West Zigzag Mtn via Castle Canyon Ridge

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Chip Down
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Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

West Zigzag Mtn via Castle Canyon Ridge

Post by Chip Down » April 28th, 2019, 7:50 pm

Last autumn, as I was reacquainting myself with Zigzag Mountain, I wanted to ascend West ZZ directly from the end of Castle Canyon Trail. Didn't get to it before winter dumped a bunch of snow. Finally got to it today. I thought it might be a bit soon, but I wanted to do it when there was enough firm snow to get me above some of the brush. I was hoping I wouldn't be postholing half the day.

Last night when I was looking up pics and studying the terrain, I ran across this on summitpost:
I've also recently (August 2010) learned that there may be a scramble route up from the Castle Canyon trail. This would be about 3500 feet of steep hiking and scrambling among cliffs. I've not confirmed this except to talk to locals and find the start of the climbers' path but I plan on doing this as soon as possible and will report back. The information I have is that you hike up the regular Castle Canyon Trail, and where the trail traverses left over to the "castles" and a supposedly huge waterfall, look for a climbers path heading straight up. I've done some scrambling of this for a short distance but had my dog with me so could not go too far as it gets third class quick. Supposedly this scrambles up through cliffs to the summit (or the trail to the summit).
Oh, okay. Sure enough, there was a clear trail, right up the ridgecrest. But at 2700' it disappeared at a step, never to be seen again. Even on a narrow mossy ridgecrest that would force all hikers onto the same route, the moss was healthy. Maybe I got offroute, but I don't think so. At 3400' the ridgecrest got swallowed between a couple outcroppings, turning the route into a gully rather than a ridge. Just above that, continuing up the ridge, I saw nothing but grey through the trees, and knew I had to be coming to a huge cliff. But first, I had to pick my way across a mossy boulder field that swallowed the ridgecrest. At the base of the cliff, I decided to go left. As I contoured around, I could see the cliffs continued quite a ways to the west, but fortunately I encountered a broad breach in the cliffs, and easily ascended through open forest until I could gain the top of the cliffs (3800'). Above the cliffs, I followed a ridge (maybe geologically related to my earlier ridge). This is where the brush (rhodies) got really miserable. I came to another smaller cliffband, where I faced the greatest technical challenges of the day (every boot placement had to be carefully considered). Above the final cliffband, a little more bushwhacking, and then snow, glorious firm snow, and finally I could walk without hindrance. I was starting to wonder if it could possibly be snow-free all the way to the top. A little more up until there was no more up, and I was at the top of WZZ.

I wanted to consult map/compass to find the best bearing to get to the trail north of the summit, but realized I forgot my map. From memory, I thought magnetic north would be prudent. After dropping a ways, I got a little nervous and set a flag, then another. Eventually figured I was too low. Must have walked right over the trail in the snow. Drat. I resigned myself to returning on my ascent route, all the way back to Castle Canyon. On the way back to the summit, pausing to retrieve a flag, I looked around and noticed it was clear to my left and right. Could this be the trail? It was! Heading east, and dropping, the snow cleared up a bit, and the bare trail emerged intermittently. Seeking adventure, I left the trail, and climbed right/southish to a peak that looked enticing. On the way I encountered a wire, maybe about 1/8", heading upslope. I followed it, up a steep brushy slope, until I hit a ridgecrest, where I found the trail. Dammit, I had essentially just done an extra tough switchback shortcut.

Back on trail, I continued until it crossed over the north ridge of WZZ, turned south, followed the crest to an overgrown high point. Called it quits. In all the time since I gained the top of WZZ, I hadn't accomplished anything worthwhile, other than having a bit of fun. Turned back and followed the trail past WZZ and back to the Castle Canyon TH.

equipment: I wasn't going to let equipment be a cause of failure today. Took mtn boots and crampons, rope, short axe on pack, long axe and treking pole in my hands. Turns out I could have worn hiking boots. Long axe was very helpful, but the short one was just a brushsnagger.

weather: Started out cooler than expected. At Timberline, it was in the teens and still dropping as I drove up 26. By the time I actually wanted it to be cold, when I was walking among trees that harbored an inch of new snow, it was warm enough that I got dripped on, and pelted with little slushbombs. All in all, a fantastic spring day for a hike.

