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[TR] Wallowa / Eagle Cap Wilderness - Various / Several 8/1/2011


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Trip: Wallowa / Eagle Cap Wilderness - Various / Several


Date: 8/1/2011


Trip Report:


Total expected duration: 5-6 days

The weight: approximately 55lbs a piece.

The hike: East Fork Wallowa River-off trail-ridge traverse-snow traverse-West Fork Wallowa Trail.

Destinations: Aneroid lake, Pete's Point, Polaris Point, Polaris Pass, Sentinel Peak, North Imnaha, Cusick Mountain, Hawkins Pass, Glacier Peak, Eagle Cap, Glacier Lake.

Failed Destinations: Aneroid Peak, Marble Mountain, Matterhorn, Sacajawea, Hurwal Divide, Chief Joseph Mountain.


Journal Entries

(skip to bottom for images and quick overview)

Monday, 8/1:

Ean James Cornell was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ yesterday. Later that night he and I drove eastbound for Wallowa country. When we'd awoken on the side of Hwy 11's gravel shoulder, otherwise known as camp one due to a 10:30pm Portland departure the night before, it was to our surprise to be blessed with blue skies and golden wheat fields stretching as far as the eye could see. Already I was content, but hunger drove us on and eventually we arrived in Enterprise.


Being quite strained already we only managed to reach Aneroid Lake before running out of steam, but what an advantage this became! Within an hour of discovering a free use shelter outfitted with bunks and a stove located above the privately owned YMCA camp at the south end of the lake thunder, lightning and heavy rains began to fall. Large hail followed soon after.


As the night grew dim clouds dispersed and a pink hue filled the sky. After sundown we proceeded to venture forth beyond the youth camp in stealth mode in search of capturing astrological panoramas. Eventually we called it a long day and returned to the shelter with 1Thess.5:24 on our minds.


Tuesday, 8/2:

Slow to start. A leisurely morning dawned a new day as the wilderness introductions began to settle. Being as we were still in a man made structure the fullness of our local hadn't entirely come to fruition, but sipping coffee, reading God's word and enjoying our oatmeal while encompassed by jagged uplifts certainly put a positive spin on the morning. All the same, I was eager to get away from the camp and recreation of those below us and by half past noon a dusty pine path resided beneath me once more. Such settings often remind me of Mt. Bailey and the entire Crater Lake region for some reason. We were en route to Tenderfoot Pass.


Pete's Point loomed overhead at five past two. While Ean climbed the north ridge I opted to climb the east, thus the two of us were able to circumnavigate the east bowl with some time to ourselves. Simultaneously attaining the summit opened the door to proper orientation and the ridge of choice evidently dropped southbound but only a couple hundred feet before rising again at Polaris Pass. Suddenly Ean and I both wished we hadn't gone light and ditched our primary packs a thousand feet below back north.


Later we discovered an old trail cutting along the mid reaches of Pete's Point and as a result saved some elevation loss. However, moments later I conceived this brilliant notion that we should just, "climb back up toward the saddle," between Pete's Point and Polaris Point; we immediately grew weary of the tedious talus and scree, but remained stubborn. Carry on. Some grueling moments passed and we found ourselves atop Polaris Point, only to lose all our elevation gain by descending over the western edge of Polaris Pass to break camp on the other side. All in all a worthwhile endeavor due to shelter from the wind.


Quite the pleasant evening ensued. The sun's warm glow dissipated behind a sea of mountains as the stars began to appear one by two by ten. With the embers pulsating at my side and a worthy meal at my fingertips a glad heart lent to silence. The stars were clearer than I'd seen in some time and with one final time lapse photo all was in the bag by 11pm.


Wednesday, 8/3:

Ridges! Albeit another slow start to a long day, this was the first point in our travels that I had been legitimately longing to experience. Working our way back out of the lower west side of Polaris Pass looked daunting - in fact the night before we had considered a higher camp for such an inevitable reality - yet we topped out on the ridge proper within minutes having considerably underestimated our rate of ascent.


While maintaining a swift pace along the 9,000ft divide we could make out our ultimate destination for the day. Several miles afar on the horizon lie Cusick Mountain, and although the site of it alone made me tired, the sheer magnificence of the land before us always far outweighed any present exhaustion.


Eastbound held the arid expanse where we had come, including Mary's Peak, Nebo, and Aneroid back to East and Hidden Peaks; our immediate line of sight to the south gave way to a continuing exposed ridge of talus and small crumbling dikes; and a glance westward revealed a whole new terrain yielding majestic snow capped peaks that beckoned our presence. Fumbling feet tripping over both myself and large rocks always brought back the reality before me, but my mind often again trailed off without much delay as my attention would become caught up in the surrounding butterflies and wildflowers of various color. Then I would trip and fall again.


