Broken Top, Oregon, September 2020

On Wednesday, September 30, Bob F. and I climbed Broken Top, just southeast of the South Sister in Deschutes County. Broken Top is an extinct Pleistocene stratovolcano that last erupted about 100,000 years ago. It has been greatly eroded during subsequent ice ages and has steep ridges of resistant but dubious rock. Broken Top still possesses two diminished glaciers, the Bend Glacier on the northern slopes and the Crook Glacier in the southern cirque. It is the 23rd highest peak in Oregon and the 56th most prominent.

Broken Top from the summit of South Sister (2020-07-14)
Broken Top from the summit of South Sister (2020-07-14)

This was my fourth climb of Broken Top, my last climb in August of 2003. Bob had only climbed it once before, when he was in middle school in 1971. It is interesting how distorted memories become after the passing years. Clearly remembered landmarks on routes may not exist, unexpected ones appear, or easily climbed pitches seem much harder on subsequent visits. It was time to return for both of us.

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Hurwal Divide, Oregon, August 2020

On Wednesday, August 26, I climbed Hurwal Divide. Hurwal Divide lies in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, part of the Wallowa Mountains, and gets its name as the steep divide between Hurricane Creek to the west and the West Fork Wallowa River to the east. It has 9776 feet of elevation and is the seventh highest peak in Oregon (with at least 500 feet of prominence).

The Hurwal Divide from Aneroid Mountain (2013-08-07)
The Hurwal Divide from Aneroid Mountain (2013-08-07)

Tuesday afternoon I drove to the north side of the Wallowa Mountains and car camped near the Hurricane Creek Trailhead. The trailhead was busy and I was fortunate to find such a nice spot to camp nearby beside Hurricane Creek.

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Maxwell Benchmark, Oregon, July 2020

Maxwell Benchmark and Hunt Mountain rise abruptly above the Baker Valley and invite a visit each time I see them. Early on Thursday, July 30, I left the valley to visit them.

Maxwell Benchmark (center) and Hunt Mountain (right) from Running Iron Road in the Baker Valley
Maxwell Benchmark (center) and Hunt Mountain (right) from Running Iron Road in the Baker Valley

From the Baker Valley I turned off Pocahontas Road and drove west up South Rock Creek Road. I continued along Rock Creek as the road entered National Forest, became FR 5520, and changed from pavement to good gravel to coarse and eroded gravel. I passed the Killamacue Trailhead and arrived at Eilertson Meadow.

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Twin Mountain, Oregon, July 2020

On Saturday, July 25, I climbed Twin Mountain in the Elkhorn Mountains northwest of Baker City. Twin Mountain is one of “Oregon’s 100 Highest Peaks“, a list first published by Jeff Howbert in the May 1996 issue of Pack & Paddle magazine. Peaks on his list have at least 500 feet of “clean” prominence (rising at least 500 feet above any saddle connecting it to anything higher). I know of three people who have climbed all 100 peaks, Pam Otley, Jay Avery, and Troy Baker.

Twin Mountain rising to the east from Peak 8428 in July 2012
Twin Mountain rising to the east from Peak 8428 in July 2012

The High Cascades include many of Oregon’s highest peaks. These fueled my original interest in climbing and I focused on them for many years. In 2007 I started working on my remaining Oregon’s 100 Highest Peaks, making slow but steady progress on these peaks over several years. Thirteen of the 100 peaks lie in the Elkhorn Mountains northwest of Baker City; as of 2015 I had climbed twelve of them. The last one, Twin Mountain, rebuffed my exploratory 2015 attempt due to difficult access. Since then it had been easy to defer returning to try again as I became distracted by Oregon’s prominence peaks. It was finally time to return.

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