Best non-technical 6,000'+ peaks for winter?

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Mike Denton
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Best non-technical 6,000'+ peaks for winter?

Post by Mike Denton » December 3rd, 2020, 7:20 pm

Hi all,

Flat lander here. Well versed and experienced with backpacking, mountain hunting and general back country safety. No experience with winter mountaineering. Recently moved to Cottage Grove, OR and plan to tackle the 31 highest peaks in Oregon on wikipedia. The sheer amount of information and "stuff" to do in the PNW is proving overwhelming.

I'll be taking some mountaineering courses in 2021, but for now I just want to get out there and start working on mountain fitness vs sea level. Any of these peaks doable between now and June? If not, do you have some good recommendations of 6000+ peaks I can knock out? I'm experienced and prepared for winter driving conditions, grew up in Michigan.

Edit: Non-technical as in: not requiring ropes, not avalanche terrain, not climbing straight up, limited chance of running into ice sheets large enough I have to turn around.
  • Mount Hood
    Mount Jefferson
    South Sister
    North Sister
    Middle Sister
    Sacajawea Peak
    Steens Mountain
    Aneroid Mountain
    Twin Peaks
    Red Mountain
    Mount McLoughlin
    Elkhorn Peak
    Mount Thielsen
    Broken Top
    Rock Creek Butte
    Mount Bachelor
    Strawberry Mountain
    Mount Scott
    Diamond Peak
    Pueblo Mountain
    Crane Mountain
    Drake Peak
    Mount Bailey
    Gearhart Mountain
    Aspen Butte
    Yamsay Mountain
    Vinegar Hill
    Pelican Butte
    Lookout Mountain
    Warner Peak
    Paulina Peak

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adamschneider
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Re: Best non-technical 6,000'+ peaks for winter?

Post by adamschneider » December 3rd, 2020, 8:45 pm

Keep in mind that the most of these mountains' trailheads are on roads that are not plowed in the winter, so even if a peak is doable without mountaineering gear, the total distance might be prohibitive.

For example, South Sister is a tough 6-mile slog (one-way) from July through October; the rest of the year, you'd have to start from 7 miles further back.

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Water
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Re: Best non-technical 6,000'+ peaks for winter?

Post by Water » December 3rd, 2020, 9:12 pm

Hi. Originally from Michigan myself. Welcome to Oregon, it is truly endless what one can do here.
not requiring ropes, not avalanche terrain, not climbing straight up, limited chance of running into ice sheets large enough I have to turn around.
That's.. a list for sure. I haven't climbed them all but I don't think any of them require ropes. If there's a snow slope of 30 degrees or steeper, more than you know, 50 or 100ft in length (top to bottom), that's avalanche terrain. That said you can probably get away 99 out of 100 times fooling around on slopes much bigger than 100ft and steeper than 30 degrees in all sorts of snow conditions. That's not encouragement to ignore avalanche risk..you should learn more about them if you're going to venture into snow in winter to climb things.

running into sheets of ice large enough to turn around...hm I know what you're getting at here but I think specifically for climbing peaks before snow has melted, there's a broader depth of just criteria matching vs not matching to flesh out. It happens you climb something with just enough traction for going uphill in the morning, that gets softer near the top in the afternoon, then sets to ice in the later afternoon/evening when you're coming down. That's just a melt/freeze cycle we get, more in the spring than winter but can happen now too. But that can be managed with understanding and equipment.

As you call yourself a flatlander..and a piece of me still is, no matter how much I try to pretend it isn't, I'm well aware of it every time I am enjoying the beauty of the mountains.

Here's what I'd recommend. Don't worry about that list of peaks this winter. Go on a winter snowshoe trip or two to start (plenty of options). Then go after something like Maxwell Butte, Maiden Peak.. Explore around Waldo Lake. You'll get a lot of details down and figure out what you need--and it will be beautiful. Then it'll be summer and you can start getting towards doing the hikes and scrambles up things like South Sister, Sacajawea (matterhorn), Eagle Cap, McGloughlin, other volcanoes.. diamond peak, etc.

