Gunn Peak and the Gunn-Merchant High Route 

This area peaked my interest last year after reaching the top of Mount Baring. Spring may be a better time to venture into this rugged terrain when a deep snow pack covers much of the brush, but the autumn colors I remembered from last year were reason enough to visit this area in the fall, brush be damned. As it turns out, this is a peak I probably only need to climb once...damn the brush. I had hoped to climb both Gunn and Merchant Peaks, but a number of circumstances would alter this plan.

Gunn Peak and the Gunn-Merchant High Route from Mount Baring (Oct 13, 2002)

From highway 2 east I turned north in Baring onto Barclay Creek Road (FSR 6024). At 4.2 miles I passed a short spur road on the left. Unsure if this was the "overgrown logging road", the beginning of the more direct route or just a sucker road, I continued to the Barclay Lake Trailhead. I turned around and headed back. After a bit of investigation, I located a well flagged trail at a camp sight 200 feet down the above mention road.  It was an hour later than I should have arrived here if I really hoped to climb Gunn and Merchant. At 8:15am, I began following the flagged path.

The path quickly led to a log jam that offered a crossing of Barclay Creek. Once across the creek I continued, soon reaching the "overgrown logging road". I went left and in about 200 feet more flagging indicated it was time to leave the road. The route climbs through an old clear cut for several hundred feet before reaching large timber above where the path becomes easier to follow. At near 4000 feet, I reached a rocky gully. There may be a way to climb directly up this but the path led right for a few hundred feet to yet another gully. I crossed this and continued on the path into the broad gully on the south side of Gunn Peak.

Mount Baring from the South Gully of Gunn

In the gully the path vanished in the frequently dense brush. I kept left as much as possible, working my through brush, up watercourses and sidehilling through ferns and huckleberry brush below cliffs where the brush was more manageable. There is no ideal route...just go up... wherever it looks easiest. The goal is to gain the Barclay Gunn divide between Point 5842' and Point 5760'. The brush eased as I neared an obvious low-point in the divide (c.5400'). 

Finally, the Summit of Gunn Peak

Unable to locate a reasonable way into the basin between me and the summit in the immediate area, I headed left on the ridge until a gully allowed passage. I traversed to the obvious obvious talus slope then started up it. In about 300', a steep, damp gully to the right of the buttress appeared. I scrambled up on the right side of this gully (class 3) then into scrub trees on a path of sorts. Unnecessary Cairns spaced 50 feet apart  marked the way across a talus slope to the obvious gully leading to the summit ridge. At the top of the gully there is a small notch where the route crosses to the north side of the ridge.

The Summit of Gunn Peak from the Notch

On the north side of the ridge a steep, exposed dirt path descends then climbs back up to easy blocky scrambling. The summit is quickly reached from the notch but the first portion is exposed and could be difficult and/or dangerous if frozen or snow covered. The summit register revealed what had already become obvious: this peak is not climbed all that often. One name in the summit register appeared numerous times including assents on 3 consecutive days... I was off to Merchant Peak. At least I was still thinking this would be the case. It was a little past noon when I began descending. 

Merchant Peak and Mount Baring from Gunn Peak


Sloan Peak, the Monte Cristo Group, a Distant Dome Peak and Glacier Peak from Gunn Peak

I returned to the Barclay-Gunn divide and began ascending to point 5760'. Upon arrival at the summit area I was more than a bit disappointed. Regardless of what a certain guide book indicates (the one with an index), there does not appear to be a viable way down to the basin between Point 5760' and Merchant Peak. An interesting note is that there is plane wreckage scattered from the top of this point, down a gully and into the basin below.

I backtracked then descended a steep heather gully until it seemed feasible to traverse around this obstacle (point 5760'). When I finally found a way around, I had dropped to an elevation of about 5100'. Now I had to climb back up and cross a spur ridge at c.5500 feet before I could descend into the basin between point 5760 and Merchant Peak. A gully of red huckleberry bushes and the subsequent bear scat allowed an easy descent to the basin (c.4500'). From the basin I was forced to ascend another 200-300 feet to reach a notch between Merchant Peak and a subsidiary point to the SW where the top of a gully is accessed. This is the gully that is used to reach Merchant Peak, but I was well above the point where one would leave this gully to climb Merchant. I began descending the loose rock and scree gully. The descent was not difficult but was a bit tedious. 

The North Face of Baring from the Gully on Merchant Peak

I reached the point in the gully where there is a distinctive spire and waterfall...the point where one would leave the gully to climb Merchant Peak (c. 4100'). It was after 3:30pm. I was fatigued. It appeared that there was someone climbing Merchant (fresh tracks heading up, none heading down). I wasn't sure what the remainder of the descent had in store (two significant steps, pass the first one on the left and the second on the right as you head down; keep left at the bottom). I decided to head down, knowing all too well that I would be disappointed in myself by the time I reached the 5:00pm.

Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 2, 2nd Edition; Fred Beckey; Pages 36-37 
Climbing Washington's Mountains; Jeff Smoot; Pages 159-163