Around the rim in a dayThe High Lake Rim is a narrow ridgeline connecting Indian Spring Butte to BM 8172 near Graham Mountain. With the climb to the summit of Indian Spring Butte being merely 1 mile from the High Lake Trailhead, High Lake Rim offers a scenic opportunity to explore one of the Strawberry Mountain Ranges decaying glacial headwalls.
Beginning at the High Lake Trailhead head directly towards Indian Spring Butte up an old 4x4 track. Follow this ridgeline for less than a mile to the summit of Indian Springs Butte, where you will have to climb the short summit block to have access to the top of the mountain.
Following Indian Spring Butte travel East down the ridgeline towards Rabbit Ears. The rocks along this section of the ridge are fascinating examples of Miocene Volcanics eroded by wind and glaciers you wont see in other areas of the Strawberry Mountains. There are a lot of crevasses through this area to explore, most of which you will have to go down and around to make it to Rabbit Ears. Actually walking along the ridge would be very dangerous as you approach Rabbit Ears so you will have to travel less than 100 feet below the ridgeline in the leadup to Rabbit Ears.
Explore Rabbit Ears at your own risk. Climbing these rocks would be very high risk for anyone that is not an experienced rock climber or a Mountain Goat. The exposure is extreme, with the north side of Rabbit Ears dropping off over 1000 feet into the Strawberry Lake Basin. The easiest way past Rabbit Ears is to circumnavigate them to the south, going around to the north would be basically impossible.
The Hidden Saddle:
Located high between the Rabbit Ears are a series of platforms that can be reached with some mild 4th class rock climbing up a series of soft wide cracks. The highest platform offers an amazing view into the Strawberry Lake Basin where the wind rips between the Rabbit Ears, easily the most magical location I have found in the Strawberry Mountains.
Next is a series of highpoints at 8200 feet directly above Little Strawberry Lake. This is a great place to stop and enjoy the view into the basin below and the John Day Valley in the distance. This is easiest part of the hike so take your time and enjoy. The last part of the ridgeline is the saddle down and across to BM 8172. The descent into the saddle is fairly steep, again take your time and avoid getting too close to the north face of the glacial headwall. A fall here like anywhere along these rims would mean death. Low in this saddle is a small rock arch offering a portrait of Slide Lake.
BM 8172 is the final peak, and offers a good view into the Riner Basins, Slide Lake Basin, and to mountains east of the Strawberries. The summit is large and flat and is a good resting place before beginning the trip back to the trailhead.
The final section of the hike is to travel just down the south face of BM 8172 to pick up the High Lake to Slide Lake trail. Follow this trail SW down into the High Lake Basin, around High Lake, and then up the west face of the High Lakes Ridge back to the parking lot. Total time for this hike is around 4 hours (its a 4.5 mile hike with some serious scrambling along the rim), with almost two thousand feet of elevation gain (varying wildly depending on how close you hang to the ridgeline).
Getting ThereFrom John Day travel 9 miles south on Highway 395 to paved County Road 65 on the left. Follow this road approximately 15 miles to its intersection with Malheur National Forest Roads 15 and 16. Take a left heading east towards Logan Valley traveling only 2 miles where you will take a left on USFS road 1640. Follow this road 11 miles to its termination at the High Lake trailhead overlooking the High Lake Basin.
From the parking lot set off due north directly up the ridgeline towards its highpoint which is Indian Spring Butte.
Looking at Strawberry Mountain from Indian Spring Butte