Shunga-la-she Scramble

July 15, 2021

I had been eyeing up Shunga-la-she from several vantage points in the Sheep River, including Mount Hoffman, Little Ware and Missing Link. I will admit I’m not a fan of the overly long approach, and every mountain in this area has one. Time to just suck it up and get ‘er done.

There are upgraded maps at the trail head and junctions. While Gibraltar Mountain gets a marker, Shunga-la-she does not.

Shunga-la-she was on the top of my Mountain To Do List for 2021, after having missed the summit last November. Mike was recovering from gall bladder surgery, and had several bouts of intense abdominal pain while we were climbing up. Despite being 2/3 of the way, we made the conservative choice and headed back down. The mountains are not going anywhere, and there is always another day to summit.

Today was already much better! We were at the trailhead by 6:00 am to try and beat the heat from the unusually long and sustained heat wave. There was smoke from the Kelowna forest fires, but we were hoping for a few good views.

I wanted to know the meaning behind this interesting name, but the only thing I could find was in Gillean Daffern’s Kananaski Country Trail Guide, Volume 4 (4th edition). This is word for word, so don’t blame me: “Shunga-la-she, a beautiful-sounding name meaning ‘the mountain white man shit on,’ according to Rob Z. who used to man the Bighorn ranger station eons ago.”

Shunga-la-she is a scramble that requires route finding skills, and the ability to climb multiple short ridges.


Boots suitable for scrambling, day pack kit, and hiking poles. This route avoids the river crossing.


From the Junction Creek trail head in Sheep River Provincial Park, take the closed road west. Cross the bridge over the Sheep River. Hike another ~250 m to the trail head on the left (south). Follow the trail through the forest, heading towards the base of the ridge. Follow the ridge to the tree line, and churn up the short but steep scree to above the pinnacles. Pick up the trail in the scree to the right, and follow it to the spine of the ridge. Go around the steep wall to the right, then hike up to the col. The fun scrambling now begins, and continues until the final scree push to the summit. Cross the scree/talus slope, making for the low point on the east/west ridge. Once on the ridge, turn east until you hit the summit. Return the way you came.

Parking and Trail Head

Vehicle parking is on the lower loop of Junction Creek. The upper loop is reserved for horse trailers. If the lower loop is full, find somewhere else to park as the horsey people need all the space they can get.

Hike back up to the upper loop, and head west at the trail sign. This is an old road that used to be open to cars waaaayyyy back when. Mike remembers driving on it as a kid, despairing when his folks’ campervan got stuck in one of the river crossings.

This is the trail head at Junction Creek.

Main Trail

The road is a long slog with only a few views of the surrounding mountains to keep us entertained. I shouldn’t complain, as boring means nothing bad is happening. We were attacked (again!) by a grouse who was upset that we had the nerve to walk past.

The mountain in front of Shunga-la-she features the Tunnel O’ Fun route.
Mt. Burns on the right.

At about 3.5 km, we crossed the Sheep River on a lovely wide bridge. The Spirko Route crosses the Sheep further east.

The Sheep River bridge with the very impressive Gibraltar Mountain looming above. On the other side of the bridge, there is an immediate left that cuts off some distance, but makes up for it in direct elevation. We choose to continue the extra 250 m for a gentler start to the elevation gain.

Past the bridge, we hiked for another 250 m or so, and found the main trail head on south side (left). On my trip last year, we turned left immediately after the bridge and bushwhacked straight up to gain the ridge at a cairn. If you’re in a hurry, this is definitely an option but not as enjoyable as the trail further along.

The main trail head is well marked.

From the main trail head, we hiked through a gorgeous forest, keeping a sharp eye out for any and all flagging. I’ve been in this forest three times now, and have managed to lose the trail all three times. I always find it again, but just so you know, it’s not you 🙂

The flagging so close together might seem like overkill, but it’s not. Be wary of being sucked too far to the right, and following a good trail that parallels the creek. This is too low, as the ridge is rising on the left. How do I know this? The hard way…

Once we found the ridge, it’s a long hot slog through the forest. We hiked past the cairn that marks the direct route back down to the Sheep River bridge.

This is the first cairns on the route. If already on the ridge, just keep going straight. If you came up the direct route from the bridge, then turn left here and keep going up the ridge.

