Ascent of Sheep Nose on 2019-05-18

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:Dan Connors
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, May 18, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Sheep Nose
    Elevation:8894 ft / 2710 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is a very enjoyable extra credit peak with very imposing views when you see it from the south. Thankfully, we climbed it from the northwest saddles but even that way it is route finding puzzle. I read all the LOJ reports and people claim it can be done as class 3, class 3+ and several a class 4. I think they are all correct depending on what route they actually found and how they chose to do it. I personally can not say that the easiest route we found had a crux move as easy as what most people would call a class 3. There is a LOT of exposure on this peak and several iffy scrambles where it is easy to get up but you need to be sure you can get down too. So this will simply describe what we found.

First, there is a large false peak from the north the hides the true taller and more technical summit to the south. You can completely avoid this challenge by hiking up the boulder saddle of eroded pink granite and downed trees. Not fun but completely safe. The granite on this side is easy to climb with great handholds and you can select a path up the main upper saddle and avoid class 3 all together if you wish. HC was at the car nursing his ankle, and Dan wanted to climb rock whenever possible. It was beginning to snow again lightly so we wanted to get up and down quickly in case any of the scrambling became dangerous. Seeing the pink granite to the left was class 2/2+ but cumbersome with downed trees, and dark granite to the right made of class 3 and 3+ but no obstructions, we elected to climb to the right (more western side) to climb faster and in one steady rise. We ended up on top of the second highest subpeak and back onto pink feldspar granite. It was a fun, quick, safe, scramble. But from there you see you have to climb down to another saddle and then upclimb the true peak and there is no obvious easy route as you see it. It is a bit intimidating to look at!

Looking southward at the north slope of the feature, the topo indicates that the far left side (eastern part of the summit block) is not as steep so that is where I logically wanted to climb it. The immediate face you see, looks very intimidating class 4 and 5. And the right side looks doable but steep but the topo shows there are some very steep cliffs in the lower bands. Dan talked me into a frontal assault on the feature despite my stomach saying "not a good idea."

Most of the rock in the area is not easier than class 4 and most is obvious class 5. But there is this obvious seam in the middle of the feature that is less exposed because you can hunker down between the side walls of the erosion crack as you climb. This feature is probably 60 to 70 degrees so it is a bit unnerving. Not to climb up, but when you look back down it is steep; you have to be sure you can climb down it. I could see people rating this anywhere from class 3 to calls 4 but with the steepness of the fissure and height above the saddle, it is exposed and I am calling it class 3+ and sustained. Once you get off the erosion feature you get some relief back into class 2+ and Class 3 but then we hit the real route finding obstacle. The GPS track will show several attempts we made and abandoned that were straight up. There were three possibilities and all were dangerous. All were class 4 and 5 and the down-climbs were not good. Mossy sections on the rock, places where you could see the footholds going up but not down, and one place where the exposure on a 75 to 80 degree climb was a fall to your death. After several attempts I called Dan off of this route. Dan was sure he could climb 2 of the routes but I was sure I could not safely spot him down on any. So we agreed to climb down and try my idea to the far left. Perhaps that is where one LOJ author found class 3 route to the top? This certainly was not it as we were up into class 5.2 to 5.5 without ropes.

Then Dan looked around to the far right where he suggested originally and climbed up some class 3+ to scout around, and found a wonderful route that got easier the higher we climbed. You reach a large slab with a big pine tree in it and you are home free. From there there was nothing harder than standard class 3 with no real exposure to speak of all the way to the summit. We decided to retrace our route exactly so it was more of a class 3+ down-climb at all crux moves. If you select the right route (which took us some time to find) this is pretty straight forward and safe scramble I would call overall a class 3+ because there is no way to avoid exposure altogether. Someone with a fear of heights may not like this climb. But this is one to take your time on and select the right route carefully or you will find yourself quickly onto rock that a "normal peakbagger" does not want to be climbing without some ropes for protection (or unless they are actually a rock-climber skilled individual where the rock climbing is more important that the peakbagging.

Final note: The most scary part of the "correct route" once we found it is that last 20 feet of down-climbing the erosion weakness near the bottom. It is an outward facing downclimb that is very steep. It turns out that if you feel the walls of the erosion feature there is a large hidden hand hold running along about ten linear feet of the western side of it that can give you a very strong opposing upward pull as you down-climb. Once I stumbled into that continuous under hand hold, the descent went from something that was a bit scary to something that seemed very safe.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:744 ft / 226 m
    Total Elevation Loss:225 ft / 67 m
    Round-Trip Distance:2.8 mi / 4.5 km
    Grade/Class:3,3+,4, and worse if
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Snowing, Cool, Breezy, Low Clouds
cool with snow flurries
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:699 ft / 213 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 519 ft / 158 m; Extra: 180 ft / 54m
    Loss on way in:180 ft / 54 m
    Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Route:see GPS track
    Start Trailhead:saddle between peaks  8375 ft / 2552 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:45 ft / 13 m
    Gain on way out:45 ft / 13 m
    Distance:0.8 mi / 1.3 km
    Route:see GPS track
Ascent Part of Trip: Thunder Trip

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Thunder Butte2019-05-18 a1486 ft / 453 m
2Thunder Butte South Peak2019-05-18 b255 ft / 78 m
3Thunder Butte Block2019-05-18 c53 ft / 16 m
4Sheep Nose2019-05-18 d744 ft / 227 m
Total Trip Gain: 2538 ft / 774 m    Total Trip Loss: 1039 ft / 317 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by William Musser
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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