Castle Rock, OR

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Second try (and a dry road) is the charm for Castle Rock.

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Last week I helped Michael check a peak off his list. This week it was my turn. We went back to a peak I had failed on back in 2009, Castle Rock, in Oregon.

It's an impressive volcanic plug about 20 miles north of Juntura, which is on Highway 20 between Burns and Ontario.

This time, instead of a muddy road in my Suby, we were on a dry road in Michael's FJ. No white knucles on the approach drive. Whew!

Off in the distance
So after a three hour drive, we were heading up a short but steep hike through the ponderosa and firs. Then we got into the sage brush for a clear view of our objective, on the left. Stolle Meadows
We trudged up the steep hillside, moving from sage brush to mountain mahogany, then into the woods and intermittent snow patches. Stolle Meadows

When we got to the NE gully as described on SummitPost, the gully was full of snow. The crux of the route, a 20' wall, lies just above the highest snow patch.

Stolle Meadows

Although the rock wall didn't really look difficult, it was quite steep. And protected at the bottom by a patch of verglas. No, really! This was an alpine challenge!

Here Michael has cleared the ice section and is climbing to the ridge top into the welcome sunshine.

Cougar Rock

Once you are on the ridge top, you follow a long, gradually ascending, somewhat exposed ramp on the west side of the ridge.

Thunderbolt Mtn

When the ramp suddenly ends, you are on a wide flat spot. Looking up, there are a variety of choices. I followed the big red arrow on the way up, which turned out to be not that hard, but not that easy. And quite steep. And a HUGE pile of loose boulders near the top. It was really hard to not grab one of them for a handhold. Consequently, what had looked like easy Class 5 fun on the way up did not look so hot on the way back. So after some investigation we found a MUCH easier descent route, which Michael is enjoing here. Class 3.

Winter camping?
Once on top of this wall, it's an easy and short hike to the top. Trailhead sign

Summit. We found a register dating back to 1979 with lots of names. One character had climbed it seven times.

It took us a little over two hours from the car.

Trailhead sign

Although NOAA had predicted a 20% chance of thunderstorms after 11am, you could not tell it from where we sat. Sunny with gorgeous views all around. From most directions Castle Rock is visible from 60 miles away. Right back atcha! This is looking north and that's Ironside to the right of center.

On the drive back we joked about how much easier these peaks are if you can just keep them under 7k' elevation with less than 5 miles walking and 1500' of gain.

Trailhead sign

Mr. Natural Home | 2012 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski