Bare-able FactsLet us now commence clothing this Bare page with a thread of text so long and so tightly woven that you won’t be able to get your head through the neck hole. Yes, let us not leave this special mountain threadbare. If you bear with me, I’ll eventually get to why this peak is so special.
This particular Bare Mountain (there are three in the state) can be found exposing itself in the crowd of largely forest-carpeted mountains of the southwest corner of the Washington Cascades. The peak is about 30 miles northeast of Vancouver and 20 miles south of Mt. St. Helens. The nearest higher peak is Soda Peaks, the highest point of the Trapper Creek Wilderness.
Bare Mountain is a triple-divide peak (but this isn’t why it is so special). It heads at Canyon Creek on the south, Siouxon Creek on the north, and Trapper Creek on the east. Perhaps it is this status that has allowed the quad in which it resides to be named after it. Usually, when the occasion should call for it, the highest or most prominent mountain on a quad is the one used for naming the quad. In this regard, Bare Mountain ranks only third behind Timbered Peak (4381F, 1021P) and Soda Peaks (4520+F, 1680P).
The entirety of the area around Bare Mountain with the exception of the Trapper Creek Wilderness a mile to the east is prime logging country. A network of well-used logging roads and spurs twist and turn along the ridges, hillsides, and valleys. These logging roads help in gaining easy access to the mountain but they sure do blight that wilderness feel. They're like varicose veins on a nice set of legs.
Okay, yeah yeah, enough talk; so why is this mountain special, Paul?
Next to the mountain is a hole in the ground.
Okay, so what! There’s a hole next to it.
Yeah but not just any hole but a big hole: the biggest hole in the state!
You’re an a-hole for even mentioning this B-hole.
No I’m not. I’m a reputable peakbagger with many fantastic stories to tell.
You’re an idiot!
I know you are but what am I?
You’re a moron!
Sticks and stones can break my bones but you can never out climb me!
Special note (11/14/07): David Olson found that Omak Lake could be deeper than Bare Bottom. Omak Lake has a rim of 1200+ ft and a lake surface of 956 feet. 1200 - 956 = 244 feet. The natural basin of Omak Lake is therefore at least 244 feet deep. Bare Bottom was measured to be 260 ft deep +/- 10 feet.
Just like every state has a highest point and a lowest point (often sea level for many states including Washington), so too do they have a deepest hole--a deepest natural pit with no outflow.* A list of the deepest natural pits in each state can be found here. Note that this list of holes is not wholly tenable. Deeper pits could still be found. That is, exhaustive searches of all states have not been undertaken. This is also true for Washington. Since the idea of determining/finding the deepest natural pit in each state has only this year become an activity worthy of the time of the outdoor enthusiasts among us, not all of the lands of our 50 great states have been sussed.
I myself came late into the game and it was only by a stroke of luck that I found this pit, this one next to Bare Mountain. I wasn’t specifically looking for it as I was panning around with my newly-installed Topo software on my new laptop. The previously “known” deepest natural pit in the state was found by John Roper. It is over by Vantage near the Frenchman Coulee climbing area. He proposed calling it “Bretz Waterfall Plunge Hole.” I thought simply “Bretz Hole” was more workable (i.e., not a mouthful). Read my trip report on Bretz Hole here. Bretz Hole is between 175 and 185 feet deep. Bare Bottom is even deeper. It is between 255 and 265 feet deep.
So how exactly did this hole come to exist? I’m not exactly sure. Obviously it is volcanic in origin (nearly all of the rock out there is metamorphosed basalt), but Bare Mountain doesn’t have the look of an old volcano. The mountain is merely a high point along a ridge. It is not a solitary peak.
Here is conjecture on my part, me not being a geologist:
All of the land around Bare Mountain for many miles in all directions was formed by eons of intercalated basalt lava flows and pyroclastics from the late Eocene or Miocene epoch 23-56 million years ago (see here for a discussion of Geologic time). These layers eventually built up to a significant plateau perhaps as high as 7,000 ft. On this plateau were many vents and craters pocking the landscape. In the proceeding millions of years, erosion (mainly water erosion) slowly wore away that plateau into the many valleys and ridges seen today. It was therefore only by a fluke of erosion (or perhaps by having more solid walls than other nearby rocks), that the Bare Bottom crater remained. The crater floor must be porous, for no permanent standing water resides at its bottom.
* Before setting forth on sussing out the holes, a simple set of rules needed to be implemented. What kind of holes don’t count? Obviously, as the word implies, natural pits cannot be manmade. This rules out strip mines and mine shafts and subways and sewers. Caves (of the natural variety) could be counted. But is a cave a pit? Then there is the issue of water filling a hole. The rule for bodies of water filling holes is that the water level must not be higher than the lowest point on the rim of the hole. That is, the hole must be completely surrounded by land and therefore not have an outflow stream (at least one above ground). If this rule were not followed, the deepest natural pit in Washington would not be Bare Bottom. It would be Lake Chelan, the third-deepest lake in the United States. Lake Chelan’s deepest point is itself 398 feet below sea level (1098 ft at the surface – 1486 feet deep). So if you removed all of the water from the lake you’d have at least a 398-ft deep hole. In reality, the depth of the hole would be much greater. The dammed outflow of the lake at Chelan is at 1040+ ft, meaning the basin’s depth is really at least 1040 + 398 = 1438 ft. But the lake has an outflow, so it doesn’t count.
