McDonald Peak Snowshoe 30-Jan-2017

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VanMarmot
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McDonald Peak Snowshoe 30-Jan-2017

Post by VanMarmot » February 9th, 2017, 9:13 am

After seeing Don's most recent TR about conditions at Eagle Creek, I continue to be amazed at how much snow and ice have hammered the Gorge and Northern Oregon. While those of us down here in the southern provinces haven't escaped Winter's wrath, we have had a few amazingly clear days between storms during which we could leave our simple dwellings and wander around outside. Right now we're in the middle of a Pineapple Express, but at the end of January we had a one-day break that let me get in a snowshoe hike to McDonald Peak. I thought some sun-drenched snapshots from that trip might cheer up our more northerly OHers. :D

The Mount Ashland Sno-Park, despite being at 6,600 feet, is usually readily accessible with little, if any, winter driving drama. Thanks to plentiful snowfall these last two years (the current base on Mount Ashland is over 120 inches!), we've been able to use it for several snowshoe trips involving Grouse Gap Shelter and the summit of Mount Ashland.  Last December, we started out for McDonald Peak, which is west of the Grouse Gap and just north of the Siskiyou Crest, but stopped short once we saw the peak enveloped in clouds.  With today predicted (correctly) to be a full bluebird day above the stagnant air clogging the valley floor, I headed up to the Sno-Park to have another go at McDonald. The ski area parking lot was already filling but mine was the only car at the Sno-Park when I arrived there moderately early. One of the things I like about snowshoeing here is that the big views start very soon after you leave the trailhead. Today, being full bluebird and all, Mount Shasta was easily in view to the south.  Last time we were here it was sunny but 12ºF; today it was also sunny but in the high 30ºFs right from the start - once I got out in to the treeless Grouse Gap Basin, it was downright toasty.

Image Mount Shasta comes into view

After about a mile, Forest Road (FR) 20 swings around the southwest ridge of Mount Ashland and McDonald Peak comes into view off across Grouse Gap Basin. I could make out the Grouse Gap Shelter - a very popular destination for snowshoe and nordic ski trips - simply by the number tracks converging on it.

Image McDonald Peak (M) and the Grouse Gap Shelter (arrow)

Image The Grouse Gap Shelter (arrow)

I followed now unplowed FR 20 across the Basin to just below Grouse Gap, to where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses FR 20 and a side road drops down to the Shelter. Today all these trails and roads were well buried under snow and that snow was criss-crossed by an amazing swirl of different tracks.

Image Many tracks at Grouse Gap

I could look back toward Mount Ashland and see yet more tracks running down its southwest face and out into the Basin. Judging from the tracks, it had been a real busy weekend up here.

Image More tracks course down the southwest side of Mount Ashland

I then climbed the ridge leading southwest from the Gap and soon got high enough to start getting views of Mount McLoughlin and the Crater Lake Rim to the east. The air up here was crisp and clear and it was cloudless in all directions.

Image Mount Ashland to the right (with the radar dome on top) and Mount McLoughlin

I climbed a little higher and then moved over to the ridge going northwest from the Crest to McDonald. This was my first close, clear view of McDonald and of the fog filling the Illinois River Valley to the northwest.

Image McDonald Peak (M) and fog in the Illinois River Valley (I)

I soon reached the summit. The number of tracks had dwindled as I approached the summit but there were still enough up there to show that this was a popular destination, both for the views and for ski runs down into the bowls on either side of the ridge.

Image The summit of McDonald Peak

I was rewarded by outstanding views in all directions!  Given the waves of storms we've endured this season, having one day of unblemished views everywhere was a very welcome change.  Wagner Butte - another popular summer hike but one I've also done in winter - was further along the ridge to the north,

Image Looking north to Wagner Butte (W)

Mount Shasta was to the south,

Image Looking south to Mount Shasta

Mount McLoughlin and the entire snowy crest of the Cascades were arrayed to the east,

Image Looking east to Mount McLoughlin and the Cascade Crest

Observation and Dutchman Peaks - other popular summer hikes off the PCT - and the Red Buttes were visible to the west,

Image Observation Peak (O), Dutchman Peak (D), and the Red Buttes/Siskiyou Crest (S)

while Pilot Rock was visible just southeast of Mount Ashland.

Image Pilot Rock (arrow) southeast of Mount Ashland and its radar dome

It was very pleasant on the summit and I could have probably spent quite a bit of time up there but it seemed like a good idea to start back before the sun softened the snow into gumminess. So, with one last big look at Mount Shasta, I retraced my tracks to the trailhead.