This wasn't a very photogenic hike, so not a lot of pics.
Attachments
1.jpg
first viewpoint of the day, looking west from Castle Canyon Ridge
2.jpg
from the boulderfield looking up at the major cliffband
3.jpg
top of the major cliffband, one of the most rewarding parts of the hike
4.jpg
today's beverage theme was apple+wood
5.JPG

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BurnsideBob
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Location: Mount Angel, Oregon

Re: West Zigzag Mtn via Castle Canyon Ridge

Post by BurnsideBob » April 29th, 2019, 7:12 am

Chip, your trip report brought back memories of my 2014 West Zig Zag mtn experience.

I went via the 775 trail up the switchbacks. I was suffering from the delusion that the high points would have good views and carefully scoped out West Zig Zag as I passed it by. I turned around at the point you marked as Steep Shortcut and scrambled up to West Zig Zag's summit by what seemed the easiest route.

Well, the "summit" turned out to be a taller-than-head-height Rhododendron thicket with very limited views populated by angry yellow jackets.

So Kudos to you for doing it by an adventuresome route when the Rhodies were snow covered.
I keep making protein shakes but they always turn out like margaritas.

mwesterm
Posts: 3
Joined: April 10th, 2019, 7:45 pm

Re: West Zigzag Mtn via Castle Canyon Ridge

Post by mwesterm » April 30th, 2019, 9:12 pm

Awesome report. I've wondered what kind of trouble somebody would run into if continuing up above Castle Canyon. Now I know and don't have to suffer myself! Great stuff!

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-Q-
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Joined: July 5th, 2008, 10:42 pm

Re: West Zigzag Mtn via Castle Canyon Ridge

Post by -Q- » May 1st, 2019, 8:58 am

Thanks so much for the report, this is very helpful.
Do you have an estimate at about what elevation the snow began??
Trying to get a feel for the general snow level elevation in the Zigzag area.
Thanks!!

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Chip Down
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Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Re: West Zigzag Mtn via Castle Canyon Ridge

Post by Chip Down » May 1st, 2019, 7:33 pm

Hey guys, thanks for the feedback. Funny that sometimes I post a weird esoteric TR, but it grabs some attention anyway.

Bob:
I wish I had grabbed a "summit" pic. It wasn't much to look at, but I imagine you would have liked to see what it looked like with a few feet of snow.

mwesterm:
Yes, there was some suffering, but as bushwhacking goes it wasn't horrible. No thorns, no poison oak. I guess it was about 3000' and took maybe a little more than 4 hours. For an offtrail route, that isn't a terrible pace. But I definitely wouldn't recommend it as a summer route when the brush would be worse.

-Q-:
Maybe about 3500' I started seeing signs of the previous day's snow, which surprised me. As far as old firm snow, nothing until I got above 4000'. But once I hit the top, I discovered it was really solid on the north side. Here's what I posted in the snow-level thread:
Zigzag Mountain trail is doable from the west end to the lookout site and the junction with #789. As the trail skirts the top of West Zigzag, it crests at 4440' and then starts dropping again as it continues east. For maybe 50 yards at this high point it's a little tricky, but don't give up, it gets better. After dropping quite a ways, it starts ascending again to cross over the north ridge of West ZZ Mtn, and it gets a little tricky again, but soon improves after crossing the ridge. I didn't go much further, but I'm sure it must clear again as it drops and continues east.

[edit: seeing Q's avatar and mine juxtaposed, it's funny to notice how we both have arrangements of orange and white :D ]

[edit 2: I just noticed the similarity between my avatar and a crop of my beverage pic! :lol: ]
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4.jpg

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-Q-
Posts: 1429
Joined: July 5th, 2008, 10:42 pm

Re: West Zigzag Mtn via Castle Canyon Ridge

Post by -Q- » May 2nd, 2019, 8:33 am

Thanks so much for the update Chip.
Your response and info is very helpful in my trip planning.

Too funny about the avatar similarities.
My picture is of my little buddy Wally.
Gonna tell him tonight that he resembles a nacho chip :mrgreen:

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