Wallowa County High Point Trip Report

Sacajawea Peak (9,838 ft)

Date: September 7, 2003
Authors: Bob Bolton and Dennis Poulin

Oregon completion for Bob Bolton

On Saturday evening after our Red Mountain climb, we drove the east on SR86, then north on FR39, then west on SR360 to Joseph, OR. On the way we stopped at the little berg of Halfway looking for something substantial to eat. We found a bar that made the best pizza any of us had eaten for a long time. Just west of Joseph we found Hurricane Creek Road, driving south into the canyon of Hurricane Creek, and camped at the trailhead.

We were on the trail by 6:30, well aware that we were facing a 4,800-foot elevation gain on already well-worn legs. At 1.7 GPS miles from the trailhead we found a beaten track at a 10 o'clock angle through a little green meadow toward the creek. This track turned out to be the Thorp Creek trail we were looking for. The first obstacle is to get across Hurricane Creek. I had been warned by a friend who has self-published a book on supposedly every trail in the Wallowa mountains that this crossing would be very difficult earlier in the season, which is why we decided to do these two peaks in September instead of the July 4 weekend. The alternative approach that everyone knows about, via Ice Lake, is much longer and is usually done as a backpack, and we wanted to get this one in one day. The guidebook says the Hurricane Creek approach is a 13.8 miles RT, while the Ice Lakes approach is more like 20 miles RT. I can assure you that by the time we had returned to the vehicles, we were glad we didn't have 6 more miles to go!

The trail is great as it steeply switchbacks up the east slopes of the Hurricane Creek valley. Eventually it leaves the ridge and traverses into the Thorp Creek valley underneath the northeast face of Sacajawea. Upon arriving at the meadows the track faded out, so we took GPS readings and continued up the valley. Near the head of the valley we filled our hydration bladders and water bottles from a spring. By this time Dean had been struggling with leg cramps for some time, and announced that he would have to abandon the attempt, only about 2,000 feet from the summit.

We climbed up the valley to where the east ridge meets the valley floor, then ascended the ridge toward the north shoulder of the summit ridge. The summit is reached after a rather short hike/scramble south along the summit ridge. For the most part the footing on the climb was excellent, with only short sections of shallow, loose shale on slanted rock that tended to slide with our weight. We made great time and arrived at the summit at about 12:15 pm. The jubilation was heard all the way down in the Thorp Creek meadows where Dean was watching our progress while giving his legs a chance to recover. The down-climb and hike out were uneventful.

Upon reuniting with Dean at the trailhead, I enjoyed the amusement gained from watching the faces of the occupants of another vehicle who for some reason were not comprehending the meaning of my top-of-the- lungs exclamations about sticking a fork in Oregon, and such. We then went looking for some Mexican food to stick forks into, finding a great place in Enterprise which handsomely accommodated our bodies' screams for calories.