This often overlooked and seldom visited mountain is along the Imnaha/Wallow divide between Cusick Mountain and Sentinel Peak. Some may consider it a simple rise along this extensive divide, but actually it is an east running spur with a high point separated from the main ridge. On most maps the point is labeled simply as 9,143 directly to the northeast of Cusick Mountain. This benchmark is not placed at the highest point so the summit height is estimated from the topo map. This area is included in the Eagle Cap Wilderness
of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
The geology of the Wallowa Mountains is spectacular, but the composition of this mountain may be the most complex in the range. In these mountains the dominant rock types generally are well layered and easy to read, but on this mountain there is much mixing of the Hurwal and Martin Bridge sedimentary formations. The marble that cuts across nearby North Imnaha continues into this mountain. And it all is sliced up by the often free standing dark basalt dikes. The confusing processes that mixed this mountain must have been quite an event.
This mountain can be climbed easily from the north ridge, west face and south face. The long east ridge is also an option, but getting to a starting point from the Imnaha drainage would take some good cross country hiking. The north face looks to be a technical climb from the north fork of the Middle Fork of the Imnaha basin. A climb of this mountain can be easily grouped with North Imnaha, Cusick Mountain or others in the vicinity.
Reaching this area of the Wallowas will require a 25 – 30 mile round trip hike and 2 or 3 days. The best way to this mountain may be via the ridge south of Polaris Pass. There are three primary routes to Polaris Pass. From the Wallowa Lake trailhead either the West Fork trail (1820) or the East Fork trail (1804) will get you there. To get to the Wallowa Lake trailhead from Joseph, head south into Wallowa State Park. Keep to the left (straight) just beyond the lake and continue through the tourist trap developments to the end of the road. The trailhead starts next to the information board.
If taking 1820, follow the signs for the West Fork and Lake Basin and keep to the right when the trail splits soon after the trailhead. Continue up the West Fork for 8.6 miles to the Polaris Pass trail, 1831. It is approximately 4 miles of steep, seemingly endless switchbacks to the pass.
The 1804 trail leaves the Wallowa Lake trailhead and keeps left up the East Fork Wallowa River valley towards Aneroid Lake. From the trailhead hike 8.4 miles to the intersection of trails 1804, 1814 and 1831, which just south of Tenderfoot Pass. Turn right or west on the 1831 trail and follow it approximately 3 miles to Polaris Pass. This end of the 1831 trail is mostly a low grade hike with only a few switchbacks near the end.
The third route is from the Tenderfoot trailhead in the Sheep Creek drainage. To get to this trailhead drive into the north end of Joseph and after approximately 5 blocks turn left on Highway 350 also known as the Imnaha Highway or the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. Continue east for approximately 8 miles to the Wallowa Mountain Loop road, also known as the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway or Forest Service road 39. Look for this road very soon after Highway 350 turns northeast and drops into Little Sheep Creek canyon. Turn right on road 39 and drive approximately 14 miles to Forest Service road 100. Turn right and head up Big Sheep Creek a little over 3 miles to the trailhead.
From the trailhead hike up the 1819 trail for 7.1 miles to the junction with trail 1814. Turn right or north on the 1814 and continue 1.5 miles to the meeting of 1804 and 1831. Go left or west on the 1831 for about 3 miles to Polaris Pass.
Once at Polaris Pass, follow the ridge top goat trails south for almost a mile to Sentinel Peak. Continue on the main ridge for just under 2 miles to the top of North Imnaha. Continue south down the ridgeline and stay on what appears to be the main ridge until it turns east. Continue a little further and soon you will be on top of Pt. 9,180. This point is about one mile beyond North Imnaha. Though much of the rock is loose scree on this narrow ridge, the footing is generally fairly firm on the goat trails.
This summit can also be reached from points to the south and west via Hawkins Pass. Once at the pass climb Cusick Mountain and descend its southeast face or the north ridges to the southwest or west base of Pt. 9,180 respectively. From either point climb to the saddle between Pt. 9,180 and Cusick Mountain and climb east to the spur ridge and continue to the high point. Descending the east ridge of Cusick Mountain to reach the saddle is also possible, but with some difficult pitches and slippery rock, should only be attempted by climbers who know what they are doing.
A Northwest Forest Pass
cost $5 ($30/year) and is required to park at the trailheads. These can be purchased all all local Forest Service offices and at many area businesses.
A free wilderness permit is also required for overnight trips. These are available at the trailheads and a copy needs to be attached to your pack.
There are general wilderness regulations, but these can vary slightly depending on different areas to be visited. Specifics are generally posted at trailheads or call the US Forest Service visitor center ((541) 426-4978) in Enterprise to get the regulations for the particular places you wish to visit.
When To Climb
The best time to climb the mountain is from late June to October. Snow can occur at any time of the year. Winter ascents are possible, but take additional skill and equipment and access to this remote mountain would not be easy.
Excellent camping can be found in the headwall basins of the Middle Fork of the Imnaha drainage. These offer ample water most the year, but are remote and accessible only with miles of cross country hiking. Similar camping can be found in Honeymoon Basin to the west. Good camping places near main trails can be found below Hawkins Pass, on the lower east slope of Polaris Point or in the upper North Fork Imnaha River basin, but these are a few miles from the mountain.
Check the information boards at the trailheads for restrictions. Generally these prohibit camping within 200 feet of lakes and streams, but regulations can vary slightly in different places.
Current mountain conditions can be obtained from the US Forest Service visitor center, (541) 426-4978.