Baker County Highpoint Trip Report

Red Mountain

Date: June 20, 2004
Authors: Peter and Mary Green

We made the drive over from Portland in about seven hours and camped at the delightful, and unpopulated, McBride Campground. We got up early and drove the last few miles to the trailhead and began our climb at 6:15 am.

Initially the trail climbs steadily up an old roadbed to an intersection. To the right is a communication tower, we took the left fork and continued climbing to a high rolling meadow. The views were tremendous. Snow covered about half the ground here and we saw no sign here, or anywhere that day, of previous visitors this year. From this meadow the path drops down a few hundred feet to the northeast toward Cornucopia Mountain. Along the base of the mountain the trail is more distinct and we came to an old trail sign. The trail contours the mountain heading roughly north at about 7200 feet. After maybe half a mile (2.5 miles from the car) the trail turned right and we were on a northerly slope. Here we had to cross several steep, frozen and difficult snow chutes because of the northern exposure. We lost a lot of time here chopping steps with our ice axes. Eventually the trail headed back north though and the west facing slope provided snow-free hiking.

A mile or more ahead the trail crossed a pass and entered the first of three north facing basins - all snow covered. We put on our crampons and began the tedious process of side-hilling through each basin, always looking for signs of the trail. By the second basin, we could find no sign of the trail whatsoever. We had been gradually losing elevation since hitting continuous snow at an 8000-foot pass. We knew we were getting near Crater Lake, though. Instead of heading directly for the lake, and since there was no trail anyway, we decided to angle right directly toward Red Peak. We climbed a very steep hillside and at the top found ourselves in the third snow basin and above Crater Lake. From here it was straight shot across to the base of Red Mountain. We traversed easily along the west face of the peak beneath its sprawling western scree slope. We selected a line of ascent well to the north so as to minimize our time on the upper ridge. The scree climb was not too bad, and once on the ridge we turned left and scrambled third class to the top. The views from Red Peak's summit are noteworthy, especially early in the year when snow covers the Wallowas to the north.

We retraced our route on the descent from the peak. At the base of the scree slope we again put on our plastic boots, though crampons were no longer needed. The hike back was long and required extensive use of the GPS. Part way back we noticed that our morning tracks had large and fresh cougar tracks on top of them. We watched the sunset on this, the longest day of the year, from the high meadow still some distance from the trailhead.

It was 9:30 pm when we completed the 17 miles effort and reached the car.

Webmaster's comment: Under snow-free conditions expect to consume considerably less time than fifteen hours.