In August 2009 I took a trip to northern Washington to climb Buckner Mountain, but the weather changed before we got started and we called off that attempt because the forecast was for more of the same in the week ahead. I had to go to my Plan B to salvage some climbing on this trip north. I climbed 5 WA P2k’s (Washington 2,000 ft Prominence Peak), a WA CoHP (Washington County Highpoint), and a couple of OR CoPP (Oregon County Prominence Highpoint) over the next several days before reaching the trailhead for Echo Mountain. John Kirk of Lists of John had recently discovered that Echo Mountain had been inadvertently overlooked when compiling the Oregon 2,000 ft Prominence List. Since I wanted to maintain my status as a completer of this list, I added Echo Mountain to my “to do” list. On my trip home from Washington, I decided to finally climb Echo Mountain. Echo Mountain is in a beautiful area and there are several other summits nearby. I decided to make this hike worthwhile and add Cone Peak, Iron Mountain, and South Peak to the hike.
I arrived at the trailhead on Tombstone Pass late in the day on Thursday, August 13, 2009. I car camped at the trailhead since it was flat, had a restroom, and was free. Early the next morning I shouldered my pack and headed down the trail. The trail to Cone Peak has been rerouted to keep vehicles from parking along the busy highway. The trails for Cone Peak, Iron Mountain, Santiam Wagon Road, Tombstone Prairie, and the Tombstone Nature Trail all start at this trailhead. Take the trail towards the back of the parking area that goes down and away from the highway. It soon takes a switchback and then parallels the highways through the forest for a ways. In about ½ mile I found the fork that goes up to the highway and crosses it. The trail continued on the north side of the highway and soon I was climbing up switchbacks under a nice forested canopy. When I reached about 4,900 ft the forest thinned and then was left behind. I could see Cone Peak through the clouds straight ahead. I kept going up, until the trail started heading left from Cone Peak, so I left the trail and headed straight up the slope to the summit. There was a band of trees and brush to go through, but this turned out to not really be an obstacle and then I was on the steep slope up to the summit. When I reached the summit, the surrounding peaks were obscured by clouds. I couldn’t see Echo Mountain at all and both South Peak and Iron Mountain were playing peek-a-boo through the clouds. I had more hiking to do, so I headed east off the summit towards South Peak.
There are some rocky ledges on the east slope of Cone Peak, but they are easily passed. I headed down to the Cone Mountain/South Peak saddle and then headed up the other side. It is a little brushy in the saddle and ascending South Peak, but there is a climber’s/game trail through most of it. There is nothing technical here, just stayed on the ridgeline and made my way all the way up to the summit of South Peak. From South Peak, I could now clearly see Echo Mountain to the northeast, but Cone Peak and Iron Mountain were obscured by clouds. Since my objective was now within reach, I didn’t dally on the summit. The route down South Peak and back up Echo Mountain is open, grassy, and a little rocky.
Descending South Peak, I kept looking for a route that would connect the Cone Mountain/South Peak saddle with the Echo Mountain/South Peak saddle. I never saw a route because the north side of South Peak is covered with a thick forest on a steep slope. I dropped down to the saddle and then climbed the final 400 ft up to the summit. By tagging the summit of Echo Mountain, I have again completed the list of Oregon 2,000 ft Prominence Peaks. This is the 3rd time I have completed the list. After the previous two completions, the list was edited. The first time Big Craggies was added and this time Echo Mountain.
The summit of Echo Mountain has a funny looking container for the summit register. It is a small pipe bolted to a rock and the lid is chained to the base. I signed the register, took a few pictures, bowed the cheering crowds and headed back to South Peak, Cone Peak, and onto Iron Mountain.
I descended Echo Mountain, re-climbed South Peak, and descended South Peak to the South Peak/Cone Peak saddle. I climbed a little ways back up towards Cone Peak and then started traversing across the face of Cone Peak. My goal was to intersect the trail that I used to get up to Cone Peak. I knew that trail makes a big loop around Iron Mountain before descending back to Tombstone Pass. Since this is open country, I didn’t have any trouble finding the trail again, and then I followed it westward for quite a ways before it turned south on the west side of Iron Mountain. The trail up Iron Mountain is signed and I headed up the switchbacks. I could see other hikers ahead of me (the first I had seen all morning). I was making good time and passed 4 or 5 hikers before I reached the summit. The other hikers were part of a larger group of about 15 hikers who were starting to eat their lunch on the summit. The summit of Iron Mountain is being improved by the forest service. They have built a big viewing platform on the summit with benches inside. It is a nice place for lunch. I ate a little lunch on the summit as well.
The time spent on the summit always passes too quickly and I had to leave. I followed the trail down and all the way back to Tombstone Pass without any problem.
The total hike was about 11.0 miles, gained 3,975 ft in elevation, and took 6.5 hours. I wasn’t done for the day. I drove over to Lookout Mountain and hiked this one the same day.