I've been looking at the Marten Buttes for years. I've seen them in the morning with the sun coming up behind, and I've seen them at sunset with the last sun warming their summits. I've explored beneath them on the French Creek Ridge Trail on my way to Mount Beachie
& Battle Ax.
These two buttes have been on my "to do" list for a long time. Well...Finally I did em! I set out to explore both summits this past Saturday. There's no trail to either summit. It's a scramble through, what appears to be second generation old growth, blueberry and rhododendron tangles. Local natives, to make way for blueberry fields, probably burned the original oldgrowth.
The South Butte (5040’) has a treed summit with interesting rock formations and a quarter mile summit ridge that goes from West to East. The Northern face of the South Butte looks to be the best for technical climbing with its basalt columns. It stretches just over a tenth of a mile long by about 250 foot tall.
The North Butte (5000’) is the most interesting to me. It also has a semi-treed summit with a sharp narrow lava flow pointing west. The South and west sides are shear solid basalt columns from 50’ to 250’ tall. The Northern side is made of columns worn with erosion sculpted features.
While descending the Northern Butte we noticed some climbing hardware anchored into the wall of the southwestern face. The highest anchor looked to be about 125’ up. This spot just happened to be only about 50 yards from the French Creek Ridge trail.
Woo Woo...Nice Buttes!
If you’re going to carry climbing gear you’ll want to park at the French Creek Ridge trailhead. From Salem take Hwy 22 East to Detroit Lake. Before crossing the green railed bridge that crosses the Breitenbush River/French Creek you’ll take a left on French Creek Rd. Follow this narrow paved road for about 4.5 miles. The road turns to gravel and you’ll come to a fork in the road. Take a right on road #2227. Follow this bumpy gravel road for about 3.75 miles. You’ll see a large parking lot off to you right. This is the French Creek Ridge Trailhead. If you’re looking for the wall previously climbed by others, hike the trail about 1.2 miles to a large slide area. You’ll see a HUGE rock down below the trail. As soon as you are just above the HUGE rock. Look to your right. You should notice a short steep scramble up to the wall. You should also see the existing anchors in the wall.
If you want to explore both summits, park at the same trailhead as above. Follow the trail for about nine tenths of a mile. You’ll come to a dry pond or if in late spring it will have water in it. This is where the scramble begins. Take a right up the hill to the saddle between the buttes. Once in the saddle scramble either way to either butte. Both summits can be reached non-technically.
A Parking Pass is required to park at the trailhead. (Not for me though, I’m a rebel)
When To Climb
On a normal snow year you won’t be able to reach the trailhead till mid to late June. So late spring to late fall is a good climbing window.
Again…follow the “leave no trace” rule and you can camp just about anywhere free. Detroit lake CG is a large, busy, noisy & expensive campground. There is a couple of small CG’s up Hwy 46, Humbug & Cleater Bend. Both of which are pay spots. $10/night. Our favorites are up the Breitenbush gorge near Crown Lake trailhead and a little gravel spot off road 2227 above Opal Lake.
For the local forecast check here
, or call the Detroit Ranger District @ 503-854-3368
Cell phone reception was available at both summits