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 Post subject: Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Basin Road 3/12
 Post Posted: March 12th, 2017, 9:28 pm 
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Joined: April 28th, 2014, 8:28 pm
Posts: 64
This morning I decided to go up Larch Mountain Trail as far as Multnomah Basin Road to see what the conditions are like in that part of the Gorge. I left from the Multnomah Falls Lodge at about 9:00, with cloudy skies and only a handful of cars in the parking lot. There was virtually no snow all the way to the top of the falls and only some patches until Dutchman's Tunnel. But immediately after the tunnel was the first of two giant snow flows that completely overwhelmed the trail. Fortunately a couple sets of well-established stair steps went straight up it, bypassing one switchback and landing on the next level up with little difficulty. After that the trail was 50% snow covered, but always with good tracks to follow.

The second big snow flow was immediately after the bridge, past the Wakheena Trail junction. This one had fewer tracks, but was still easy enough to get past. But after that were several sketchier sections of snow laying across the trail at a steep angle, always with tracks to follow, but not always secure. For most of these sections, six inches of dirt was visible on the downward edge, but the dirt was very unstable and sometimes covered in a thin layer of ice, so staying up on the snow was better. (I was just using hiking boots and trekking poles.)

The biggest obstacle was the creek that flows over the trail, before the junction with the high water trail. I've never had a problem rock-hopping through this, but unsurprisingly there's a lot more water this year. While I strategized, another hiker came along, took off his shoes and socks, and picked his way across. Then a trio of trail runners came up and barreled right through it in their shoes! I took a more cowardly route, climbing down the hillside through a bit of Devil's Club to a point where the creek narrowed and a pair of fallen branches made a nice little bridge. After that, I skipped the high water trail, and there was more water on the trail than usual, but not a problem.

After this wet area, the canyon widened and the snow lay flat on the trail, so there were no more sketchy or slippery sections, although the snow was pretty deep in spots. I went as far as the Franklin Ridge junction, and went about 20 yards up that trail and it seemed pretty much the same.

I turned back, planning to go up Multnomah Basin Road toward Devil's Rest to check that out. But I had never been up that road in the other direction (toward the river), and my Green Trails map shows just a little stub of a road that way, so I decided to look at that first. It kept going beyond where my map said it should have ended, but the snow wasn't too bad to walk on, so I just kept going. And then I stumbled upon the Christmas ornament trail! I knew that existed, but had never sought it out before, so this was a pleasant surprise ... and unlike December visitors, I had it all to myself.

The forest seemed to be getting more beautiful the further I went, so I kept on going, eventually reaching the Franklin Ridge Trail again. So now I have a nice loop option for the future. For today, I returned the way I came, then continued down to the Multnomah Creek bridge and just a little way up the road on the other side. The conditions there seemed basically the same, about 6 inches of pretty firm snow laying flat on the road. I had obligations back home for the afternoon, so at this point I got back on Larch Mountain Trail and headed back to the lodge.

I did take a short detour up the Wakheena Trail to look at that, and quickly found similar conditions to the sketchiest parts of the Larch Mountain Trail: snow at a step angle, a thin strip of crumbly dirt and boot tracks of varying quality. Having seen a lot of that on the Wakheena side earlier this year, I advised two groups coming up who asked about the Wakheena loop to return the way they came if they got out of their comfort zones.

The sun had been threatening to peek through all morning, and when I reached the lodge at 1:00 I realized what a beautiful day it had become "down below." The handful of cars in the parking lot had turned into a long line of cars searching for a parking spot. And when I was 50 yards from the end of the trail, at approximately the height of the roof of the lodge, I actually heard someone say, "We're so high up!"

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File comment: Looking down at the snow flow just after Dutchman's Tunnel, creating a two-story shortcut up a switchback.
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File comment: Looking back at the snow flow just after the foot bridge. This looked difficult but wasn't.
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File comment: Walking on this was okay for short sections, but I wouldn't want to do a lot of it, which is what I think you'd find on the Wakheena Trail.
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File comment: A bridge of snow atop a bridge of wood.
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File comment: Snow depth at the junction of Larch Mountain Road and Multnomah Basin Road.
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File comment: The bridge across Multnomah Creek on the Multnomah Basin Road seems to indicate two main snow deposits of about 6" each this winter.
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File comment: A beautiful blanket of pine needles on top the snow on the Multnomah Basin Road.
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 Post subject: Re: Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Basin Road 3/12
 Post Posted: March 14th, 2017, 11:53 am 
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Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
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Location: Vancouver, WA
Thanks for the TR and photos. Good to know what to prepare for!

dn

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"There's no such thing as 'impassible', just degrees of difficulty to be dealt with". DN


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 Post subject: Re: Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Basin Road 3/12
 Post Posted: March 14th, 2017, 12:36 pm 
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arlohike wrote:
I did take a short detour up the Wakheena Trail to look at that, and quickly found similar conditions to the sketchiest parts of the Larch Mountain Trail: snow at a step angle, a thin strip of crumbly dirt and boot tracks of varying quality. Having seen a lot of that on the Wakheena side earlier this year, I advised two groups coming up who asked about the Wakheena loop to return the way they came if they got out of their comfort zones.