Image Mount Shasta

<p style="text-align: justify;">On the way back, you pass the Mount Ashland Campground. The current 100+ inch base has completely buried the entrance sign and left impressive heaps on the roofs of the pit toilets.

Image A 100+ inch base buries the campground

A truly exceptional snowshoe (6.6 miles round-trip; 600 feet of elevation gain) with perfect weather, great snow, and outlandish views in all directions. :D It's tough living in this outdoor paradise, but we're bearing up under the strain. ;)


Image My out-and-back track to McDonald Peak
Last edited by VanMarmot on March 4th, 2017, 2:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Charley
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Re: McDonald Peak Snowshoe 30-Jan-2017

Post by Charley » February 9th, 2017, 8:21 pm

That's beautiful country! I'm so jealous of the rolling, gladed terrain in your photo. That would be so fun to ski! Around Portland, it's either rolling terrain in the foothills that rarely gets snow, or steep, forested slopes that are impassable (except on roads or a few trails that are popular). There's so little open, xc-skiable terrain around Portland. Your photos look more like Colorado than what I'm used to in Oregon.

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Don Nelsen
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Re: McDonald Peak Snowshoe 30-Jan-2017

Post by Don Nelsen » February 9th, 2017, 9:33 pm

Wonderful photos! You surely picked a great part of the state to retire to. Thanks for the TR.

Don
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Re: McDonald Peak Snowshoe 30-Jan-2017

Post by VanMarmot » February 10th, 2017, 7:26 am

Charley wrote:That's beautiful country! I'm so jealous of the rolling, gladed terrain in your photo. That would be so fun to ski! Around Portland, it's either rolling terrain in the foothills that rarely gets snow, or steep, forested slopes that are impassable (except on roads or a few trails that are popular). There's so little open, xc-skiable terrain around Portland. Your photos look more like Colorado than what I'm used to in Oregon.
Now that you mention it, it does look like the hills west of Denver (where we lived years ago). There's good nordic skiing around Mount Ashland but a whole lot more to the east of here off Hwy 140 around Fish Lake, Fourmile Lake, Lake of the Woods, Buck Prairie, and Howard Prairie Lake, to name a few. The USFS has done a reasonable job of providing (mostly) separate trails for snowmobilers and non-motorized users. So there's something to do outside here all year-round!
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Re: McDonald Peak Snowshoe 30-Jan-2017

Post by VanMarmot » February 10th, 2017, 7:28 am

Don Nelsen wrote:Wonderful photos! You surely picked a great part of the state to retire to. Thanks for the TR.

Don
Thanks! Judging by some of the folks we encounter on the trails and on our meet-up hikes, we're not the only ones who decided on Southern Oregon for an "active" retirement.
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bobcat
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Re: McDonald Peak Snowshoe 30-Jan-2017

Post by bobcat » February 10th, 2017, 8:09 am

Great to see the blue skies and expansive vistas! Like Charley, I'm exceedingly jealous that you have such view-filled cross-country ski country.

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Re: McDonald Peak Snowshoe 30-Jan-2017

Post by pablo » February 10th, 2017, 7:04 pm

Beautiful photos & nice TR. And thanks for the continuing education on hiking and other activities in southern OR. I recognized Pilot Rock from a previous TR.

I see you used caltopo for the map - I guess alltrails.com didn't work out (I noticed a post from a while back where you mentioned you purchased a year of alltrails, I just did the same as I have a new computer and did not want to re-load Nat'l Geo TOPO! from a zillion CDs).

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Re: McDonald Peak Snowshoe 30-Jan-2017

Post by VanMarmot » February 11th, 2017, 7:30 am

pablo wrote:Beautiful photos & nice TR. And thanks for the continuing education on hiking and other activities in southern OR. I recognized Pilot Rock from a previous TR.

I see you used caltopo for the map - I guess alltrails.com didn't work out (I noticed a post from a while back where you mentioned you purchased a year of alltrails, I just did the same as I have a new computer and did not want to re-load Nat'l Geo TOPO! from a zillion CDs).

--Paul
Thanks! I loved TOPO but it didn't work with my installation of Windows 10. AllTrails (to me at least) came off as more of a social media site than a serious mapping tool, so I didn't renew it. I now use a mix of ExpertGPS and CalTopo. ExpertGPS uses CalTopo (which is why you see it on the maps) and I assume (hope) they have an $$$ arrangement for that sharing.
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