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Ascent of Big Tip on 2009-04-06

Climber: Edward Earl

Date:Monday, April 6, 2009
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Big Tip
    Location:USA-Oregon
    Elevation:2840 ft / 865 m

Ascent Trip Report

Big Tip is a remote peak, buried deep in the heart of a massive tract of logging land. The approach requires over 20 miles one way of driving on unpaved logging roads. Fortunately most of that distance is on the same road without any critical turns, and this slightly eases what is overall a very challenging approach.

On the main drag in Fall City, headed westbound near the west side of town, the road splits at (44.8662N, 123.4353W), and I took the left branch which immediately crosses a bridge. Call this point mile 0.0. At 0.7 miles the pavement ends. At 1.6 miles, I went through an open logging gate by a sign with a litany of recreational regulations, including:

Day use only. No camping, fires, or overnight use.
Street legal vehicles only. No ATVs or dirt bikes.
Speed limit 25 mph, unless a lower limit is posted. Always turn on headlights.
No hunting or shooting.
Logging vehicles have right of way. All others enter at their own risk.

At 4.5 miles I went R at a fork. At 6.3 miles I went through another logging gate, also by a sign which repeated the rec regs. At 6.7 miles the road turns L at a quarry and some large gravel piles on the R. At 7.2 and 7.5 miles, a major side road goes R where I went straight ahead. At 9.2 miles I went straight at a 4-way intersection where the road to the R is gated. At 9.8 miles, the road began a long descending traverse into a valley. At 12.1 miles, the road reaches the valley floor and gradually turns R to begin going parallel to the South Fork of the Siletz River (usually not in sight) along the valley bottom in the forest. At 14.9 miles is a pullout loop on the L; immediately thereafter is a fork where I went R through an open gate. At 16.0 miles I turned R then L immediately after some low concrete walls and a pile of tires. At 16.5 miles I stayed straight where a major side road goes R. At 16.9 miles the road reaches the outlet of "Valsetz Lake", which is not a lake at all; it is really just a mosaic of meadows and clusters of birch trees. The topo map shows that the road crosses the outlet of Valsetz Lake here at (44.8502N, 123.6671W), but in reality, there is no crossing; the road runs parallel to the South Fork of the Siletz River (now the outlet stream of Valsetz Lake) and remains on its R. At 17.3 miles the road finally crosses the river on a bridge, immediately after which there is a T-intersection where I turned L. I was still going parallel to the South Fork of the Siletz River on its R, but I was now headed upstream back toward Valsetz Lake. At 17.7 miles I reached a fork amid gravel piles. The L branch continued level along the base of a hill; I took the R branch, which made a steep ascending traverse up the hill in a clear cut. At 18.2 and 18.9 miles the road made a pair of sharp switchbacks R and L, respectively. It then went through a stretch of forest but re-emerged into a clear cut before reaching Big Saddle at 21.0 miles. Here the topo map shows just one fork, but in fact there are now two forks about 200 feet apart. I went L at the first fork, which is mapped, then R at the second fork, which is unmapped. I was now on the uppermost of two roads that traverse around the N side of the hill that rises on the W side of Big Saddle. (An unmapped road goes around the S side of this hill.) Finally, at 21.6 miles, the road began to descend and reached a quarry on the R side, where I parked and continued on foot. The condition of the road is adequate for any street legal vehicle, and Martinizing types can probably drive another mile or so, but the serious remoteness of the location combined with the worsening road condition (very coarse gravel since starting the climb above Valsetz Lake equals a high risk of a flat tire) and the fact that I was getting pretty close to the peak rendered the benefits of trying to drive any farther not worth the risk.

I hiked farther down the road, occasionally through forest and occasionally through clear cuts. As I rounded a ridge, the razed summit of Big Tip came into view. As I approached the 2200' saddle ½ mile E of Big Tip on the border of Lincoln and Polk counties, a stretch of the road was littered with sticks left over from logging. Just past the saddle, the topo map shows a jeep trail branching off to the L side of the road, but in fact this "jeep trail" is now the main road (which consists of coarse gray gravel), whereas what the topo shows as the main road is now overgrown with grass and brush. Soon thereafter, I went R at two junctions, only one of which is mapped. The topo map shows that this road ascends around the N side of Big Tip and ends about 800' W of the summit, but in fact the road continues all the way to the summit, which is a mix of scattered logging chaff and planted evergreens. The highest ground on the summit is a pile of dirt, sticks, and a few stumps, but it is definitely man-made. It is difficult to tell where the highest natural ground is.

Although access was not a significant factor for me on a Monday afternoon in early April, it may be at other times. It is possible that the gate is locked when the loggers are not around, e.g. at night or on weekends. There may also be seasonal variations, e.g. during hunting season.

Bob Bolton attempted this peak on Saturday 2009 July 11 and found a locked gate a short distance from Fall City.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:840 ft / 254 m
    Extra Gain:200 ft / 60 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Trailhead:W Big Saddle Hill  2400 ft / 731 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:1 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:1 Hours 



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