Ascent of Steens Mountain on 2014-07-12

Climber: Richard Hensley

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, July 12, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Steens Mountain
    Elevation:9733 ft / 2966 m

Ascent Trip Report

This impressive mountain deserved a full climb. My original plan was to hike through and out of the Big Indian Gorge. But I was in the midst of a bad summer cold, so I wasn't about to try 24 miles and 4600 ft of gain on a hot day. So I drove all the way to the upper parking lot, and settled for hiking down to Wildhorse Lake for lunch. From the short waterfall below the lake, I decided to summit via open country to Steens' south slope. Solid footing all the way up until the rocks got a little loose in the last 100 feet.
Took a look around to scout ways of climbing the full mountain if I ever return. Looking south, the gorge below Wildhorse Lake has no dropoffs to block a climb that way. On Google Earth I can see a trail up to about 5600 elevation; after that it's probably a mild bushwhack through mostly sage. The bigger issue may be crossing private property from East Steens Road. "75 Scrambles in Oregon" describes a route out of Big Indian Gorge (west side), but from above I couldn't identify which ravine she scrambled out of. "100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon" has a hand-drawn map showing two ways out of Big Indian's upper gorge, but no description. From the Steens Loop road, climbing out of the southern end of the upper gorge looks probable, but with a lot of talus. The main drainage on the north side was mostly visible, and looked like it was only a steep grassy slope. Definitely doable.
I've also seen indications that people have hiked up Pike Creek Canyon (east side) and over to either the west side or Wildhorse Lake, but no route descriptions. The long ridge between Pike Creek and Wildhorse looks gnarly, but maybe there's a way across.

JH, BL, DG, and BF

If you're reading this, I was in Pike Creek Canyon the day before, and found your note. Took care of your problem. How about emailing me a description of your hike over the mountain from east to west?

By the way, Sullivan's aforementioned book (2005) describes the south half of the Steens Mtn Loop road as requiring high-clearance 4WD. It has since been built up with a lot of fine rock. Now you can drive it in a Corvette.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1374 ft / 418 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1374 ft / 418 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.4 mi / 5.5 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1359 ft / 414 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 203 ft / 62 m; Extra: 1156 ft / 352m
    Loss on way in:1156 ft / 352 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Route:Wildhorse Lake Trail, south slope
    Start Trailhead:Wildhorse Lake TH  9530 ft / 2904 m
    Time:1 Hours 54 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:218 ft / 66 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 203 ft / 62 m; Extra: 15 ft / 4m
    Gain on way out:15 ft / 4 m
    Distance:0.4 mi / 0.6 km
    Route:Steens Summit Trail
    End Trailhead:Steens Summit TH  9530 ft / 2904 m
    Time:11 Minutes

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