Getting to that BareThere are several ways to arrive by car at the mountain. There are high ridge road approaches and a valley approach. I will speak to three of the most obvious approaches. The rest I will leave to you.
Canyon Creek Road (West Approach)
This is FR-54 and it starts from NE Healy Road east of the town of Chelatchie. Follow it ESE for 13+ miles to the head of Canyon Creek. The road eventually climbs to a junction (3670T) immediately northwest of Soda Peaks. Across the road at the T-junction is the trailhead for Soda Peaks Lake. Go left (north) at the junction for about a mile to another junction (3950T). You are immediately southeast of Bare Mountain here. Stay left at the junction and proceed around the south side of the peak. In about 0.3 miles you will go past an open and partly rocky slope on the right. Park here and proceed as per the hiking information above.
From Wind River Road (Northeast Approach)
This would be the approach route if coming from Eastern Washington points west of Mt. Adams. Meadow Creek Road goes over Oldman Pass and eventually becomes Wind River Road. When this road meets Dry Creek Road (FR-64) go right and make along counterclockwise arc north then west then south past Sister Rocks. Basically, you’ll want a map for this, but the idea is to stay left at the major junctions. This will eventually lead you to the 3950T junction mentioned in the preceding paragraph. You are immediately southeast of Bare Mountain here. Stay left at the junction and proceed around the south side of the peak. In about 0.3 miles you will go past an open and partly rocky slope on the right. Park here and proceed as per the hiking information above.
From Little Soda Springs Road (Southeast Approach)
This would be the approach route if coming from the Columbia River Gorge (Hood River, for instance). From Carson on the Columbia, take Wind River Road northwestward six miles to Stabler. Go left on Hemlock Road then north on Little Soda Springs Road (on west side of Wind River). This road becomes FR-54 and it eventually comes up to the 3670T junction mentioned two paragraphs up. Go straight (north) at the junction for about a mile to another junction (3950T). You are immediately southeast of Bare Mountain here. Stay left at the junction and proceed around the south side of the peak. In about 0.3 miles you will go past an open and partly rocky slope on the right. Park here and proceed as per the hiking information above.
Bagging that BareFrom FR-58 on the south side of the peak, an easy ascent can be made to Bare Mountain’s summit rocks. There is no trail save for a game trail/boot path up the initial open slope below the crater.
Park along the road (3900 ft) below the steep, unforested slope. Find the rough trail that goes up the left side of the open slope to eventually meet the rim and trees. This will provide you with your first good view into the crater.
Now simply go left (northwest then north) toward the summit. The trail winds through 10-ft trees then fades in beargrass open patches. Continue up on the rim (minor spur of summit). The upper rim in the 4200-ft level is packed with scratchy tight trees. You can avoid them by going right toward a rock outcrop (40 feet of tight tree whacking) or going left toward Pt. 4315.
For the rock outcrop route, you can walk on it (Class 2/3) or beside it (Class 2) to its top whereby a short step through a tree band gets you to an open scree gully. Take this gully to its head. You will then be on the southwest side of the southwestern summit rock.
For the Pt. 4315 route, go up to the minor western ridge leading to that point, then head right (northeast) and crash through tight branches for about 100 ft to get to the southwest side of the southwestern summit rock.
Walk up to the top of the southwestern summit rock. The northeastern summit rock (the true summit) is still a couple of hundred yards away. Descend off the southwestern top then walk across easy terrain (stay right of the trees) to the base of the northeastern top, which looks difficult from a distance. Fortunately, there is an easy dirt weakness on its northwest side. To get to the weakness, scramble through a jumble of rocks to as near the summit rock as possible. This will get you into some small trees where a leisurely step up and left (Class 3) gets you to the weakness.
Time from road = 30-45 minutes; Gain = 500 ft; Distance = 0.5 miles
Bare-ing to that BottomFrom the crater rim’s southwest side, an easy descent can be made to its bottom. But to avoid crashing down through cross-country terrain of all sorts of exasperating woods and blowdowns, it is easier still to use the boot path that goes down from the crater rim’s lowest point due south of the crater’s bottom (see the map).
Note that the crater floor is actually lower (in elevation) than where you parked.
Time from road = 20 minutes; Gain = + 80 ft - 260 ft; Distance = 0.25 miles
If going to the bottom from the summit, a direct descent can be made without difficulty. The total elevation loss from summit to bottom is approximately 550 ft.
When to Sleep with that BareYou could camp on the crater floor. But the best thing to do is car-camp. There are many logging spurs and many of these dead end in a nice landing. Beware of hunters with rifles occupying potential campsites. They may not take kindly to you flashing your late-night high beams into their camp.
When to Mount that BareSpring (just as soon as the roads open) to October or November (just as soon as the roads get snowed over). You could do the peak when the upper roads are snowed over but Canyon Creek is still open, but in this case be prepared for miles of road walking…or snowmobiling.
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