a different approach to the Newton Clark moraine

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Chip Down
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a different approach to the Newton Clark moraine

Post by Chip Down » August 29th, 2020, 8:44 pm

The Newton Clark moraine is generally accessed from Timberline Trail where it passes over the forested ridge at the wilderness boundary, approaching from either the Newton Creek side, or the Clark Creek side.

Today I decided to try something a little different: Follow Newton Creek up from the trail, to a spot where the creek runs through a short slot. At that point, there's an obvious spur ridge running from the creek (5900') up to the moraine crest at 6900'. To be more precise, the bottom of the ridge starts at the cliffs that form the slot, not at the very bottom of the canyon.

As I was working my way up Newton Creek, I decided I should pass through the slot and then take the right fork, up the dramatic three-tier waterfall below Gnarl Ridge. I've never done that in summer. But no, snow conditions were unfavorable. I expected snow at the slot (typical all year) and wondered if it would be an impediment. Nope, easy workaround. But upstream from the slot, the entire canyon width was snow, with heavy rubble. No way I was going to chance that rotten August snow with creek(s) running under. Especially considering I had no idea what the waterfalls would be like in summer, so I might end up having to retreat over that sketchy snow again. So I aborted, back down the canyon to my Plan A, the ridge up to NC moraine.

That ridge was sandy, poor footing. It looked like it might get scary steep as it met the moraine crest, but no, not bad.

On the moraine crest, I continued up a ways, but not to the end. No desire to do that again, especially considering it's one of those places where the higher you go, your views of the mountain get swallowed up by the mountain. It was fun for nostalgia though. It didn't occur to me to check my position where I turned back, but I guess it doesn't matter.

NOAA had issued a red-flag high-wind warning, but it was dead calm at Elk Meadows TH, and never more than a light breeze all day. In spite of it being the coolest day in the long-range forecast, I was uncomfortably warm by 8:30.

Insanely crowded. Before sunrise, I passed a half dozen tents. Nobody else seen offtrail, but as soon as I hit the trail on my way down, I encountered 5 hikers in 10 minutes.

Just out of curiosity, I visited the lower crossing of Newton Creek. Yikes. I think the upper crossing would be easier.
That obvious spur ridge into Newton Canyon was today's adventure. Just upstream from there, the north fork goes to the three-tier falls.
The slot, and the start of snow. My ridge starts above the cliffs at left (easy to access downstream from the slot).
The sketchy snow-filled canyon above the slot (easy travel in spring or late fall). Yellow arrow is fork to triple falls.
Looking back down from the slot, standing on rubble-covered snow.
At lower right, creek is snowfree, if I could just get there.
Panorama of Hood's Newton Clark aspect, from A-Zone at left, to Tie In Rock at right.
Looking down on Clark Creek. Note fire in distance.
Coming down the crisp ridge towards a trail that encircles the mountain, it was reassuring to see flags and know I wasn't lost.
Last edited by Chip Down on September 16th, 2020, 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: a different approach to the Newton Clark moraine

Post by Charley » August 30th, 2020, 9:46 am

That's such a cool spot! Local cross country skiers call it the "gates of the mountain." From looking at the Google terrain image you posted, there might be a similar gate on the Clark Creek side of that moraine, too.
I spent a night at the gates back in November, 2013. Great views all around. The sound of rocks crashing down the cliffs was a little unnerving, though.

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Chip Down
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Re: a different approach to the Newton Clark moraine

Post by Chip Down » August 30th, 2020, 7:13 pm

Nice follow-up post, Charley!
You inspired me to go back and look at my snow pics of upper Newton Creek.
The pic below is from Sept 2017. Yes, September!

Many years ago, the first time I saw the Gates of the Mountain (never heard of a name for that feature until now) I was frustrated that I couldn't get in there and explore. Because the canyon curves a bit there, you can't see straight through. So it took another trip to explore further. And then another, and another...

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Re: a different approach to the Newton Clark moraine

Post by BurnsideBob » August 31st, 2020, 7:43 am

I, also, was unaware of the "Gates of the Mountain" name. The following photos are from 31 May 2010. Imagine snow like that!! We skinned in along the Elk Meadows trail and then up the creek. We exited by skinning the approximate route of the 600 trail over to Heather Canyon and then out the Heather Canyon run out. An exhausting day and I was so much younger then!
IMG_0345 - Copy.JPG
Looking Up Newton Creek.
Toe Slope of Ridge showing Avalanche Cut.
IMG_0356 - Copy.JPG
Spur Ridge from part way up to Lamberson Butte.

The last photo shows how snow, sand, and dust are deposited on the ridge. Looks like if you wanted to climb up, you would want to be off the apex of the ridge toward the mountain where the photo shows snow doesn't accumulate and exposed rocks are larger.

The canyon periodically experiences massive avalanches off the upper slopes. This explains the cliffs and tree trim lines along Newton Creek. Anything not solid is stripped away, leaving the cliff bands on both sides of the creek. Mt Hood Meadows used to have (maybe still has) photos of some of the massive avvy breaks in Heather Canyon on their blog which gives perspective on the avvy action.

I've thought about hiking up the bands of trees on the mountain side of Lamberson Butte. While I have not done this myself, I have dropped off the top of Gnarl Ridge about where the Gnarl Ridge shelter cabin ruins are to check out the opportunity. Not surprisingly, there were several tracks where others have done this.

Happy Off Trails!!

I keep making protein shakes but they always turn out like margaritas.

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