Early Saturday morning, September 17, 2005 I started driving from my home in Medford, Oregon to the distant community of Joseph in northeast Oregon. My goal was to climb Aneroid Mountain. It is over 500 miles driving from Medford to Joseph and it would take all day. I did make a brief detour near Unity, Oregon and climbed Bull Run Rock which ranks 98th on the Oregon 100 list of highest peaks.
I met up with my climbing partner, Dean Molen, in La Grande. We then took Hwy 82 and made our way over to Joseph and beyond to Wallowa Lake and arrived at the trailhead at the end of the road about 8:00PM. We weren’t going to hike up this trail, but it was a good spot to car camp for the night.
The next morning was clear, but a little cool at 40 degrees. A nip of autumn weather was in the air. Our plan was to ride the Tram to the top of Mt. Howard and start our hike from that point. The first tram car up the mountain left at 10:00AM and we were in it. It cost $19.00 for this ride, but the spectacular views from the summit were worth the ride.
Dean and I headed south from the upper tram station with the goal of hitting East Peak, Hidden Peak, Aneroid Mtn., and (if time and energy permitted) Petes Point. First we found the summit of Mt. Howard a few hundred yards from the tram station and then we could clearly see what was ahead of us to the south. East Peak lay a couple miles away and Hidden Peak was just peaking out from behind East Peak. We couldn’t see Aneroid Mtn. We could see the beautiful Wallowa’s to the west. Chief Joseph, Hurwal Divide, Matterhorn, Bonneville, and Sacajawea were all brightly lit by the morning sun. This has to be one of the best mountain views I have seen.
Dean and I headed down to the first saddle from Mt. Howard towards East Peak. We picked up a nice trail in the saddle and followed it over and around the first two hills along the ridgeline. As we approached East Peak the trail split. The upper trail went up to the ridgeline and climbed to the summit of East Peak. The lower trail traversed around the east side of East Peak as far as we could see. We took the upper trail and were soon on the summit taking pictures of the Wallowa’s. There was no register or benchmark on the summit, but our GPS’s told us we were on the correct mountain.
Our next objective was Hidden Peak to the south. We followed the ridgeline down to a saddle and then up the north side of Hidden Peak. There is a nice register on Hidden Peak and we both signed in. More opportunities for pictures from this summit too. Aren’t digital cameras great! Here Dean indicated he had enough of this fun for the day and would return to the tram. I checked the time and it was already 1:00PM. I knew I would have to hurry if I wanted to get to Aneroid and back to the tram by the 4:30PM deadline for the last tram ride.
I moved right out heading to Aneroid a couple miles away. I pushed right along and I was on the Aneroid summit in under an hour. My GPS said I had traveled 5.75 miles from the tram to Aneroid Mtn. I signed the register on Aneroid, took more pictures, and headed back towards Mt. Howard and the tram.
I didn’t waste any time getting back to Hidden Peak. Yes, I had to climb all the way back up to the summit in order to continue on to East Peak. In the saddle between Hidden Peak and East Peak is a large natural cairn about 6ft tall that marks where the lower trail that traverses the east side of East Peak comes back up to the ridge and meets the trail that goes over the summit. I could see Dean’s footprints on the lower trail, so I followed him on this traversing route instead of climbing back over the summit of East Peak.
This lower trail around East Peak is not very well defined. In fact I lost the trail for a while where the trail goes around the east ridge of East Peak. I found the trail again as I came around the ridge and could see the north ridge of East Peak. The trail was better here and I easily followed it back towards Mt. Howard. I was still moving along pretty good, because I didn’t want to miss that last tram.
As I was heading down to the last little saddle before Mt. Howard, I caught up to Dean and we walked together back to the tram. We were early and still had about 40 minutes to go before the last tram. We took a leisurely ride down to Wallowa Lake and enjoyed the views. This is a great hike that took just under 6 hours and had about 3,500ft of elevation gain in total. We didn’t even feel like we cheated because we took the tram.