Canyon Mountain Early July 2006I attended grade school in Canyon City Oregon and basically grew up with this mountain looming over the house we lived in only a couple miles away. Over the years I had made forays onto Canyon Mountain with friends and family, but had never made it to the difficult to reach summit. For the last few years I had been planning on making the trip to John Day to climb the mountain, and finally found the opportunity this last weekend.
My first near summit came in the late eighties, when a friend and I climbed up Sheep Gulch on the southwest side of Canyon Mountain. We had been exploring forgotten mining cabins in Sheep Gulch behind my friends house, and had been watching Bighhorn Sheep which used to live on Canyon Mountain before being wiped out by disease in the 90's. We made it near the base of Sheep Rock before turning back late in the day. Never meaning to make a summit attempt, this initial trip was a defining moment with regards to my fascination with hiking and climbing.
My next attempt would come roughly 15 years later when this July 2nd I set out early on a Sunday morning and went about making the long slog up Canyon Mountain. Inintially I had planned on tackling the Northwest Ridge that extends South from the meadow on the face of the mountain. Once I reached the meadow though and got a good look at the mountain I decided to try the Northeast Ridge instead. The Northwest Ridge looked more difficult due to the amount of underbrush around the meadow's edge, and the ridgeline looked more difficult on that approach. So I set off across the face of Canyon Mountain, crossing the beautiful green head of Dog Creek and around to the Northeast Ridge where I left the trail The next mile up the ridgeline I contended with a mile of blowndown lodgepole before accessing the north end of the summit spine.
My first look at the summit was somewhat discouraging. I was not sure if I would be able to reach it by traversing the spine, I found giant cliffs on both sides with deep chasms cutting through it in places. Not really a technical climber I pressed on anyway, climbing over, under, around, up and down the maze of rocks that make up the summit spine. At one point I reached a chasm cutting through the spine where I had to shimmey down a narrow chute to access the next ridge. Eventually I made it to the final ascent up the east side of the summit block. The climb was a little steep, but the summit was a great payoff.
Flowers adorned the top, where butterflies swarmed around them and me as I took a well deserved break. I pulled out a few of the register entries and read through them. Without digging too deep I found an entry mentioning a hiker finding St Helens ash during a summit trip in 1980. That made me wonder just how old the register was, but I didnt want to destroy any of the brittle paper scraps in the jar.
For the return trip I descended down the east ridge and followed Dean Creek down to the Canyon Mountain Trail. The hike back was long and painful after spending so much time navigating the summit spine. Heavy thunderstorms rolled in just as I made the parking lot, 4 hours up and 4 hours back down. This was a long dayhike, but well worth it! Canyon Mountain is definitely my favorite mountain. My earliest mountain memories are here, it was somewhat of a lifetime goal that I finally met. Some people have Everest, Denali, or K2... I had Canyon Mountain.