Sunday, February 2, 2014

Applegate and Garfield Peaks -> The Wombat

Crater Lake National Park
Smith Rock State Park
Oregon is a state of many faces, marked by a wide diversity of landscapes, from the sand beaches and rocky cliffs of the coastline, up and over the Ring of Fire and the Cascade Crest, to the High Desert of the east.  When you gaze down from far above, all these unique places look so close together, one blending seamlessly into the next as mountains rise of out foothills, and rivers wind themselves in broad arcs across valley bottoms and fertile plains as they had for the ocean.  It can seem like the distant reaches of the state are far away from each other, but in reality all this diversity is crammed into a pretty small package.

And it's a good thing too, because this varied landscape creates some crazy and unpredictable weather.  Sometimes, storms roll in from the Pacific for months on end, and it seems like endless days of powder shots will never last forever (remember the winter of '98-'99).  Other times, like this year, a blocking ridge of high pressure can make Oregon feel more like Colorado for weeks and months at a time.  We are exposed to wide extremes in temperature, precipitation and geography, and its awfully hard to predict when conditions will be good for whatever it is that floats your boat in the outdoors.   

And so adaptability is often the name of the game.  With a little creativity and a few hours behind the wheel, it's possible to squeeze a whole lot of fun and adventure into a short two-day weekend from Portland.  Earlier in January, with the high pressure system still locked in place and snowpacks dwindling, Bohle and I hit the fast-forward button and pulled together a weekend more reminiscent of May.

7 pm Friday night - Leave Portland
11 pm Friday night - Arrive in Chemult, Oregon.  Crash out at the Dawson Lodge House
6 am Saturday morning - Wake-up and Drive to Crater Lake National Park
Noon Saturday - Top out on Applegate Peak, 8126'
2 pm Saturday - Top out on Garfield Peak, 8054'
7:15 pm Saturday - Pull into Redmond, OR and Smith Rock Brewing for beers
9 am Sunday - Arrive at Smith Rock State Park
2 pm Sunday - Top out on the Wombat via Santiam Highway Ledges
9 pm Sunday - Pull back into Portland

Applegate and Garfield Peaks, Crater Lake National Park

Despite the lack of snow, we wanted to ski, and with a sunny forecast, we looked for some south facing slopes in the hopes of finding corn.  Bohle offered up Crater Lake as a destination, and I was sold.  
A snag and Hillman Peak (8151') from Rim Village (7100')
As we drove into Crater Lake on Saturday morning, I was kind of skeptical that we would find skiable terrain.  From afar, we could hardly see anything that looked like it was in condition, but as we got closer, our optimism grew.

An old, winter snowpack in Crater Lake National Park, January 2014
As we emerged from the trees, we found just enough snow to cover a majority of the terrain.  We set our sights on the two small peaks just to the east of Rim Village, where we would take in views of the crater.

Bohle topping out on Applegate Peak
Up on top of Applegate Peak, we found brush, and pumice, and some rocks - oh yeah and the views.  Wow!  Man, what views.

Looking to the east side of Crater Lake with Mt. Scott (8926') in the background
We dropped in from just below the top of Applegate and enjoyed about 1200' of nice corn snow down the south facing basin.  Bright sun, calm wind and corn snow!  Uh yeah, it feels like Colorado in April.

Bohle dropping a knee on the corn
Once in a basin below Applegate, we put the skins back on and walked up towards Garfield Peak, which is just to the west.

Dyar Rock on Eagle Ridge and Crater Lake
Skinning up Garfield Peak, looking back towards Eagle Ridge, Dyar Rock and Applegate Peak
From the top of Garfield Peak, we were treated to more incredible views of the crater rim and the surrounding terrain.

Mt. Thielsen (9184') from Garfield Peak
The south facing slopes of Applegate Peak from Garfield Peak - January 2014
Wizard Island and Hilman Peak (8151')
Mt. Scott and the Phantom Ship
On the way down from Garfield, we poked around looking for west facing shots n to the road, but the boney conditions kept us from finding a good line.  But we had a great day, with perfect weather and amazing views.  Thank you Crater Lake!

The Wombat, Santiam Highway Ledges, 6-7 pitches, 5.10a

We drove north after a day of skiing corn snow and crashed out in Terrebonne near Smith Rock, excited to shift into climbing mode.   The next morning, we hoofed it up to the Wombat, pretty much the highest climbable rock in or near the park.  We had both been interested in Santiam Highway Ledges for a few years, and we were not disappointed.

Broken Top (9175'), South Sister (10,358'), Middle Sister (10,047') and North Sister (10,085') and the Smith Rock Group
From the base of the route, way out in the Marupials, we could look down on almost everything else at Smith Rock.  Cool views!

Three Finger Jack (7844') and the mighty Mt. Jefferson (10,495') and the Monument Area
Santiam Highway Ledges was awesome!  In the photo below, the route traverses from left to right along a big ledge system near the base of the rock before climbing a crack system to the notch behind the tower on the right hand side of the ridge.  Three more pitches of really fun ridge-top climbing leads to the summit on the far left side of the formation.  The route was retrobolted and cleaned up in 2009 by Tyler Adams, Jim Ablao and Aaron Webb.  Nice work, gentlemen!  Thanks for your efforts.   
The Wombat
The crux pitch starts on decent rock with some delicate face climbing past a series of bolts.  After that, mixed gear placements and bolts take you to the ridge crest notch.

Jaime Bohle finishing up the crux pitch on Santiam Highway Ledges
  The ridge run is super fun!

Looking over at the middle tower

Jaime approaching the summit
And again with the views.

Mt. Hood (11,250') and the Monument Group
As a skier, it's easy to get frustrated at the lack of powder snow this season, but we are so lucky to live here in Oregon, where we can shift gears and just ski corn snow on volcanoes, or go rock climbing in desert - or both in a single January weekend.  All it takes is a little creativity and adaptability to cook up a mini-adventure no matter what the conditions.

And, to top it all off, Mt. Hood got coated with 2 feet of fresh powder later that week!  I wonder what we'll get next week.

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