My 2c, unless you have a mountaineer mentor or go through a guide led intensive, it's a bit much for most to jump straight into.
Feel Free to Feel Free

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Chip Down
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Re: Best non-technical 6,000'+ peaks for winter?

Post by Chip Down » December 3rd, 2020, 9:33 pm

It's a tough battle this time of year. I've been known to do some climbing in January when conditions are just right, but generally it's best to wait. Exception would be if you've done a particular peak in summer, and you want to see how it goes in winter. Doesn't sound like that's your profile though.

It's lower than you want, but Silver Star Mountain can be a nice early climb, maybe around May, or April in some years. It's a walk up, but there's some fun terrain, and when it's under snow you can forget the main trails are actually abandoned roads.

If you want to persist with winter trips, look for plowed roads, unless you really like long ski/snowshoe approaches.

johnspeth
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Re: Best non-technical 6,000'+ peaks for winter?

Post by johnspeth » December 4th, 2020, 8:52 am

One important point: Be snow safe, particularly with avalanche risk. You can take seminars of various depths and topics, for free or for cost. I recommend a book called Snow Sense by Fredsten and Fesler. I think it's a bible quality text that should be memorized.

Mike Denton
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Re: Best non-technical 6,000'+ peaks for winter?

Post by Mike Denton » December 4th, 2020, 9:51 am

Thanks for the replies so far! I may try for maiden peak if it looks good and Silver Star/Sturgeon rock.

Any low elevation class 1-3 scrambles you’d recommend? The only one that stood out of the field guide was sturgeon rock.

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Chip Down
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Re: Best non-technical 6,000'+ peaks for winter?

Post by Chip Down » December 4th, 2020, 8:21 pm

It was wise of you to add Sturgeon Rock to the SSM region. It's super fun and scenic, although almost too easy/short to do alone. The very top is scary when icy, but getting within a few feet of the true summit is still neat.

In the winter, a couple fun scrambles on the washington side of the gorge are Wind Mountain and Dog Mountain.
Both involve a direct ascent from the highway, so no need for an approach hike.

On Wind, just ascend straight up the south slope, using any variant that looks good. It's only 1900'. I've never seen a TR, except a couple I posted.

On Dog, try the east ridge (moderately easy), or Dog Spine (extremely difficult, but there are countless variants to "cheat" and go off-crest until it's easier). The routes converge, so it's possible to go up the spine and down the ridge. You can also descend via the standard trail (tourist route), but the road walk back to your car is unpleasant and not super safe. Both routes get a bit of traffic; you should be able to find reports here.

Oh, sorry, I just noticed you're in Cottage Grove. Hmm. Well, heck, I have no idea what's down there, but from your list I gather you don't mind driving a bit.

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Charley
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Re: Best non-technical 6,000'+ peaks for winter?

Post by Charley » December 4th, 2020, 9:44 pm

I've been climbing Oregon's highest 100 peaks for several years and you're going to love climbing most of these mountains.

On the other hand, Jefferson, North Sister, and Twin Peaks (and possibly Hood) are going to be more challenging! So, yes, getting some mountaineering training is a great idea.

For winter hikes and scrambles that will build strength, endurance, and skill, here's a small list of mountains that I'd recommend looking into. Summitpost and peakbagger.com both have useful beta.

Winter snow hikes (you will need access to traction devices, and probably snowshoes or skis)
Paulina Peak (snomachine destination, but people also ski it)
Tumalo Mountain
Mary's Peak
Maiden Peak
Fuji Mountain
Yamsay Mtn (access might be hard)
Pelican Butte
Llao Rock, The Watchman, Dutton Cliffs (Crater Lake NP)
Pueblo Mountain
Mt Bachelor (review the ski area's rules first!)

Spring snow climbs (You'll need to be comfortable with ice ax and crampons. Also, avy risk is generally lower but spring sloughs can still hurt or kill you. These are roughly in ascending order of commitment and objective risk, at least as I subjectively judge them!).
Applegate/Garfield Peaks
Ball Butte
Mt Bailey
South Sister
Middle Sister
Mt St Helens
Diamond Peak
Mt McLoughlin

A lot of the above peaks are scrambles in the summer time, and plenty fun (some have trails or roads to the top).

