I traveled to my ancestral home of John Day for the Memorial Day weekend intending to do some hiking, hoping to bag one of the many 8000 foot peaks in the area with unmaintained trails. Unfortunately inspite of it being late may, it rained and snowed for the most part of the weekend discouraging me and killing my plans of doing any bushwacking. My dad had been encouraging me to climb Fields Peak for awhile, throughout the years he has hunted up there, built and maintained trails on the mountain, and managed to drive a fullsized pickup up the trail that used to serve as access for the lookout on the mountain so I figured I would drive out to the trailhead and check it out.
I had never been up on Fields Peak, but I knew there was some sort of road I would probably be able to follow even with snowstorms ravaging the mountain all weekend. So my decision was made, and I forgone any hopes of higher mountains until later in the year.
The road in was completely devoid of snow and I managed to easily drive to the trailhead. Visibilty was poor at best, and I wasnt sure which of the paths leading from the parking lot was the trail I needed so I took a guess that it was the ATV path and headed off up the mountain. I could have used my GPS, but it was early in the day and I was feeling adventurous. The trailhead is seen in this picture below (it looks like a road but thats the path to take).
The first third of the trail was basically a muddy ATV track, a very easy hike up until rounding the first switchback. At this point I hit snow, only about an inch so I pushed on up to the first saddle where the snow was about two inches deep. Here the trail to Moore Mountain split off to the right, and the ATV path continued straight on. Visibility had dropped to about 30m so I couldnt really make out which way to go, but I knew to continue following the ATV path as that would be the only way to drive a truck to the top of the mountain. I continued on for a short ways and took a good long break under a fir tree. It was snowing pretty hard at this point and earlier I had opted to leave my snowshoes and waterproof boots behind the seat of my pickup. I checked my GPS altimeter and found I was at 6600 feet, only 700 feet left to go. Going against better judgement I pressed on.
Within ten minutes I was on the exposed western face of Fields Peak. The wind had picked up, but my altimeter put me only a few hundred feet below the summit so I ignored the wind and rushed up the road to where it disappeared beneath a deep snowdrift. Here I skirted the upper edge of the snowdrift and quickly found myself standing on the summit amidst the remains of the old lookout. I was now the third generation of my family to make the summit of Fields Peak, something I did not really consider until standing up there with no real visbility staring into the clouds that wrapped around me. I did a little victory dance then quickly made my way back down to the road trying not to posthole in the deep snow around the summit. The return trip was uneventful, but visibility was improved. I was able to make out Moore Mountain, and managed to scare a couple of grouse out of the trees on the way down.
above; the summit on approach. It was pretty cold up here so I didnt have time to relax and enjoy myself. As you can see the visibility was non-existant so I didnt really have much of a reason to hang around.
above; visibility had much improved on my descent. The trail was wide and easy to follow, even covered with snow.
below; the giant northwest ridge monolith known as Rooster's comb as seen from Fields Creek:
After I made it back to the house I recounted my trek to my grandfather who told me when he was a young man he and his brother had climbed to the top of the monolith for a break while on a hunting trip and left a register up there with their names on it (pre-WW2). I hope to find it and add my name to the list in the future.