Words seldom come easily in fully describing the feelings experienced in such environments and at the perspective of that altitude. An endless expanse, the scope of mountains all around, only ever seemed to give way to puffed up horizon's of enormous thunder heads. Maintaining a watchful eye on their development each day warranted some concern, but we never had any option other than to continue or turn back and, when one is in the thick of things, either option sounds good. With disregard to the potential danger we pressed onward toward Cusick.


It's a shame we never saw any goats first hand, I was real disappointed by that, but we did witness two related events from atop Sentinel's south ridge. Descending parallel to an eastern snow bank we noted a large cornice collapse with a drop of a couple thousand feet. The cornice was cracked and broken in several places, but one spot in particular had obviously broken away altogether and it was here we could see goat scat, itself teetering on the edge of failure. Since we could see no remains, and the goat was likely fine from it's tumble, a hearty laugh went abroad. However, immediately the hilarity of the moment turned to awe as we witnessed a herd of goats, no more to us than little white dots in the distance, run from one side of Cusick to the other in less than a minute. Later this relatively identical traverse would take Ean and I over an hour to complete.


Once off the knife ridge over North Imnaha we sat atop a slab of sun baked limestone, put a bit of lunch in our bellies, fended off a local tick, and discovered the east ridge of Cusick to be more treacherous than anticipated. As a result the only viable route was to traverse below the ridge toward a chute heading up the mountain's north face, an exciting prospect. Eventually we progressed up this late season gully to the true north ridge. Knowing we'd backtrack our way off the mountain it made sense to ditch our primary gear and make a mad dash for the true summit.


After adding notes to a seldom signed register we retraced our steps to our gear and continued descending the north ridge toward the northwest buttress with which was an impassable cliff shy of an abseil. Veering back around once more led us to a series of couloirs, some led to additional impasses, while others took us down Cusick's western cirque. Near the bottom of the cliffs we encountered a freshwater spring, refueled and followed the stream to camp four in the meadows below Hawkins Pass. What an unreal place this was!


Thursday, 8/4:

Consciousness returned slowly by way of steadily soft trickling waters from the culmination of multiple surrounding streams. Here lie the headwaters of the South Fork Imnaha River with all it's cold, crisp, rejuvenating qualities. Peaks rose on all sides of this valley and nowhere else in all the wilderness had we experienced such isolation. And the rock that these peaks were comprised of! I'm no geologist, and I likely cannot divulge much insight on the specifics of the rock, but the variations within individual boulders was staggering. Granite offset the sparkling nature of obsidian as bright shining bands of marble like Saturn's rings cut through the rock's center. Such fascinating qualities would stop me in my tracks, always capturing my attention just long enough for a mosquito fiend to sneak a quick bite.


Although I could've sat captivated by the surrounding rocks towering high above our camp, and the blanket of tundra beneath our feet, the day was young and full of potential, and so it was we were to venture forth before the next impending storm deter us. Of course the moment our packs were slung over shoulder [Ka-Crash!!! ... Rumble, Rumble] lighting, thunder and hail came over all the land. No inhibitions now; we're committed.


Completing our ascent of Hawkins Pass came once more at a swifter pace than anticipated as we again doubled our factored rate of progress. With a quick glance to the southeast we became all the more affirmed by our decision not to have down climbed the northwest buttress of Cusick, seeing as how a slip would've been both likely and fatal. At this time another party came up the pass heading south. One of the group leaders noted our gear and said that he too would definitely take the direct traverse to Eagle Cap over descending around Frazier Lake, although he hadn't known anyone who had done such a route. With words of encouragement we veered off trail, departing Hawkins Pass, and followed the snow embankment below the ridge heading in a bowline toward Glacier Pass.


Clipping into crampons and exchanging trekking poles for an axe always felt satisfying. The traverse looked fun, and it was indeed a good route, but we definitely underestimated its challenges and the total requirement of time necessary to complete it. Nevertheless this was the highlight of our trip and it yielded the greatest rewards: Snow crested vistas, steep pitches, exposure, glissades and a sunset finale like neither Ean nor myself had ever witnessed in all our lives. Not to mention the little marmot companion and hummingbirds I encountered.