CONDITIONS WILL DETERMINE THE SAFETY OF ANY TRIP, ESPECIALLY IN SNOW SEASON! You can look at NWAC for avy forecasts that are relevant to some but not all of these peaks.
IMG_5291.jpg
Mt McLoughlin
IMG_4629.jpg
Diamond Peak
Attachments
View from Applegate Peak April 2016.jpg
View of Garfield Peak from Applegate Peak

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Charley
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Re: Best non-technical 6,000'+ peaks for winter?

Post by Charley » December 4th, 2020, 10:09 pm

Mike Denton wrote:
December 3rd, 2020, 7:20 pm
Any of these peaks doable between now and June?
Sorry, I'm such a nerd. My first post was an answer to your second question. Here's what I know about your first question:


Mount Hood- technical for most
Mount Jefferson- super committed and technical
South Sister- a classic intro to mountaineering, spring or summer
North Sister- a sphincter-clenching dance with death that many climbers do only one time in their life
Middle Sister- a more remote version of South Sister
Sacajawea Peak- a terrific hike once the snow has melted, with incredible views
Steens Mountain- drive or ride a bike up in the summer, or an epic ski in winter
Aneroid Mountain- classic Wallowas summer
Twin Peaks- This is the only technical OR100 peak that is not in the Cascades (rope recommended)
Red Mountain- Pretty sure not
Mount McLoughlin- great wildness in spring, or a hot trail in summer- your pick
Elkhorn Peak-Doubt it.
Mount Thielsen- Is it 3rd class, 4th class? I can't tell you what you'd think, but when I was there, and it was crowded and a football sized rock whizzed by a climbing partner, I was glad we roped up.

Broken Top- Again, Bend locals seem to think this is a hike, but it's suuuper exposed to do without a rope!
Rock Creek Butte-Nope
Mount Bachelor- see the ski area website
Strawberry Mountain- I'd love to see it in winter, but it's far out and would be pretty committed
Mount Scott- steep hike in summer, steep avalanche risk in winter
Diamond Peak- wild and uncrowded in snow season, with avalanche risk in numerous spots, but a great spring trip
Pueblo Mountain- VERY wild and uncrowded year round. Might have a great trip in the winter, with relatively little snow.
Crane Mountain- I'm pretty sure it'd be a safe snowshoe in, but winter road closures would demand a LONG trip from a plowed road.
Drake Peak- Great views, and you'd be all alone. You could probably hike up from Plush Cutoff Road in snow season.
Mount Bailey- A moderate snow climb, but with a few steeper slopes that probably should necessitate ice ax.
Gearhart Mountain- a great scramble in the summer, but difficult access in winter.
Aspen Butte- Just hiked it. Kinda boring. Difficult access in winter.
Yamsay Mountain- Might be a long hike from a paved road, but I'd bet pretty safe!
Vinegar Hill- It's in my ski guide. Might be doable.
Pelican Butt- If you can drive a ways up Forest Road 3651, snowshoeing up the access road wouldn't be terribly hard.
Lookout Mountain-
Warner Peak- I think the ranger station/visitor center at Hart Mountain is open year-round, and Warner Peak isn't far from there, so it's probably doable.
Paulina Peak- people ski it, ride it, drive it, snowshoe it, etc. Doable.

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jessbee
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Re: Best non-technical 6,000'+ peaks for winter?

Post by jessbee » December 4th, 2020, 10:25 pm

Great advice so far in this thread.

All I have to add is that the peaks on the list with the least technical aspects tend to be the ones that are the most remote in the state, and you'll need a lot of time to get out to then and will have to be totally self reliant. If all your focus is just on gaining mountain fitness, do what Matt suggested and forget that list. Start going out on long hikes or do laps on smaller peaks (Tumalo mt/mary's peak/etc. Get used to the snowpack, trail markings, road conditions in Oregon. I remember after moving here from New England, all my experience in the White Mountains did not prepare me for some of Oregon's unique challenges. There's value in just gaining some local knowledge by racking up miles in your new backyard.

I'm in Central Oregon and can offer more detailed information about the peaks around Bend, feel free to message me anytime. There's no peak too big or small or obscure for me, I adore them all 🤣
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