Lewis County High Point Trip Report

Big Horn (8,000+ ft)

Date: September 26, 2003
Author: Bob Bolton

On Thursday Sep 25 we hiked from the Snowgrass trailhead near Chambers Lake to a base camp beside a robust, beautiful spring-fed stream along Trail 97, the "Bypass Trail", south of and below the very popular Snowgrass Flat area in the Goat Rocks Wilderness.

At 7 AM on Friday, our party of seven set out for Big Horn reveling in absolutely perfect early fall weather. After connecting with the Pacific Crest Trail, we hiked it to the head of Cispus Basin where we left the trail and climbed to a saddle just south of Black Thumb (the spire just south of Big Horn). We could see mountain goats all over the hillside and cliffs, and as we approached the saddle a large herd of over 40 individuals stayed ahead of us (in one of my photos I counted at least 44). From the saddle we traversed northeast under cliffs, then ascended loose gullies toward the saddle between Big Horn and Goat Citadel to its east. With such a large party in this loose junk, we would move in twos and threes in a way that rarely had someone directly below a moving person. Rocks that started moving therefore whizzed harmlessly down the slope without anyone even having to dodge one large enough to cause injury, however there were a number of "catches" by a higher person before a rock could get a head of steam. Obviously, helmets were an absolute must, but at times I was wishing for football shoulder pads and baseball catchers gear as well! Just below a snow bank under the aforementioned saddle we relaxated, masticated, hydrated, and contemplated the east side of Big Horn's south ridge.

The two leaders decided on a route that involved two gullies and a traverse between them to take us to the ridge south of the summit. This was never more difficult than third class, however there were loose rocks here as well with fewer possibilities of avoiding them, so extreme caution was exercised all the way to the ridge. The route then simply ascended the ridge to the "famous" 10-foot vertical crack just below the summit which qualifies this as an apex county. The leaders set up the belay anchor, and Ed led the crack using just one piece of protection, then set up a belay for the rest of us. Some of us (myself included) had a bit more trouble than others, but we all successfully negotiated the crack while berating Fred Beckey's "difficult class 4" rating of the pitch. We were much more in agreement with John Roper's class 5.4!

The summit was then a short, easy scramble, and the entire party enjoyed our triumph and the great views of Mount Adams to the south, Mount Rainier to the north, Mount Saint Helens to the southwest, north to Mount Stuart, Mount Daniel, and other peaks in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and the closer south Cascades of Washington.

We rappelled the 5.4 pitch, then carefully down-climbed the route off the peak. After returning to camp, the 5 Mazama members packed up and hiked out, while Duane and I spent another night in camp to enjoy Saturday in the mountains.

We climbed Old Snowy, the first "real" mountain I had climbed, at age 11, with my dad while we were backpacking into the Goat Rocks area in 1958. Upon returning to camp, we packed up and reluctantly hiked out, saying goodbye to a fantastic summer of weather in the Pacific Northwest in which the temperatures are yet again hovering around the 90-degree mark today, even west of the mountains. Such weather made it possible to accomplish almost every cohp goal I had set for this season, failing only to put together a party for Bonanza. In some years I would have been lucky to complete half of those plans due to weather problems, so I feel fortunate indeed. And the summer could not have ended on a more enjoyable note than our climb of Big Horn.

GPS position using Garmin etrex Venture with 10 satellites and 15 foot accuracy
(46.49296° N, 121.42204° W) in the NAD27 CONUS datum. Indicated elevation 8,036 feet.