So…if it’s insane to climb 5 peaks in a day what would it be if I climbed 6 peaks in less than less than 30 hours?
I’ll start by saying what a trip! I left work on Wednesday afternoon and spent the rest of the day driving across the state of Oregon. I drove as close as I could to Crane Mountain then parked alongside the road and set up my “bed” in the back of the car. Actually, it’s quite funny how I sleep in the car, I lower half of the back seat down then I slide my Thermarest and sleeping bag halfway in the trunk then slide in for the evening. I was in the sleeping bag by 11:00 then slept for about 4.5 hours before the alarms went off.
Thursday morning I was up and out of the car by 4:30 am and on the road hiking toward the summit of Crane Mountain.
The first couple of miles were up a secondary forest service road which required a 4wd vehicle and since I didn’t want to pay an extra $150 in gas to drive my truck I had to walk it. I covered the distance fairly quickly and in an hour I was trying to find the trail off the road which leads to the summit. Normally trying to find the trail wouldn’t be an issue, but it was still dark and a thick layer of fog was covering the area.
Realizing I had passed the trail junction I had to retrace my steps back down the road over a quarter mile and found a post sticking out of the ground where the sign used to be. The trail was wide and rocky but fairly easy to follow even by headlamp and before long I was hiking up the remaining elevation from the trail to the summit. I was standing on the summit by 6:30am in the thick fog. My experience on the top of Crane Mountain consisted of taking a photo of a benchmark and signing the summit register…very exciting. In all I think I spent 15 to 20 minutes on top before heading back down. (I’m leaving out the I didn’t follow my GPS back to the trail and headed in the wrong direction…oops) I was back to the car by 8:30am and off driving toward the “Drake Trio”, one down five to go.
I was actually a little relieved that my next peak, Light Peak, was going to be a “drive up” peak. From my planning I noticed that a road lead all the way to the summit of Light and if it wasn’t in too bad of shape I would be able to drive my car to the top. In the end I drove within a few hundred feet of the summit so by 10:30 I was standing on top of Light Peak…2 down four to go! I quickly realized as I was standing on the top of Light Peak that in the end I would have to summit Light Peak three times, let me explain.
Light Peak is located in the center of three peaks; Twelvemile Peak is 1.75 miles down and up a ridge to the north and Drake Peak is 1.5 miles down and up a ridge to the south of Light Peak. I planned on hiking to Twelvemile and Drake from Light Peak so I saw just about every side of Light Peak so much for the “drive up”.
The hike over to both Drake and Twelvemile Peaks went fairly quickly and the views were amazing. The cloud layer finally burned off the top of Crane Mountain so I could see it to the south along with Mount Shasta. Warner Peak and the Steens could be seen to the east and many other peaks to the west that I’ll be getting a closer look at in the future that are on the 100 list. Side note to the area…There’s an old lookout, Drake Peak Lookout, located on a sub ridge/peak off of Light Peak that’s available for rent from the forest service. I drove over to it on my way down and talked to an individual that had rented it out for the evening. The first thing he said to me was, “Do you have an axe in your car?” and my thought, “why so you can kill me with it?” Evidentially the forest service doesn’t supply the wood for the stove so he was looking to cut a little to use that evening, still an interesting conversation. I drove down off Light Peak and back to Highway 140 where I stopped at what appeared to be a winter snow park area that had picnic tables and a restroom where I ate lunch and planned out my afternoon. Four down two to go!
Originally I planned on climbing Cougar Mountain/Peak for my fifth peak, but I knew it wasn’t too far of a drive to the Steens and the thought of finishing my day on Steens Mountain was too much to pass up. I found that I could continue on Highway 140 to the east/southeast into Nevada then back into Oregon at Denio. From Denio I would travel north to Fields then on another road over to Frenchglen which is where the Steens North Loop Road is located. I had a new plan, plus I was ready for a break from walking and the trip would take over five hours. For being in the middle of nowhere it was actually an interesting drive. I bought a little gas in Adel (cash only) then again in Denio Junction (In Nevada and yes gambling available and no I didn’t!). The last section of the drive was the worst; it consisted of 28 miles on a bumpy gravel road which led to the summit of Steens Mountain.
The Steens Mountain area is absolutely amazing; driving up from the west you gradually gain elevation through a fairly open area with stands of Aspen. The leaves are beginning to change and it took all I had in me to not stop and take pictures along the way, but I was on a “tight schedule”.
The last 8 miles or so the road travels parallel with the rim over looking the basin to the east and it’s not until you reach the end of the road that you finally see the views down toward the Alvord Desert and it’s spectacular. I parked the car and frantically began looking for the clip for my camera that fits into my tripod and you guessed it…no where to be found. I quickly grabbed my camera sat it on a nearby rock and snapped a few pictures of the remaining sunset to the west and a couple of the moon rising in the east. After snapping a few shots I put my headlamp on and hiked up the closed road to the ridge leading to the summit of Steens Mountain. At the summit I signed the register then sat and looked across towards the Alvord desert that was lit up from the moonlight. Five down one to go…
Back in the car I drove toward the Kiger Gorge overlook where I planned on sleeping for the night. Again I slept in the back of the car, but unfortunately I was parked on a slope so I kept waking up in the fetal position almost entirely in the trunk, yes not comfortable.
I slept in on Friday morning, the alarms didn’t go off until 5:30 am and after untying the knot that was my body I was up and out of the car by 6:30am.
The final peak is actually a ridge hike along the east side of Kiger Gorge. It’s hard to describe how amazing the view was from the ridge. To the west was the immense Kiger Gorge and to the southeast was the Alvord Desert with the sun rising over the desert and the moon setting over the gorge. There’s a steep entrance gully down on the ridge that requires class 3 scrambling but once on the ridge it’s easy to navigate along or below the ridge crest. I was standing on the high point of the ridge in less than two hours enjoying a cliff bar / Gatorade breakfast. Six down, fifty nine left to go!