Aneroid, East Peak and Hidden Peak - peakbagged...I've never been real fond of the term "peakbagging". Peakbagging sounds an awful lot like "teabagging" when you're trying to explain to your bewildered friends why you spent your last weekend in Nevada. Despite my apathy for the term I am obsessed with cramming trips into two day weekends. In late July I drove 1500 miles to summit Borah Peak in Idaho, and managed that in two days including one full night of driving (all thanks goes to 5 Hour Energy for that one). When snow begins to fall, I routinely make big loops down through Southeast Oregon to enjoy its wintry summits. This hobby of mine ensures that I spend many a long evening driving across barren alkaline flats and over blustery mountain passes.
When August arrives I find myself back in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, and for this summer weekend I decided to grind out a trip to NE Oregon and see if I could manage a summit each day despite some odd weather that was making its way through the NW. Saturday's target would be Aneroid Mountain, a peak that had mesmerized me after seeing this picture back when I first joined summitpost (btw, nice picture K). Aneroid Mountain also offered the tram to tram challenge, something The Big D had assured me was easy, but still a challenge nonetheless. Summiting Aneroid also meant I would have to climb atop Hidden and East Peaks along the way. Finally Aneroid's a P2K and an Oregon top 100 peak, which was just icing on the cake.
After getting off work friday, I made the short trip over to John Day where my dad lives, a good jumping off point for many of my adventures. It had been 11 grueling days of repairing air conditioners through a late july hot spell, so sleep came easy that friday night. Saturday morning I leaped out of bed and left John Day around 4am and hit the road. It was early, but I didn't want to miss the 10am tram up Mt Howard.
Wallowa Lake was overcast, but masses of tourists wandered the area streets, and already a group of people had gathered to make the ride up to the top of the mountain. After a short wait and visiting with people from around the state, I muscled my way to the front of the line and caught the 1st cart up. The weather was questionable, it was cloudy here at 8000 feet but it was August and I had mountains to see. I took off in a blaze and managed to find the summit of East Peak after fighting my way through the throngs of squirrels massing the trails between Howard and East.
From the top of East Peak, Hidden was visible for a short time as the clouds temporarily parted. This would be the case all morning, clouds breaking and offering breathtaking views of the Aneroid Ridgeline and even better views of the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Once I reached the top of Hidden, the clouds had settled down into lower elevations and the saddle across to Aneroid was wide open. The traverse was pretty easy looking. It took about 45 minutes to make the trot down across the saddle and up the short steep north side of Aneroid.
The summit of Aneroid was cold, I only spent a couple minutes up there before a cloud bank overtook the mountain. I made haste down to the saddle and back across to Hidden Peak which I circled to the west, and then around East Peak along its east face. I made it back to the tram at 3:30 with over an hour to spare. The Aneroid Ridgewalk offers a lot of scenic reward for a short day of hiking, highly recommended to the casual hiker!
Hurwal DivideMy original plan was to climb Chief Joseph from the Marina, but the campground was packed so I drove around the mountain and set up camp at Hurricane Creek. The next morning I woke up and decided rather than packing camp up and driving back to Wallowa Lake, I would tackle Hurwal Divide via Thorpe Creek. The early morning views of Hurricane Ridge were gorgeous as the first rays of sunlight peaked over the Hurwal Divide illuminating the lofty skyline.
Within a couple hours I found myself facing Hurwal Divide's West Ridge, essentially two thousand feet of steep gravel. It would be another hour of painful slogging before I made the summit ridgeline. I decided this West Ridge should be called the Wretched Ridge, a little worse than slogging up the side of South Sister, but without the crowds to share your complaining with and the sun is in your eyes the whole way up.
Below: The Southward view from Hurwal Divide includes Eagle Cap, Needle Point, The Matterhorn, and Sacajawea
In spite of the misery grinding out this ridge, the views were rewarding from the beginning of the ridge until the end. Across the valley was Sacajawea's majestic NW face, and the further you climbed the more Chief Joseph's multi-hued summit ridgelines came into view. Within 3 and a half hours I made the summit of Hurwal Divide, revealing the vastness and beauty of the Eagle Cap Wilderness to me.
Descent was exciting, Hurwal Divide's steep west face offers fantastic skree-skiing, albeit a little gravelly. Within a couple hours I was back at the campground, then on the road back to Bend and a monday work date.