Glacier Peak held a close second to Cusick in being the most pleasurable climb, and both mountains had similar varying terrain, but the day itself was by far the best, and so Glacier gets the win. Mixed climbing and dry tooling our way up parts of the eastern face was a lot easier without carrying our packs. We descended the same face, only further to the south where the slope wasn't as steep or exposed. The final snow traverse over to Eagle Cap was beginning to affect our ankles. Once at the base Ean and I removed our crampons and sprinted up the mountain on the softening snow. The night was fast approaching, but we no longer cared. Glacier lake lay immediately below us, yet our route spiraled it's way down and we knew the headlamps would have to come out at last. Hours elapsed before reaching the lake's edge. Setting up camp was exhausting, but we had made the decision to head out the following day and so prepared a feast, thus polishing off the majority of our rations. Fat and happy our bodies fell into a deep coma-like rest soon thereafter.


Friday, 8/5:

Finally feeling tired. Today's choices are either stay put and have a rest day or head out a day early and honor a true Sabbath come Sunday. Because of the depletion of food the night prior, coupled with a severe 3AM soaking from a massive lighting storm hours earlier, Ean and I decided a long climb out the Hurwal Divide with a Terminal Gravity finish seemed appropriate. What wasn't factored in such a sweet plan was, that as we were, the quickest hike out would be 12 miles. An altered agenda came next.


Could we have accomplished this original feat in a day? I wasn't sure at the time, but now believe we could have. We certainly would've given it all we had if we had attempted it. At any rate, between our lack in food and awareness of a late arrival into Enterprise, that is to say after Terminal Gravity closed, we opted for the direct pack out that ensured a good meal and fine beer prior to sundown.


Crossing Glacier Pass became a physically awakening experience as thunder clouds approached overhead that graced us with a proper send off. Ean and I were soaked to the skin within a minute of what became a half hour downpour. Thunder rolled on in the basin yonder to which we had come as we approached our final trail junction onto the west fork Wallowa river. A million mosquitoes, twenty four ankle rolls, twelve miles, five hours and three river crossings later and we had completed the final leg of a teardrop loop in the heart of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. A brutal way to end our journey, but what a sweet finish it was. All praise and glory be to God for a successful and rejuvenating vacation.


Saturday, 8/6:

The world felt cold this day and our reintroduction to society came with a bit of a harsh blow to our psyches. We weren't gone long, but there was still a period of integration and so we felt like we didn't fit in. Perhaps this was actually rather the result of simply being dirty smelly kids in a tight knit community comprised of an older generation? Either way, drinking the night before certainly wasn't helping matters now (it's amazing what three of TG's beers will do to a truly exhausted man), but that was hardly the primary contributing force. In all honesty my heart really just yearned to be back in that great wilderness once more, but our week's experiences were enough and I was content to go home, for work is to be done.


Procrastinating our return voyage. To my car's misfortune Ean and I set our sights on Imnaha country in search of the Zumwalt Prairie, though we instead predominantly found large, hidden and fairly destructive rocks within the median of an old gravel road. Hours of bobbing and bouncing next to a dried up creek didn't lend itself kind to our hangover recovery process, but in the end gratitude overshadowed any distasteful emotions. Not bad, but not quite the day of relaxation we had hoped for. Upon retracing our steps out of the Wallowa Mountains, over the Blue Mountains, and across the windmill expanse we were once more preparing to journey through the familiar territories of the Gorge. Home's so close.





Parked on the edge of I-84 for a midnight rest stop.



Our first campsite a few miles north of Pendleton on the shoulder of Hwy 11.



The beautiful sight upon waking to the sound of a passing diesel rig.



Breakfast at the Friends Cafe in Enterprise. The Old Town Cafe in Joseph we later learned to be much better.



We wanted to get atop the ridge as soon as possible, but this route up Bonneville seemed like a tick nightmare.



Turtle dude seemed to like our decision to stay on the main path.



Sunset over Bonneville.



Our second campsite and not a minute too soon. Mass hail fell for hours but moments later.



Looking up toward Pete's Point (left of center) from the meadows near a YMCA camp by Aneroid Lake.



Ean James crossing Tenderfoot Pass on his way toward Pete's Point.



Ean James climbing up the north ridge of Pete's Point as clouds rapidly passed us by.



The summit of Pete's Point with the Hurwal Divide and Chief Joseph Mountain in the background.



Nestled next to a cornice I discovered the beautiful framing of Aneroid Peak.



Ean standing in the wind atop Pete's Point with Hurwal Divide in the background.



Wildflowers encountered during the descent of my circumnavigation of Pete's Point.



Polaris Point seen from a path skirting the edge of Pete's Point.



