Summit Elevation (m): 2636
Trip Date: November 13 2011
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: Gaia
MapGoogle Maps

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.

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.

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.

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.

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