal for today was going up to the 6760′ pass. Then we would climb Agnes Mountain after setting up the camp. Patrick passed out after we reached the 5000′ bench the night before. But he had a restful evening and was ready to go again.

We continued up the steep slopes. So we could bypass the two ravines I had intended to avoid yesterday. At 5400′, we started moving west-northwest. Meanwhile, we aimed for the 6760′ pass as we went in and out of several ribs. Later at 6400′, our goal for day two–Gunsight Peak–came into view.

En route to Icy-Spruce Creek Pass
En route to Icy-Spruce Creek Pass

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En Route to Agnes Mountain

I had planned to spend the night in the beautiful 6400′ basin adorned with streams. But now, we could even be one step closer to our first goal by being on the 6760′ saddle. We set up camp and relaxed a bit. Then we grabbed the gear and went up toward Point 7458.

Soon, we reached Point 7458. We didn’t have enough route information to bypass Point 7760. So instead, we scrambled down to the 7200′ notch and dropped 1000′ on the snowfield into Yew Creek. Then we went north toward the steep, narrow snow couloir south of Agnes Mountain.

The real Agnes Mountain, please stand up
The real Agnes Mountain, please stand up

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Agnes Mountain Climb

The steep couloir seemed to go on forever. It ended up being a 1300′ gain up to the col. Later I left the snow at 200′ below the pass. Then I used a rock ramp to move more efficiently. Patrick stayed on the steep snow up to the top. But the final 50′ up to the notch was on a loose rock and hard dirt ramp.

Shortly, we dropped 20′ down the west of the col. From there, we then saw the next objective–the snow ramp. After going through a small snowfield, we kept our crampons on for the gully. Later we left our gear at the top of the snow. Then we scrambled up to the upper snow patch.

The steep and narrow snow couloir
The steep and narrow snow couloir

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Chimney Crux on Agnes Mountain

Patrick brought enough gear for an army, but we were ready to tackle the 5.6 chimney crux. After following him through several pros, we were atop the broad chimney. Then we climbed up the west face for the final 100′ scramble.

The last bit was steep and full of loose rocks, plus a decent amount of exposure. Meanwhile, everything moved as we carefully tested every hold. Soon, we were on this pointy summit in the remote Glacier Peak Wilderness.

Chimney crux on Agnes Mountain
Chimney crux on Agnes Mountain

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Agnes Mountain Summit Views

As I savored the views, it had dawned on me the effort it took to come here. This area seldom gets visitors. But people often come to climb the neighboring Dome Peak. Maybe Sinister Peak, too, if they were after the Bulger List. So many peaks here to name.

After a 45-minute visit, we rappeled twice down to our gear. Then from the snow gully, we went down the moat on choss instead and kicked down rocks with every step. But we kept a reasonable distance not to knock things down on the other person.

Gunsight Peak from Agnes Mountain
Gunsight Peak from Agnes Mountain

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A Night at 6760′ Camp

Neither of us wanted to go through the top of the snow couloir. We also decided not to try and look for a way to bypass Point 7760. So we dropped 300′ over the rocks before returning to the gully. Another 1000′ descent then put us at the tip of the buttress.

We opted to go directly up the ridge and took the steep snow north of Point 7458. From there, we retraced our steps and returned to camp at sunset with breathtaking views to both sides. I spent all night keeping the rats away from my tent.

Thanks for another beautiful day
Thanks for another beautiful day

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Day 3

Gunsight Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Gunsight Peak Climb

The morning came too soon, and we were on our way to Blue Glacier before long. We bypassed Point 7070 to the pass above Blue Lake. Then we avoided the east ridge by making a rising traverse over the snow. But we ended up on the wrong col like Eric and his son did two years earlier.

Soon, we went down on the snow, walked north a short way, and went up one notch to the north. Then we scrambled class 3-4 terrain to reach the right col. It turned out to be more exhausting but a relief to see the saddle at last.

Blue Lake
Blue Lake

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Gunsight Peak Climb

The view of Chickamin Glacier was beyond words, and I never thought I’d be back again. Let alone see Chickamin Slam, which we climbed together in 2014, from the other side of the glacier. Before long, we reached the bottom of the broken snow ramp.

