I had a day to get in a few hikes and I finally decided to combine several short hikes into a full day’s activity. Saturday, August 22, 2009 I left home in Medford and drove north on Hwy 62 towards Crater Lake. My goals today were Fish Mountain the highpoint of the Rogue Umpqua Divide Wilderness, Castle Rock an interesting rock outcropping near Fish Mountain, and Rabbit Ears a technical rock climb that I have been looking at and driving by for years.
I drove to the trailhead that serves both Fish Mountain and Castle Rock without getting lost. I soon got oriented and headed out the trail to the east. I knew I had to climb this south end of Fish Mountain, but it was a little brushy. I hoped to find a better route down the trail a little. Within a short distance I saw an opening and headed off to my left into the brush towards the top of the ridge. Climbing was not difficult. I just chose the path of least resistance and kept going up. Soon I was on top of the ridge itself and I knew all I had to do was follow it to the summit. I encountered a few rocky obstacles on the ridge and had to find my way up through these large boulder areas.
Views started appearing as I gained elevation. I could see Rabbit Ears and Castle Rock my destinations for later in the day. It was a nice clear day and not too hot for August. I kept going and soon I was on the summit. I came back down the same way I went up. The total hike was about 1.75 miles, gained 880 ft elevation, and only took 1 ¼ hours. My next objective was Castle Rock.
The Castle Rock trailhead is in the same parking lot as that for Fish Mountain. This time I headed north towards Castle Rock. There is a trail of sorts leaving the parking lot and goes about 600 ft to a rocky outcropping on the ridgeline. I climbed this rocky area and could see the forested ridgeline ahead as it descended down towards Castle Rock. The trail kind of ends at this rocky outcropping and now I was following animal trails through the forest. This forested area is littered with down trees and it is not quick going. I knew it wasn’t that far down to Castle Rock so I kept going and soon I could see the bare rock of the castle ahead through the forest.
The forest continues right up to Castle Rock. I found a bit of a climbers trail heading off to the right of the rocks, so I followed that a little ways until I saw a talus slope heading up into a slot in the vertical walls of Castle Rock. This slot goes completely through the formation and I could see a tree on the other side of the rocks. I climbed up this loose talus and scree to where is topped. At this point, I was at a break in the vertical wall on my right and it opened up into the middle of Castle Rock. Now it was time for some rock climbing. It was easy to scramble up the first couple of ledges to get into the center of the formation. Then it was up a loose rocky ramp towards the north side of the formation. I could see if I got up another 20 ft or so, there was a ramp that passed by a large tree and it looked like it went up to almost the summit. I scrambled up some more and then got on the dirty ramp that had loose scree, soil, and rocks. It served me well and took me up close to the summit. A little more scrambling took me on to the summit proper. The summit isn’t very big, so I didn’t take any chances of stepping off the edges that went straight down to the forest a couple hundred feet below. I came back down the same way I went up. I didn’t feel the need for a rope, so I down climbed all the back to the forest. I did do a butt slide or two, but I felt good about the climb. If someone had been with me, we would have had to plan how to handle the loose rocks as we kicked them down.
The total hike was 1.25 miles, had 680 ft of elevation gain (half of that was climbing back up to the trailhead from the base of Castle Rock), and took 1.75 hours. On to Rabbit Ears.
After Castle Rock, I got back in my truck and drove to the Rabbit Ears trailhead which is a few miles south of Fish Mountain and Castle Rock. At the Rabbit Ears trailhead there was another car and a small tent set up. I took the trail towards Rabbit Ears and soon I was alongside the steep vertical cliffs that make up the west ear. I knew I wanted to climb up the saddle between the two ears. As I passed the west ear, I noticed a climber on the vertical face who seemed to be bolting a route up the face. I continued on because my route would not interfere with what he was doing. The route I wanted is only rated Class 5.4.
The route up to the saddle between the two Rabbit Ears is all rock and is a fun Class 3 scramble with some route finding. I am not much of a rock climber, so I was taking my time and looking for the easiest route with lots of hand holds. When I got up to the ridge separating the ears, I saw that I should have tried to get to the ridge closer to the west ear. I down climbed a little and traversed along the ridge until I was on the west ear itself. There are several possible routes up to the summit of Rabbit Ears, so I took my time finding what I felt was the easiest route for me. At one point right on the ridgeline, I had to back down a ways because my route became more of a friction scoot right above a big drop off to the north.
I kept looking around trying to read the signs where others had climbed. I was feeling good and kept going. I had a rope with me, so I could always set an anchor and rappel if I got stuck. Near the summit I passed a sling that someone else had set for an anchor site. This made me feel good because I must be on the correct route. I kept scrambling and soon I was on the summit. I amazed myself. The views were great, but I knew that I had to get back off this rock somehow. I headed down and when I got to the anchor position that I passed on the way up, I placed a sling and rappelled down about 100ft. From there it was easy Class 3 scrambling down to the base of the rock.
tymelero has some great pics of the route on the main Rabbit Ears page.
Total hike was only .8 mile, and gained 550 ft. It took me 2.3 hours because I am not a rock climber and never will be. That concluded a nice day in the mountains and I felt good about what I had been able to do.