After passing a few rocky outcrops, we came to the end of the forest trail. The initial scree slope is probably the hardest. It goes straight up between rocky pinnacles, and is ball bearing on slabs or slick ground.

This is the last cairn in the forest. Above is the start of the scree. This is a popular shoulder season scramble, hence the stick for when this area is covered in snow.
The route is straight up beside the pinnacles. This is from my November attempt. I have to say, this section was easier then, because the scree was frozen in place. In July, the scree was loose and churning.

Above the churning mess, the trail is to the right. It turns into an absolutely delightful hike through the scree on a well worn path.

The scree above the pinnacles has a great trail, and is quite enjoyable.

The scree ends in a large boulder pile.

On the other side of the boulder pile is our first view of the approach ridge, with the band of fun scrambling above.

We avoided the steep wall by hiking around it to the right. Then continued to curve around, hiking up to a col.

Mike traversing across the base of the wall.

After the wall, the trail keeps curving around, heading for the low point below the wall above, which is the start of the scrambling.

At the col, we turned right and started up the scrambling section. This particular route is marked by a bit of flagging, just to the left of the two snow patches on the right side.

There are some amazing views from this spot. Be sure to turn around and enjoy.

The weather was clear in November 2020, giving us impressive views of Gibraltar Mountain (left) and Mount Burns on the right. At the end of the valley is Tombstone Mountain, and the route to Elbow Lake off Highway 40.
From the col, looking back down the ridge.

The scramble section was a lot of fun. It is one short section after another. These are just some highlight photos. Lots more to be had.

This entire ridge is one short scrambling section after another. You can recognize several of the features in the next photos. The summit is off to the left, but the route is not direct.

Once above the hands on section, we were on the final section that would lead to the summit route. Instead of staying straight ahead on the ridgeline, the trail traverses across the talus slope to the right. Here we came across a family of Rocky Mountain Sheep, and together we followed the trail to the ridge.

While the trail that continues past the outcrop to the right is in great shape and indeed avoids a churning scree slog to the ridge above, the unfortunate by-product is an overhanging drop (just to the right of the green line) that is impassable without a rope. How do I know this? The hard way…

The summit is still not in view. It’s off to the left, behind the false summit directly above.
The trail through this talus jumble is faint, but it’s there. To summit Jägermeister Peak, keep going straight, gain the ridge to the right of outcrop, and keep heading west.

Once at the col, we turned left (east), and hiked up the ridge to the false summit. Then continued along a bit further to the summit.

Alisen is just above the col. Behind her is the rocky outcrop with the overhang. We went too far on the talus slope below, and came up the west side of this outcrop. When we couldn’t safely descend, we fooled around looking for the best way around. We ended up descending to the south on the west side, and then hiking back up along the east side of the white wall. All in, we wasted about an hour and perhaps added another kilometer to our trip.
Mike heading east on the final ridge to the summit.
Looking back along the final ridge. The brown scree at the low point is the proper ascent route from the scree below. Directly behind is Jägermeister Peak.

The summit of Shunga-la-she.

Distance to the summit is about 7 km. Elevation gain is 1,014 m. Time to summit was just shy of 5 hours. This includes the hour we wasted going up the wrong side of the outcrop, and then dicking around to find a way down.

Looking south west towards Highwood Peak. Jägermeister Peak is on the right.
Looking around the summit mound to catch a glimpse of the ascent ridge.

Shunga-la-she Return

We hiked back down to the col, and then headed right. This steep slope was more talus than scree, which was not ideal for skiing.

This is below the scramble section, and approaching the rock wall that we skirted around on the way up.

Once again, we had to get through the steep section right above tree line. Not wanting the same ball bearing slip ‘n’ slide, we picked out another route through the pinnacles. This turned out to be vertical.

From here, it looks like it will go. We descended just to the left of Mike.
It turned out to be more or less vertical, but we were saved by the grippy steps all the way down.
It obviously wasn’t too scary if I could whip out my phone half way down to take a photo of the inside of the pinnacle.
Looking back up at the pinnacles.

Once we were off the scree, it was the long walk back through the forest. Yet again, I managed to get off trail, but picked it up before the road.

Back at the Sheep River bridge, we took the opportunity to head down to the river. There is nothing better than an ice cold foot soak. We refilled our water bottles, washed off the salt and sweat, and mentally prepared for the boring walk back to the trail head.