I didn’t think there would be moats with the heavy snowpack this year. But to our dismay, the gap was a few feet wide. So I belayed Patrick from the snow, and he brought me onto the wet slabs below the ramp. Then I put in a picket and went over to the anchor.

Chickamin Slam above Chickamin Glacier Basin
Chickamin Slam above Chickamin Glacier Basin

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5.6 Crux to the Ridge Notch

Shortly, I belayed Patrick over, and he proceeded to lead up the crux in the corner. We were both glad to see dry rocks where other parties had encountered mud. The two rappel stations at the top of the pitch assured us that we were still on track.

Once Patrick belayed me around the minor ridge, we simul-climbed along to the dike. We didn’t need to rope up here in hindsight as it was only class 3-4 terrain. Shortly, we reached the col between the north and the middle peaks.

The crux
The crux

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Class 4 Chimney

We roped up and then traversed the class 4 ledge over the west face for 100′. It was possible to simul-climb had we known what was ahead. Soon, we were on the summit ridge atop the chimney. But we still couldn’t see the summit from there.

We stayed tied in the rope, and then Patrick led me over to the summit. It was awkward going through this section as all boulders here pointed in various directions. We sometimes needed to take giant steps while squeezing through the slabs.

Into the chimney
Into the chimney

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Gunsight Peak Summit Views

Views on Agnes Mountain were excellent, but the sights from here were even more stunning. First off, Chickamin Slam was practically in our faces as it filled the western skyline. It was hard to take our eyes off those peaks.

Other notable places included Sentinel Peak and Old Guard Peak. There were the ones by Dana Glacier, including Spire Point. Bonanza Peak and Glacier Peak loomed in the southern skyline with too many peaks to name them all!

Chickamin Slam from Gunsight Peak
Chickamin Slam from Gunsight Peak

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Back to 6760′ Camp

We rappeled once from the top of the chimney and traversed over to the notch. Soon, we downclimbed to the second rappel station and rappeled once more to the ledge above the glacier. Then we made another rappel onto the snow from the lower anchor.

On the way in, Patrick’s water pouch fell onto the glacier, so he dropped 200′ to recover it. We later met up by the buttress below the col. From there, it was only a long ridge traverse to return to camp.

From Agnes to Bonanza
From Agnes to Bonanza

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Leaving Agnes Mountain and Gunsight Peak

We enjoyed a brief stay at camp but needed to pack and go as far out as possible. But we had hoped to reach PCT by nightfall. The white bus would be at High Bridge at 8:40 AM the next day. So we needed it to make the 12:30 PM ferry!

The part I dreaded was going through the brush again. From the 5000′ camp, it was back to fighting the terrible fight. But at least we were going downhill, and we made it to Spruce Creek after much cursing. The two log crossings then put us back on PCT.

Thanks for another beautiful day
Thanks for another beautiful day

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Day 4

Exit

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Back on Pacific Crest Trail

We rested by the creek. But I also napped while Patrick organized his gear. Soon, we started the 10-mile walk to High Bridge. At one point, I tied staying awake by listening to podcasts. Then during our final break, I asked Patrick to go ahead while I took another nap.

I had difficulty falling asleep. So I walked a bit more before taking a nap by another trailside camp. My phone battery was low, and then it died after the alarm went off in my sleep. But I woke up in time and then continued.

McGregor Mountain in the AM
McGregor Mountain in the AM

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High Bridge to Stehekin Ferry Dock

As I neared the switchbacks above the gorge, Patrick came back running. Somehow he thought I had taken a different trail and frantically looked for me. But he felt relieved after knowing we were still on track.

We had a half-hour to kill before the shuttle arrived. So we rested our legs and chatted with a few PCT hikers who came out later. The bus made several stops on the way back to the dock, including the famous Stehekin Pastry Company.

Stehekin Pastry Company
Stehekin Pastry Company

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Outro

We still had much time to kill back at the pier. So after wolfing down the pastries I bought from the bakery, I took a long nap on a bench. Meanwhile, Patrick slept under the bulletin board. What an exhausting trip it was! The next time I come here, I want to explore Stehekin without climbing anything.

It was a relief not to see as many people on the ferry. Soon after the boat left the waterfront, both of us went back to sleep again. We only later woke up to the captain’s voice coming through the speakers. “We will arrive in Fields Point Landing shortly…”

Back to Fields Point Landing
Back to Fields Point Landing

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Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

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