Ascent of Grayback Mountain on 2019-04-18

Climber: Connor McEntee

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Thursday, April 18, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Grayback Mountain
    Elevation:7048 ft / 2148 m

Ascent Trip Report

Conditions were a little different than I had expected. It was a heavy snow year in Northern California, but according to the locals snowfall was just a little above average in southern Oregon. My intention was to ski Grayback, but as I got closer I ended up reconsidering that. It turned out that it was a good choice to not bring skis.

The road is in great shape all the way to the Lower O'Brien Creek Trailhead, and not a single patch of snow was to be seen. I had read Dennis Poulin's April trip report from 13 years earlier and expected to get stopped by snow at around this elevation, especially because a big storm had come through just a few days prior. But seeing no snow, I decided to continue up the wet road and make it to the upper trailhead. As others have reported the spur from the lower trailhead to the upper one is not as nice. It's not bad by any measure, there are a few cuts across it here and there. Clearance was nice, but I'm sure the more adventurous drivers could coax a sedan up the road. However, it had not seen any season maintenance. I had to get out a few times to clear the road of debris. I finally hit the first patch of wet snow at 4200', which was no problem. But, another 100 vertical feet up the road I finally ran into a tree that would require me to pull out my chainsaw to clear. Since, I was so close to the end of the road, I decided to walk from there. I'm glad I did, because there were 2 other trees blocking the road further up and snowdrifts large enough that I wouldn't be able to drive through.

The traverse to the crossing of O'Brien creek was along nice trail with only patchy snow. I stayed in my trail runners the whole time. Interestingly, there were some old tracks in the snow here and there. Once I crossed the creek the slopes were entirely snow covered. I switched to boots and put on snowshoes, initially following the flagged trail. But, the trail quickly crosses a creek that was going to require me to take my snowshoes off, so I opted to continue straight up the mountainside. Overall, the snow was softer than I would have liked, but not bad for snowshoeing. It would have made for lousy skiing, and there was so much debris in the snow until about 5500' that it would have really scratched my skis.

The final climb to the summit was mostly across snow covered talus fields. Unlike in Mr. Poulin's report there was no sign of a cornice, and the crampons and ice axe I carried were entirely unnecessary. I'll also note that due to the terrain, avy danger here is likely usually pretty low. I could have pretty much stayed in trees all the way to the summit ridge. Views from the summit were expansive. The Coast Mountains in California particularly stand out. It was also neat to see the ocean from so far inland. The descent was really easy as I was able to plunge step all the way back to the creek crossing and then make quick time on the maintained trail back to my car.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2957 ft / 901 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2957 ft / 900 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.4 mi / 8.7 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Mud/Swamp, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Snowshoes
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2907 ft / 886 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2673 ft / 815 m; Extra: 234 ft / 71m
    Loss on way in:234 ft / 71 m
    Distance:2.8 mi / 4.5 km
    Route:O'Brien Creek Trail
    Start Trailhead:Upper O'Brien Creek Trailhead  4375 ft / 1333 m
    Time:1 Hours 27 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2723 ft / 829 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 2673 ft / 815 m; Extra: 50 ft / 15m
    Gain on way out:50 ft / 15 m
    Distance:2.6 mi / 4.2 km
    Route:O'Brien Creek Trail
    End Trailhead:Upper O'Brien Creek Trailhead  4375 ft / 1333 m
    Time:48 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Connor McEntee
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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