We lounged on the flat rocks to the right.

While I really do not like that long road in, Shunga-la-she was well worth having to do it twice. It’s an interesting mountain with constantly changing terrain, lots of fun scrambling, and a bit of route finding.

If you enjoyed this trip report, then please do click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, or join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers.


Totals – Tracked on Gaia, displayed Strava

Date: July 15, 2021
Group:  Two (Alisen and Mike)
Distance:  16.6 km (including our summit navigation error)
Elevation:  1,052 m (3,471′)
Time:  8 hours 30 minutes (includes lunch, breaks, navi error and river lounge)

Half of the distance is the walk from the trail head to the base of the mountain. My navigation error is seen on the final summit ridge, on the left hand side.
It’s all or nothing on this mountain – a flat walk, or straight up. All of the elevation is gained in the last three km to the summit.
Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Adventures, Scrambling
23 comments on “Shunga-la-she Scramble
  1. I can see from the photos why trail-finding skills are a necessity. Beautiful views and a gorgeous sky. And the translation of the mountain’s name. Um… I hope that’s not really it. It’s too majestic a mountain.

    • alisendopf says:

      I’m 99.9% positive that is not the right translation. I’m hoping by writing about it, someone else might know the real meaning.
      Take care!

      • That’s a relief. Lol. I hope you discover the true meaning.

      • alisendopf says:

        Me too! I might have to update the post and ask people to send in the correct meaning.

      • I actually tried to find something and couldn’t. How interesting!

      • alisendopf says:

        Oh! Good for you! We were trying to figure out what language it was. We might have to contact the Stony Nakoda first nation and ask them directly.

      • If you find out, post the answer. 🙂

      • alisendopf says:

        Guess what???!!???
        I contacted the one and only Gillean Daffern, author of the Kananaskis Guide Books where I found the naming of Shunga-la-she. This is what she said:

        “Hi Alisen,

        The name was told to me by ranger Rob Z about 40 to 50 years ago. Unlikely it is a Stoney name — though I have yet to check that out. (Does not appear in their book Stoney Place Names.) More likely it was made up by Rob as a joke because some say one of the pinnacles on the north ridge resembles a penis when seen from down below near Whiskey Lake. Could be. Shunga also is a name for erotic Japanese art. All sounds very sexy!! Anyway, it is definitely not an official name.

        Keep on scrambling,

        So, I’m calling this Mystery Solved. Ranger Rob Z sounds like an interesting guy, who enjoyed a bit of fun. Shunga-la-she is not an official name, nor is it in any other language. This is likely just the last peak on the larger, semi-circular mountain that is known as Highwood Peak.

        Thanks for playing along. You really spurred me on to try and figure this out.

        Take care,

      • Wow. How fun. That’s so cool that you reached out to the author and got the real scoop. Ron Z sounds like a character. He’s probably been chuckling to himself for 50 years. Hehe. You solved the mystery, Alisen. Thanks for letting me know! Job well done. 😀

      • alisendopf says:

        Thanks so much! I had another reader this week solve the mystery around Sandy McNabb, so it’s been a good week for super sleuthing 🙂
        Take care, and thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Really beautiful. It looked like a tough hike and some rock climbing but worth it.

  3. Even though you made a wrong turn, you got to the top. Good job!

  4. Widdershins says:

    One of the things I enjoy about these adventures of yours is following along with Google maps. 🙂

    • alisendopf says:

      No way! That is so incredibly cool!!! Thank you so much for telling me that. Now I want to look on google satellite to see how much detail there is.

      I hope you have a wonderful day full of adventure.

      • Widdershins says:

        There wasn’t a lot of detail for this one, but it gives me a frame of reference.
        I spent most of the day dozing, recovering, being fussed over. It was wonderful to just let everything, every expectation go and drift. 🙂

  5. Lovely post Alisen and the view from the summit of Shunga-la-she is really nice.
    I also like to see some snow patches and of course the way you structure the post. Very informative, with plenty of information.

  6. Diana says:

    Looks challenging but so worth it for those views 😍

  7. What a funny name for a mountain. Glad you were able to finally make it to the summit this time. The scramble section definitely looks like it would have been a lot of fun to climb up, but not so much on the way down.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: