Info and safety conditions for these Gorge hikes in the winter.

General discussions on hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest
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applesaucebake
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Info and safety conditions for these Gorge hikes in the winter.

Post by applesaucebake » January 17th, 2019, 2:46 pm

I am an experienced trail runner and hiker but just moved to Portland and was wondering trail conditions for these specific hikes in wintertime. I have all gear necessary and will bring it for any scenario.

Can I get the info on trail conditions during peak winter conditions (Dec-Feb) on these Gorge Hikes? They're pretty steep during the summer months and I'm wondering if they're still relatively safe in snow conditions or if ice becomes a major concern and compromises safety.

Mt. Defiance

Larch Mountain

Devils rest/Angels rest

Dog Mountain (Washington side)

Tomlike Mountain

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Bosterson
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Re: Info and safety conditions for these Gorge hikes in the winter.

Post by Bosterson » January 17th, 2019, 3:29 pm

Conditions vary. If you're running in winter, bring traction devices and be ready to posthole higher up if you're not going to take snowshoes. Sometimes snow is fluffy and deep, but sometimes it hardpacks into Cascade Concrete, and frequently you get a compacted/rain crust that you'll break through into deeper snow below (which is endlessly frustrating and tiresome). This has so far been a warmer winter, so we're seeing rain on top of the snow layer, which is producing icy conditions (especially where people have walked and compacted the snow).

Re your list: Angels is too low to have snow outside of freak storms, Devils rarely has much if at all, Dog has snow at the top sometimes but not very much, Larch will have snow higher up though the snow line depends on how recent the storm was, Tomlike will probably have snow but it may not be very compacted because it's too far for most people to go, and Defiance will have snow from 3000-4000 ft until the top, which will vary based on how recent the storm was and how many people have trod the path through the forest. (2 weeks ago the trail at 3000 was a thin sheet of ice due to rain and usage.)

In terms of safety, there's never enough ice that you can't do those hikes with appropriate footwear and traction, you may just end up going slower. But you'd never need crampons or something, aside from in random freak storm conditions that it may be better to wait out.
Will hike off trail for fun.

applesaucebake
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Joined: January 17th, 2019, 2:43 pm

Re: Info and safety conditions for these Gorge hikes in the winter.

Post by applesaucebake » January 17th, 2019, 5:14 pm

Thanks for the info. I've never done these hikes at all. Do any of them have any serious exposure concerns that coupled with icy conditions could make things a little dicey? Mt. Defiance is a class 2 at absolute most correct?

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Bosterson
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Re: Info and safety conditions for these Gorge hikes in the winter.

Post by Bosterson » January 17th, 2019, 6:18 pm

applesaucebake wrote:
January 17th, 2019, 5:14 pm
Thanks for the info. I've never done these hikes at all. Do any of them have any serious exposure concerns that coupled with icy conditions could make things a little dicey? Mt. Defiance is a class 2 at absolute most correct?
Nope, as long as you don't climb over the railing on top of Larch Mountain or walk off the edge of Angel's Rest. Tomlike might have a runout if it were completely covered in snow and you somehow slid down off the side of it from the summit, but at that point you're mountaineering, not running. Mt. Defiance is class 1 - it's a hike. If you encounter icy conditions that seem too treacherous, you can always just turn around - these are trails, not "mountains." You might try using the search function here to look at some previous TRs for those areas to get a sense of what they look like.
Will hike off trail for fun.

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Info and safety conditions for these Gorge hikes in the winter.

Post by Don Nelsen » January 17th, 2019, 7:24 pm

Here's a look at Dog Mountain today. Much warmer weather is now moving in so the snow will melt down a bit over the next few days.

What Bosterson said as to the other peaks. Also, our weather here is dramatically variable so just ask. Someone will have a timely answer. Welcome to the site!

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=27992&view=unread#unread

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Info and safety conditions for these Gorge hikes in the winter.

Post by Don Nelsen » January 18th, 2019, 5:11 pm

Also, as far as trail running goes here are a few of my observations. I've run every gorge trail many times from the 70's to 2007 when I managed to injure my back to the point running was not a good idea. As far as the hikes/runs you mentioned, here are my observations:

Mt. Defiance: Too steep for a good run. There's only a couple spots you can really stretch out and get up to speed and those are very short. Also, a long section of very rocky terrain above about 4200' that will tax your ankles and your agility. You'll be lucky to maintain a 15 minute mile up and barely a 12 minute mile down and that's if you are in absolutely top shape. The downhill part will totally burn your quads and there's no respite. The only saving grace on the Defiance route is the first 6/10 mile is basically flat so you get a nice warmup.

Larch Mountain: This one can be run once you get above the tourists on the lower, asphalt section of trail but it is rocky in places and a stumble in many places could be fatal. Better to walk on the cliffy sections. Above the twin falls at about 1,000' elevation it's a piece of cake plus the tourists seldom go farther than that so far fewer folks to be in the way.

Devil's Rest/Angel's Rest: Angel's Rest is way too crowded to run most of the time. Devil's rest has some nice sections that are good trail and an easy enough grade once above the tourists but there are better places for a good run.

Dog Mt: Usually too crowded on nicer days but by picking your day with luck, it's a nice run. Take the eastside route up and the westside one down avoiding the more crowded center route and you should be fine. The westside route has some rocky sections but they are short.

Tomlike Mt: This is by far, IMO, the best run in the gorge. From the Herman Creek TH, it's 25 miles RT and virtually all of it is on good trails, seldom too rocky to run and hardly a spot that can't be run due to steep grade. You can add some more miles (about 3 to 4 miles more) to this by taking numerous options circling Wahtum Lake and/or
adding Chinidere to the route. You can also add some more miles by doing some of the trails on the Benson Plateau.

Here's GPS derived map of one of my favorite runs (in red) on this route:

Image

This short list is only scratching the surface of what can be done in the gorge. Please post your adventures and photos and please don't hesitate to post questions. There is always someone who has an answer or a helpful observation.

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

applesaucebake
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Joined: January 17th, 2019, 2:43 pm

Re: Info and safety conditions for these Gorge hikes in the winter.

Post by applesaucebake » January 18th, 2019, 11:04 pm

I appreciate the info! How is the snow and ice conditions on these hikes during the wintertime?

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drm
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Re: Info and safety conditions for these Gorge hikes in the winter.

Post by drm » January 19th, 2019, 9:46 am

Dog Mtn is popular so it is often very icy on top as the snow get compacted. Traction is often needed up there and I have frequently seen people struggling to stay upright in the slippery trail. It can also be very windy. I think that by the time you get high enough for ice on Tomlike, you are far beyond the winter crowds. Keeping to the trail there might require GPS in winter.

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