Need Advice on Wallowa Trip

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Need Advice on Wallowa Trip

Post by leiavoia » September 4th, 2019, 10:56 am

It’s september, and that means I need to get in my annual long backpacking trip. I’ve never been to the Wallowas, so I think this is the year. A few questions for you experts:

1) I’m making the assumption that crowds will be less this time of year since school is back in. Is that true here? I’m looking at doing the main Wallowa River Loop.

2) if you had only enough time to bag just one peak, which would you pick? : Aneroid, Pete’s, Matterhorn, Eagle Cap?

3) I usually hammock camp. Am I going to find adequate trees in these camps?

4) suggest one thing I must do or should skip.

Thanks everyone!

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Re: Need Advice on Wallowa Trip

Post by retired jerry » September 4th, 2019, 11:20 am

eagle cap is good. Basically, a trail going up it.

a lot of areas don't have a lot of trees, like maybe above 7000 feet or so

one thing about Wallowas is it's far away from civilization so there aren't so many weekenders like on Mt Hood. Wallowas are more equally busy all week.

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Re: Need Advice on Wallowa Trip

Post by Born2BBrad » September 4th, 2019, 3:23 pm

1. Definitely less people after Labor Day. Weekdays even less.
2. Eagle Cap. Right in the center of the wilderness. Easiest of them all.
3. Probably enough trees.
4. The upper lakes in the basin, of course. The view from Glacier Pass. Same for Polaris Pass. The East/West Wallowa River loop is classic.
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Re: Need Advice on Wallowa Trip

Post by teachpdx » September 4th, 2019, 3:24 pm

leiavoia wrote:
September 4th, 2019, 10:56 am
2) if you had only enough time to bag just one peak, which would you pick? : Aneroid, Pete’s, Matterhorn, Eagle Cap?
3) I usually hammock camp. Am I going to find adequate trees in these camps?
For #2, Eagle Cap is certainly the highest peak that can be accessed with only a short branch from the loop itself. You could even make it a true loop by taking the faint user trail/ridgetops between Eagle Cap and Glacier Pass, but only if you are comfortable with that much off-trail travel. Matterhorn would probably be your most substantial deviation from the loop (in both miles and elevation) but it really holds a special place in my heart.

For #3, hammocks will be fine as long as you aren't camping at an elevation higher than Lakes Basin. Glacier Lake has only a few trees, but most of the lakes in the Lakes Basin have plenty of trees to use. Even Ice Lake has plenty of trees for hammocking. You won't find much of anything between Aneroid Lake and the bottom of Polaris Pass that will suit a hammock, so plan to do all of that in a day.

And I agree with Jerry about being equally-ish busy. On a recent backpacking trip (late July), Ice Lake was nearly as busy on Thursday night as Friday night, and Horseshoe Lake was more busy on Sunday night than Saturday night.
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Re: Need Advice on Wallowa Trip

Post by texasbb » September 4th, 2019, 3:45 pm

What everyone else said, plus:
  • Definitely fewer people after Labor Day.
  • Eagle Cap is not only easy, but it's the central element of the whole range. No less than eight major drainages spill off its slopes, so the views from its top are special.
  • If you've never been to the Lakes Basin, it's a must-see. There's lots else to experience up there, but that part is crowded (before Labor Day! :)) for a reason.
Have fun! September is a great time to be up there.

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Re: Need Advice on Wallowa Trip

Post by Bosterson » September 4th, 2019, 8:25 pm

Caveat that I've never done Aneroid or Pete's, but I'm going to buck the trend and say if you can only do 1 peak, do Matterhorn. Ice Lake is great, and the user trail to the Matterhorn is much more fun and interesting than the trail to Eagle Cap, and the Matterhorn's summit itself is so sheer and the rock (a kind of weird marble) so much more unique to the Wallowas. If you like off trail or scrambling, you can continue from the summit across the ridge to Sacajawea, which is a blast. Eagle Cap is central and popular, but the trail to it is a straightforward walk up and not very interesting, in my opinion. Worth doing if you're there, but not my #1.

If you should skip one thing, I'd also buck the trend and say skip the Lakes Basin! :D A lot of the reason for that is crowds, though, so it may be better now than when I was last there a month ago. The Lakes Basin is spectacular in some ways (though you can see similar scenery elsewhere, though maybe less concentrated), but its popularity draws absolute bozo crowds there - illegal fires, noise, dogs running around barking, people crawling around every open surface. I try to avoid the Lakes Basin if at all possible, as the rest of the wilderness is so rewarding and less full of obnoxious people.

If you could only do one thing, hard to choose... But if you do go to Ice Lake, I'd say the Matterhorn to Sacajawea scramble is primo. Other amazing spots are elsewhere in the wilderness and not accessible from your loop. Cusick mountain is amazing, but you'd have to run the ridge south from Polaris, so that might mean doing a somewhat different trip. Glacier Lake is also pretty fantastic if you can get it without crowds. So if you avoid the rest of the Lakes Basin, you can get to Glacier by taking west fork Wallowa to Frazier Lake, then off trailing from Little Frazier up to Prospect and then taking the user route over the pass to Glacier, then the trail back down to Frazier. Glacier is pretty much the true alpine heart of the Wallowas, but the rest of the Lakes Basin below it is such a zoo. To see it via trails, maybe pass through the Lakes Basin and then go camp at Glacier to get the best of all worlds.
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Re: Need Advice on Wallowa Trip

Post by buckwheat » September 4th, 2019, 8:29 pm

1. Agreeing with everyone else. There are people there, but I've never felt the 'crowded' feeling that you get at the gorge. It varies between "if I twist my ankle, no one will ever find me" to "I would like to at least say hi to someone today". I went around 9/22 a couple years ago, and probably saw a total of 20-30 people the 3 days I was there (of which 4 were on the top of Eagle Cap).

2. If its your first time there, Eagle Cap is the answer. As everyone said, its approachable, central, and stunning.

3. If you like camping by lakes/water, you'll find trees to hammock from. I've started enjoying the more exposed campsites when possible, so if youre on a ridgeline, hilltop, pass, etc, you'll find difficult pitching a hammock in any of those locales.

4. You must anticipate the drive. It is a commitment of time. It took me like 7 hours of driving + 2 hours of food/gas/bathroom/sanity breaks along the way from Corvallis to get to Two Pan Trailhead on the East Lostine. Because I wasn't thinking it would take so long, I ended up driving the last 90 minutes in darkness, and car camping my first night there because of it. You should skip the tram. Its not what you drove that far to see or do.

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Re: Need Advice on Wallowa Trip

Post by drm » September 5th, 2019, 6:54 am

Below is Jewett Lake just a few yard (literally) shy of Tenderfoot Pass and a few miles shy of Polaris Pass. Looks to me like you could find trees for your hammock there. It's also right below Pete's Point should you choose to climb that.


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Re: Need Advice on Wallowa Trip

Post by oldandslow » September 6th, 2019, 1:54 pm

If you decide to go to the Lakes Basin, you should consider hiking up Hurricane Creek. It is more challenging than the Lostine approach. When I hiked up there many years ago, one of my companions who had played football at the University of Oregon said that the last part of the hike reminded him of the fourth quarter against USC. The scenery is superb.

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Re: Need Advice on Wallowa Trip

Post by retired jerry » September 6th, 2019, 2:30 pm

Don't camp in the Lakes Basin, too crowded. Okay to walk through.

You can find places to camp in the Mirror Lake area, but not next to lake

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