Resting on a natural dyke after ascending a horrible section of talus and scree between Pete's and Polaris point.





The ridge south from Polaris Pass. Camp 3 directly below, Sentinel Peak left, Red Mountain behind & Cusick at center.









Making fire and french press before climbing back up Polaris Pass seen behind us.



What looked like a miniature hanging glacier in snow form seen from Polaris Pass.



Resting on the summit of Sentinel Peak.



A cornice failure on the south ridge of Sentinel Peak - looked to be triggered by a goat - more intense in person.





Cusick Mountain lunch break view.



Our route traversed across the snowfield and up the chute to the north ridge.





Crumbling steep rock sections along the northeast ridge of Cusick, exactly the reason we opted out of it.



Ean James checking out insect life, likely a dragonfly, atop the upper dome/plateau before our push up the gully.



Standing atop the north ridge of Cusick looking back down the gully we'd just climbed.



The summit of Cusick Mountain.



Snow crevasses below the northwest ridge of Cusick.



Ean heading toward a dead end on the northwest ridge. Later we descended down below Hawkins Pass to the south.



Entering the valley below Hawkins Pass heading for camp 4. Uncertain of the peaks here to the west.



Looking up the west face of Cusick from near Camp 4. We came down a couloir and out the stream left of center.







The start of our snow traverse from Hawkins Pass to Glacier Pass.











Glacier Peak seen from midway along our extended traverse over the Lakes Basin region.



Some perspective on Glacier Peak's approach from the southeast.



Ean ascending Glacier Peak with Glacier Lake in the background - our campsite for the night and a long ways off.









Standing below the Gendarmes that separate Glacier Peak from Eagle Cap. Huge Rock slabs had fallen off recently.



Crampons coming off early for this final mountain.



Eagle Cap summit and my altimeter is spot on.



Looking over Pete's Point at the Seven Devils in Idaho.





Off the summit of Eagle Cap and back at our cache with Glacier Peaks impressive north face in the background.



Eagle Cap sunset extraordinaire. God smiling on us and our adventures.







A perfect view to wake up and see.



Not quite as nice of a sight, but genuine and although we don't really look it we are both extremely happy here.



Commando Ean.







Literally only a couple of seconds before a massive downpour hit and cleaned us up a bit.



The first water crossing, but not like the Wallowa River crossings in the slightest, except for mosquito content.



Officially opting to no longer pursue Hurwal Divide and replacing such a desire with that for Terminal Gravity.





Three triples at Terminal Gravity, need I say more. Having good company with Kim and Jeff was a pleasant surprise.





Working off the hangover near the Zumwalt Prairie, or else just being a bounty hunter for some rattlesnakes.



Gear Notes:

Crampons and Axes used only by choice of routes, but not necessary. Otherwise mosquito repellant, SteriPEN, Jetboil and a recently acquired MSR french press all came with great appreciations.


Approach Notes:

East Fork Wallowa river seemed under normal conditions. However, the West Fork Wallowa river was a torrent in many places with all crossings out beside makeshift log contraptions.

Edited by Holk
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Thanks for the compliments everyone.


but could you please stop crowding out all the quality hood tr's though, dood?


Yeah, if only.


Hood TR's remind me of my skateboarding days and the videos kids would shoot at the local skate park instead of on the streets.


It isn't that something cool can't occur, but often sure is a lot less entertaining. :yawn:

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Is the picture with the stars and tent and fire a double exposure or the composite of two photos?


Neither actually. In fact none of my photos within this report are, although some were edited a bit in Lightroom using a bit of dodging and burning.


The image you speak of was shot on a Canon 7D with a 10mm lens, iso 3200, f/stop 3.5 @ 30sec and taken at 8:40, so a little light resided in the sky. Little to no editing was done to that image.

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I used to go on BC ski weekends to a hut at Android Lake with a college group.




We're both planing on a return trip into the region come April or May with a similar agenda in mind. Having done this climb carrying pretty much all the necessary 4 season gear (just a coincidence) helped gauge a winter/spring venture. Of course the then goal would be to avenge the missed opportunities along the Hurwal Divide and area.

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I used to go on BC ski weekends to a hut at Android Lake with a college group.




We're both planing on a return trip into the region come April or May with a similar agenda in mind. Having done this climb carrying pretty much all the necessary 4 season gear (just a coincidence) helped gauge a winter/spring venture. Of course the then goal would be to avenge the missed opportunities along the Hurwal Divide and area.


That Hurwal should provide some good skiing about that time of the year. . .

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