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Shunga-la-she

Summit Elevation (m): 2636
Elevation Gain (m): 1035
Round Trip Time (hr): 6.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 13
Quick ‘n Easy Rating: Class 2/3 – You fall you sprain or break something.
Difficulty Notes: Moderate scrambling with some route finding to keep it moderate.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Download
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After a pleasant solo scramble up Mount Bryant the day previous, I wasn’t sure about another off-season peak in possible wind and snow but still found myself driving to Okotoks to pick up Wietse on Sunday morning! How can you turn down a peak with the name “Shunga-la-she” right?! I had a feeling that I should plug a few way points into my GPS for this outing. While looking at the map and at Bob’s trip report I realized that the road crossed the river about 700 meters further west than Bob’s crossing. I decided that it would probably be worth crossing the bridge(if there was one) rather than getting our feet wet in mid-November! It turns out that this was a genius idea, and I should have read my own website archives to realize this is the only way to do Shunga-la-she from the north west side! I keep forgetting about those archived trip reports – but there’s a TON of beta buried in there.

Shunga-la-she Route Map. Ascent is north line, descent is west and then north.

After stopping to photograph a gorgeous sunrise while driving along the Sheep River road, Wietse and I started up the hike along the fire road paralleling the Sheep River. We seemed to be doing a lot of up-and-down on the road but soon enough we passed the spot where Bob’s party crossed the river and found ourselves approaching a very nice bridge. After crossing the bridge we immediately began heading up the treed slopes, angling slightly to climber’s left on a small drainage in the hillside. Within 5 minutes we passed our first orange ribbon – someone else has obviously been on this route – although the ribbons we found were very faded and there wasn’t really any defined trail.

Our route worked out perfectly – we kept on the treed ridge and worked our way slightly to climber’s left until the trees started thinning and we could see rock to our right. The views of Gibraltar were also getting better and better the higher we went – looking to me like half dome in Yosemite. Once on the rocky north ridge of Shunga-la-she the route was obvious – but it didn’t look that easy with snow, blowing snow and ice on a lot of the rocks.

I kicked up all the snow cover that I could find since that was much better than loose scree but once we got higher up on the ridge the going became a bit more than moderate scrambling in sections. When dry I’m sure the scrambling stays close to the moderate level, although exposed to climber’s left if you stick to the ridge.

The clouds and snow are rolling in over the Sheep River. Gibraltar at left and East Peak of Burns at center.
Looking up the NW ridge – the summit is a long way off yet! We traversed the cliffs visible here.

As we got higher, the weather continued to worsen until we were in brief whiteouts and winds that threatened to freeze exposed skin.The final 250 vertical meters were more a matter of will power than physical power to conquer – like on so many Rockies summits, especially in the off season.Views from the summit were very limited – which was too bad but expected.

Wietse follow me into the misery.
Wietse and Gibraltar. And a snow storm.
This is what suffering on a scramble looks like…
Summit pano includes Highwood (L), Gibraltar, Burns, East Peak of Burns and Junction (R).

For descent we choose to hit the drainage between Shunga-la-she and the unnamed ridge to the west. We had no idea if this would “go” or not, but it was actually quite pleasant and helped avoid some tricky down climbs along the slick ascent route on the ridge. Staying out of the creek bed and in the trees on skier’s right worked best.

We joined the fire road about 400 meters past the bridge and enjoyed a pleasant stroll back to the truck. Shunga-la-she was a surprise for me. I was expecting an easy, but boring slog and it was a moderate and very interesting summit for me. I haven’t done many peaks in the Sheep area but now have a whole list of them on my radar including Gibraltar, Burns, Ware and Bluerock.

Shunga-la-she
50 photos
A Gorgeous sunrise as we drive along the Sheep River.
A Gorgeous sunrise as we drive along the Sheep River.
Starting out on the approach road.
Starting out on the approach road.
The approach road.
The approach road.
The approach road.
The approach road.
The approach road and Gibraltar's outlier.
The approach road and Gibraltar's outlier.
The bridge that Bob missed... ;-) Makes the river crossing a lot drier.
The bridge that Bob missed... 😉 Makes the river crossing a lot drier.
The false summit of the East Peak of Mount Burns.
The false summit of the East Peak of Mount Burns.
The forested north west slopes aren't too thick.
The forested north west slopes aren't too thick.
The steep grind up the initial scree slope once out of the trees was made a bit easier with snow.
The steep grind up the initial scree slope once out of the trees was made a bit easier with snow.
The steep grind up the initial scree slope once out of the trees was made a bit easier with snow.
The steep grind up the initial scree slope once out of the trees was made a bit easier with snow.
Wietse follows me up a narrow snow gully.
Wietse follows me up a narrow snow gully.
Great views open up to the west, too bad this is as good as they got all day!
Great views open up to the west, too bad this is as good as they got all day!
East Peak of Burns.
East Peak of Burns.
Into the grey...
Into the grey...
Snow made some parts of the ascent quicker.
Snow made some parts of the ascent quicker.
Snow made some parts of the ascent quicker.
Snow made some parts of the ascent quicker.
The clouds and snow are rolling in.
The clouds and snow are rolling in.
Looking ahead, the ridge isn't exactly easy scrambling, moderate for sure, especially with snow and ice.
Looking ahead, the ridge isn't exactly easy scrambling, moderate for sure, especially with snow and ice.
Traversing under some cliffs on the NW ridge.
Traversing under some cliffs on the NW ridge.
A shallow cave.
A shallow cave.
Traversing up a rock rib.
Traversing up a rock rib.
The ridge is steep in places, we detoured climber's right.
The ridge is steep in places, we detoured climber's right.
Wietse attempts a steep bump on the ridge. We ended up descending and going around on climber's right
Wietse attempts a steep bump on the ridge. We ended up descending and going around on climber's right
Great views to the false summit! :-)
Great views to the false summit! 🙂
Wietse and Gibraltar. And a snow storm.
Wietse and Gibraltar. And a snow storm.
Looking up at the false summit. I really didn't feel like it anymore - I want views!!
Looking up at the false summit. I really didn't feel like it anymore - I want views!!
The true summit of Gibraltar finally shows up over the false one.
The true summit of Gibraltar finally shows up over the false one.
Summit is finally just ahead.
Summit is finally just ahead.
Almost at the summit.
Almost at the summit.
Highwood (L), Gibraltar, Burns, East Peak of Burns and Junction (R).
Highwood (L), Gibraltar, Burns, East Peak of Burns and Junction (R).
Peakbaggers are dumb.
Peakbaggers are dumb.
Descending scree from the summit.
Descending scree from the summit.
Descending scree from the summit.
Descending scree from the summit.
We descended on skier's left of this cliff band - don't wait too long to descend off the north ridge or you'll be cliffed out!
We descended on skier's left of this cliff band - don't wait too long to descend off the north ridge or you'll be cliffed out!
We descended on skier's left of this cliff band - don't wait too long to descend off the north ridge or you'll be cliffed out!
We descended on skier's left of this cliff band - don't wait too long to descend off the north ridge or you'll be cliffed out!
Terrible weather.
Terrible weather.
We do this shite for FUN?! On a WEEKEND?! Jeez. :P
We do this shite for FUN?! On a WEEKEND?! Jeez. 😛
The escape drainage we descended.
The escape drainage we descended.
The escape drainage we descended.
The escape drainage we descended.
The escape drainage we descended.
The escape drainage we descended.
The escape drainage we descended.
The escape drainage we descended.
Coming out of the drainage to the road.
Coming out of the drainage to the road.
Back on the access road.
Back on the access road.
Wietse.
Wietse.

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