Marble Mountain

There’s a handful of peaks left on the 100 list that, for one reason or another, I know will require a little extra effort and Marble Mountain was one of those peaks.  The peak is locate on the eastern side of the Wallowa Mountains dividing the North Fork and South Fork Imnaha Rivers and is at least 10 miles from the nearest trailhead.  Last year while climbing Cusick and Sentinel I had dreamed that I could also pick up Marble Mountain in the same trip, boy was I wrong.  While standing on top of Cusick I looked down a long jagged ridgeline which lead to Marble Mountain on the far end of the ridge and decided I would have to wait for Marble.  Yesterday I finally stood on top of the peak looking down the ridge at Cusick.

I only had a small weather window to get in and out of the Wallowas, a strong pacific cold front was forcasted to bring wind, rain, then snow with the temperatures dropping in the mountains and a snow level dropping to below 5000′.  Knowing I only had two days to climb the peak I left early on Sunday the 3rd of June and drove the 3 hours to the Indian Crossing Trailhead on the Imnaha River then began the 12 mile hike to the peak.  The first eight/nine miles follows the Imnaha River then the South Fork Imnaha River to the Boner Flat trail with an elevation gain of around 1000′.  Boner Flat/South Fork Imnaha trail junction is extremely difficult to find, I knew from reading and studying maps that the junction was located in a meadow, so when I felt like I had walked far enough from the last trail junction I started paying close attention to each meadow.  I felt pretty lucky when I stumbled upon the trail as it lead out of the eastern edge of a large meadow.  Boner Flat trail is a nice steep gradient trail so I was able to gain 2000′ in just over 1.6 miles.  As the trail tops out on the ridge line I started hiking cross country and across slope to the base of the upper part of Marble Mountain.

On the southeastern side of the mountain there’s a small basin.  I found a nice rock outcrop in the center of the basin to drop most of my camping gear so I could lighten my pack for the final climb up to the summit.  I decided my route would be up a nice thin line of snow up a steep small gully that lead up to the base of the summit.  I pulled on my crampons and using my poles I started up the final 1000′ to the summit.  I thouroghly enjoyed the final 1000′ of climbing, kicking steps and looking out across the southern Wallowas.  After less than an hour I was standing on top of the peak looking down the long ridge to Cusick and over to Red Mountain.  There’s still a nice blanket of snow in the center of the Wallowas.  I snapped shot after shot with my android and some video with my GoPro then searched for a summit register (If one is there I didn’t find it).  After only 15 to 20 minutes on top I started the descent back to my gear.

Looking back at the route on my descent

Summit

After packing my camping gear I was off and hiking back towards Boner Flat trail to find a spot to camp for the evening.  At 7:30 pm I was finally sitting in my tent melting snow for water then for cooking dinner.  I ate a wonderful dinner consisting of Ramen noodles and mashed potatoes with almonds for dessert mm mm good!  By 8:30 I slid down into my down bag for the night ending an amazing but long day.

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5 thoughts on “Marble Mountain

  1. Thank you for sharing, Troy. I enjoy reading your solo climbing adventures and tracking your progress climbing Oregon’s 100 Highest. I hope to summit several peaks in the Elkhorns this year, then resume exploring the Wallowas after many years of neglecting them.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Paul. Let me know when you’re in my neck of the woods, maybe we could get together on a peak in the Wallowas.

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