Wahkeena is fine. I went up Wahkeena friday to down a short ways on Larch. The only thing like a problem was as you got close to Larch where there were a few relatively short sections of snow banked across the trail, but it was soft and not difficult to walk across (if a bit unstable for being soft).

I went back yesterday and did the Wahkeena - Devil's - Angel's loop, and was shocked at the difference in just those few days. Though I didn't go all the way to the Larch junction, it wouldn't surprise me if there's enough clear trail to walk on through there now. Things are starting to melt out fast now.

The paved switchbacks on Wahkeena are clear. Even the switchback ends are clear enough to get through without setting foot on snow. The canyon is almost entirely clear--the only place I really had to walk on snow was between the big downed tree and just after the second wooden bridge. And even there less than you might expect. The bit past the second wooden bridge where the switchbacks were covered and people were going straight uphill is still a mess, in some ways worse as it melts out. But even that may be clear by now--there was a very noticeable difference just between the morning and when I came back through (thanks, steady soaking rain!).

The worst conditions I found on those two trips was definitely on the section between Angel's and Wahkeena springs. Was not expecting there to be so much banked snow across the trail through there. Well, that and the large stretches of swampy ankle-deep mud. That sucked too.


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 Post subject: Re: Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Basin Road 3/12
 Post Posted: March 14th, 2017, 12:47 pm 
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Quote:
The canyon is almost entirely clear


Wow, great!

Quote:
Well, that and the large stretches of swampy ankle-deep mud. That sucked too.


I had the same thought Sunday. Whenever I got to a snow-free area, the mud and flowing water made me briefly wish I was back on the snow!


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 Post subject: Re: Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Basin Road 3/12
 Post Posted: March 14th, 2017, 3:58 pm 
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Well, I may have to take that back now that I see there's a rescue underway up there...


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 Post subject: Re: Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Basin Road 3/12
 Post Posted: March 16th, 2017, 8:07 am 
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Judging from the photo in this article...

http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-north ... _gorg.html

...I walked over that same spot last weekend. Coming up from Multnomah, it was the first significantly snowy patch, and had a streamlet running under it. When I passed by, a photographer was standing in that same spot with a tripod photographing the streamlet. It sounds like enough of the underside had melted by Tuesday that it collapsed under the hiker. The slide down to the creek would have been about 10 feet.

Describing the hikers as "lost" seems odd because this is about 1.5 miles directly up the trail from the lodge. "Freaked out" seems more like it. It says they were coming from the Wakheena side, so they must not have realized it would be easy going after that patch.


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 Post subject: Re: Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Basin Road 3/12
 Post Posted: March 16th, 2017, 8:33 am 
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The default news report for any sort of hiker distress is "lost." Just as practically any location in the western oregon side of the gorge gets described as "near Multnomah Falls." Some of them did later change their stories to stop saying lost and say they were afraid to cross the snow after the one broke through (koin did the best job of what I saw), but most outlets didn't bother. Drives me nuts. I want to know what actually happened, where, and could it be a hazard for me too.

When they said "fell into a creek" my impression was he just broke through and splashed down in the runoff, not that he slid all the way down into the actual creek. But who knows.


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 Post subject: Re: Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Basin Road 3/12
 Post Posted: March 16th, 2017, 10:36 am 
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Ah yes, I bet the "steep snow cliff" mentioned in the KOIN article was the engulfed switchback after Dutchman Falls I described. And the "up higher than the normal area" simply means the Multnomah/Wakheena loop.


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 Post subject: Re: Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Basin Road 3/12
 Post Posted: March 16th, 2017, 11:25 am 
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Actually, what surprises me most of all is that a hundred hikers didn't march right by them as they sat and waited for "rescue."

Or maybe they did.

Supports my original point, though--the Wahkeena section of that loop is fine!


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 Post subject: Re: Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Basin Road 3/12
 Post Posted: March 16th, 2017, 5:15 pm 
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:lol:


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