Mickey Butte, Oregon, September 2019

On Saturday, September 21, I drove to Mickey Hot Springs, just north of the Alvord Desert east of Steens Mountain. Mickey Butte has only 6294 feet of elevation, but is the 80th most prominent peak in Oregon with 1934 feet of clean topographic prominence.

My first view of Mickey Butte from the East Steens Road south of Oregon Highway 78.
My first view of Mickey Butte from the East Steens Road south of Oregon Highway 78.
The "quiet pool" with Mickey Butte in the center distance
The “quiet pool” with Mickey Butte in the center distance

Saturday afternoon I met Michael and John for a climb of Mickey Butte the next day. This is a rather remote area and I was glad to have a couple of experienced and capable peakbaggers with me.

Mickey Butte at sunrise. We climbed the south gully below and to the left.
Mickey Butte at sunrise. We climbed the south gully below and to the left.

Sunday morning we left Mickey Hot Springs and hiked north across the desert and entered the south gully of Mickey Butte. John and I decided to climb the slope just left of the gully bottom where we thought the footing would be good and the sidehilling less steep than on the right.

John leads the way up the south gully's western slope.
John leads the way up the south gully’s western slope.

Michael took the direct approach up the gully bottom. Soon Michael encountered a dry waterfall where the rock appeared to be stable, but a large rock broke as he climbed it and it injured his left lower leg. Michael caught up with me as I was taking photographs and I saw his bleeding injury. Michael would not be denied the summit and he continued climbing the route with me.

Before reaching the saddle we turned right and climbed steeply up to the south ridge of Mickey Butte.
Before reaching the saddle we turned right and climbed steeply up to the south ridge of Mickey Butte.

Before reaching the Mickey Butte/Peak 6275 saddle we climbed up to the right to reach the south ridge of Mickey Butte and followed it to the summit. John had reached the summit about half an hour ahead of us.

Michael and John clean and bandage Michael's leg injury on Mickey Butte's summit.
Michael and John clean and bandage Michael’s leg injury on Mickey Butte’s summit.

We pooled our first aid kits and cleaned and bandaged Michael’s leg injury. It was good practice and a check that we carry adequate supplies for minor injuries.

Looking across the Alvord Desert towards the Pueblo Mountains from the Mickey Butte summit.
Looking across the Alvord Desert towards the Pueblo Mountains from the Mickey Butte summit.
Looking north from Mickey Butte towards the Sheepshead Mountains in the distance.
Looking north from Mickey Butte towards the Sheepshead Mountains in the distance.

The sky was mostly clear and the temperature was moderate. The summit was a little windy but the views were excellent. I enjoyed identifying many prominent and remote peaks I have visited, especially the Pueblo Mountains to the south, Mahogany Mountain to the east, and the Sheepshead Mountains to the north.

Steens Mountain rises high above to the west beyond Peak 6275, our second destination.
Steens Mountain rises high above to the west beyond Peak 6275, our second destination.

Steens Mountain rose above us to the west. Curiously, in such remote country we all had 4G cell service, apparently because of cell tower(s) on the Steens Mountain summit. I texted photos to a friend and to Linda.

Mickey Butte to the northeast from the Peak 6275 summit.
Mickey Butte to the northeast from the Peak 6275 summit.

From Mickey Butte we descended southwest to the Mickey Butte/Peak 6275 saddle, then walked across open and easy terrain to reach the summit of Peak 6275. I enjoyed the views here as well.

Rock domes protruding from the ground surface.
Rock domes protruding from the ground surface.

At the summit I noticed curious bowl-shaped basalt rocks lying on the ground and apparently hollow domes protruding from the surface. Some sounded hollow when I tapped them with my poles. I speculate these domes were formed by gas bubbles during the eruption.

My last view up the south gully towards Mickey Butte in the early afternoon.
My last view up the south gully towards Mickey Butte in the early afternoon.

From Peak 6275 we returned to the south gully and descended back to the desert floor and our vehicles. I descended carefully favoring my right leg (which has been bothering me this summer) and taking a few photos. I eventually lagged far behind the others, but I saw them pause periodically to check that I was still descending.

Bubbling pools at Mickey Hot Springs
Bubbling pools at Mickey Hot Springs
Heavy, dark clouds over Steens Mountain from Mickey Hot Springs
Heavy, dark clouds over Steens Mountain from Mickey Hot Springs

I lingered at the hot springs after John and Michael left to observe and photograph fumeroles and bubbling pools. Heavy, dark clouds were building to the west and it was time to head for home.

Paul McClellan

About Paul McClellan

I had the good fortune to have spent most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, where I discovered the joys and addiction of hiking and climbing in the Cascade Mountains and other mountain ranges in the Western United States.
This entry was posted in Climbing, Hiking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *