South Central Oregon Peaks

Gearhart Mountain

I had originally thought I was taking last weekend off, but then I got an email from a climbing friend asking if I would like to climb three peaks in southern Oregon.  Caleb suggested heading to Gearhart Mountain, Deadhorse Rim, and Yamsay Mountain for a three peak weekend.  The three peaks are located east of the Cascade Mountains and to the west of the town of Lakeview.  I actually considered climbing the peaks earlier in the year so they were on my radar; I definitely agreed to go along.

We started our trip on a Friday evening by driving halfway across the state to camp at a BLM campground to the east of Burns, Oregon.  Unfortunately summer is here in the Pacific Northwest; temperatures were in the upper 80’s in the mountains and over 100 in the valleys.  Even when we arrived at the campground around midnight the temperature was still quite warm.  Thankfully enough I swapped out my down sleeping bag for a lightweight synthetic rectangle bag.   After dealing with the very cold conditions in early June it was nice sleeping out of the bag.

We woke up and were on the road heading south Saturday morning before 6am.  Our goal for Saturday was Gearhart in the morning and Deadhorse in the afternoon.  Knowing the day was going to be a hot one we tried to get an early start on Gearhart.  The drive to Gearhart was uneventful so we were pulling our packs on by late morning and were off toward the summit.  The Lodgepole Pine stands in the area recently have been hit hard by an outbreak of Mountain Pine Beetle.  The beetles have ravaged the forest with extremely high mortalities.  I’ve never seen such devastation in such a large area.  The trail wound its way through the dead stand of trees that resembled the devastation caused by wildfire.  With the right spark the area would go up quickly.  We hiked for approximately 2 hours most of which was on the trail with the final mile cross country up the summit ridge to the broad summit.  We snapped a few pictures and had a quick snack before heading off back to the car.

Deadhorse Rim is a long ridge just to the north of Gearhart Mountain so the drive over to Deadhorse went by fast.  I was expecting a totally different experience, just as Gearhart Mountain the area was hit by the beetle infestation.

Deadhorse Lake

90% of the trees in the area were dead and the forest service has cut wide buffers along the roads and all the way around Deadhorse Lake which sits below the peak.  I had anticipated a high elevation lake in a lush green forest, what we saw was a lake sitting in the middle of a clear cut with dead trees as far as the eye could see.  By the time we started hiking it was early afternoon and quite hot.  To top it off I had the trailhead mixed up so we ended up walking an extra mile to get to the summit.  The summit of Deadhorse Rim is basically a bump on a long ridgeline.  We took our time to insure we actually stood on the “top” of the ridge.  On the descent we found the trail we should’ve taken and were back at the lake in under an hour.    Back at the car we decided to find a different place to camp for the evening, neither of us relished the thought of camping next to Deadhorse Lake.

Caleb sitting on the “summit” of Deadhorse Rim

On our way towards Yamsay Mountain we found a beautiful place to camp at a forest service campsite at Thompson Reservoir.

Yamsay Mountain and the long drive home was our goal for Sunday.  We were able to pack up and drive to the trailhead in a little over an hour and as soon as we open the car doors the mosquitos attacked.  After coating ourselves with OFF bug spray (thanks Caleb) we headed up the old road/trail to the summit.  This hike/climb took about an hour and a half so it wasn’t long before we were standing on top looking out at the Cascades to the west and Gearhart and Deadhorse to the southeast.  There used to be a fire lookout on the summit, but all that remains are the concrete anchors for the old lookout supports.

74 down, 26 to go.


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