Ascent of Sacajawea Peak on 2016-08-07

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Sunday, August 7, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Sacajawea Peak
    Elevation:9838 ft / 2998 m

Ascent Trip Report

Useful Information:

The Thorp Creek route on Sacajawea is the shortest way to the summit, with less elevation gain and distance than the route via Ice Lake. However, many prefer the Ice Lake route from Wallowa Lake due to the scenic qualities of the lake area, and for the opportunity to also easily do a loop that includes Sacajawea and Matterhorn (narrowly the second highest peak in the range).

The key to the Thorp Creek route is the unmarked and unsigned Thorp Creek trail. From the Hurricane Creek trailhead, hike 1.9 miles south on the popular and busy path. After the third long stretch of open meadows along the trail, it re-enters the forest and shortly afterwards a narrow side trail goes off to the left in the grass. This trail is not encouraging at first--it seems a bit overgrown and it is blocked by a massive fallen tree. But it will soon lead to the wide Hurricane Creek, where in 2016 a series of logs made crossing relatively easy--the upper "hand log" is a bit low, requiring some crouching, but it goes OK.

Once across, the trail is hard to find in a meadow, but one you are on it, you can follow it easily pretty much all the way to the summit. It crosses Twin Creek, climbs steeply uphill on switchbacks, comes to a wooded hogsback crest, and climbs upward through a forest fire zone. In the upper meadows of the Thorp Creek basin the trail becomes a bit indistinct, but cross-country travel is easy in the area. Stay right in the upper valley, away from the rocky fan near the actual creek.

At the foot of Sacajawea's east ridge, the path turns sharply right and becomes a good climber's track providing a somewhat braided class 2 footway all the way to the summit, with some very minor scrambling at a small false summit near the top.

My Trip:

I had already climbed Matterhorn via Ice Lake in 1995, believing it to be the range high point, so this was my long-awaited return to get the real summit. I did this as an overnight trip, due mainly to my schedule--I had a lot of driving to do and could not easily schedule this as a long all-day hike, which would have been possible otherwise.

My camping spot in the meadows where the trail first intersected Thorp Creek was a very pleasant location, with lots of good campsites. I was utterly alone--I only saw one other party my entire time away from the Hurricane Creek Trail, and that was right at the log crossing.

It rained off and on all night while I was camped, and I started out during a lull, hoping for an early-morning clearing. But I had to retreat after hiking up about a mile and gaining about 300 feet--it started raining again, with loud thunder. So I went back down and waited out this squall in my tent and started again a couple hours later. This time I made it above the foot of the ridge, only to be hit with rain and thunder again. This time I hunkered down next to a bush on the ridge until the worst of it passed, and started up when it looked to be clearing. This was the last rain I got, fortunately, and the day did wind up being OK. So I was happy to make the summit despite the weather.

There was no register up top, where I rested, ate, and took photos. I hiked down quickly, happy to be in the shelter of the lowlands in case more storms came in, and packed up my tent and camp for the hike back to the car.

Note that my elevation gain and mileage reported here include my aborted attempt on the summit, so a simple trip on this route would have a gain of about 4800' and a total distance of about 14.5 miles. This compares with about 5200' and 18.5 miles via Ice Lake (without Matterhorn).
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5288 ft / 1611 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5288 ft / 1610 m
    Round-Trip Distance:16.2 mi / 26.1 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2+
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Thunderstorm, Pleasant, Windy, Overcast
T-storms during ascent, extreme wind on descent
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5188 ft / 1581 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 4798 ft / 1462 m; Extra: 390 ft / 118m
    Loss on way in:390 ft / 118 m
    Distance:9 mi / 14.5 km
    Route:Thorp Ck/E Ridge
    Start Trailhead:Hurricane Ck TH  5040 ft / 1536 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4898 ft / 1492 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 4798 ft / 1462 m; Extra: 100 ft / 30m
    Gain on way out:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:7.2 mi / 11.6 km
    Route:Thorp Ck/E Ridge
    End Trailhead:Hurricane Ck TH  5040 ft / 1536 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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