Fri, Jun 9, 2006
Broken Top is another Cascade volcano that lies just SE of the Sisters complex west of Bend. It was purported to have a class 4-5 summit block similar to a few of the other peaks we had climbed recently, and we were looking forward to the challenge after what should be an easier approach.
We had hoped to climb Broken Top earlier in the week in conjunction with South Sister. After hauling all our climbing gear to South Sister, dumping it 1,000ft below the summit, and returning to the cache after summitting, only then did we check the map and "discover" that Broken Top would require another 3,000ft of gain after descending to Green Lakes. Somewhere in our online discussions before the trip, a Cascade veteran had mentioned that we ought to tag Broken Top while we were doing South Sister. I had taken that to mean on the same day, but afterwards I think he may have just meant on another day while in the area. In any case, we hauled all our crap back to the car because we didn't feel like doing Broken Top after a 5,000ft haul to South Sister. But it was another day and we had Broken Top on the revised schedule since we were no longer heading to Mt. Rainier.
Driving out from Bend on the Cascade Lakes Highway, we made the trailhead at Green Lakes by 6a and were off soon after. As we were used to, we had snow right from the start. We had to guess where the trail went since there were no footprints on the hard snow, but it wasn't hard to figure out it follows Fall Creek upstream. We found a footbridge and crossed to the west side of the creek. Thinking ourselves fortunate for having found the bridge, Matthew was quick to point out we didn't want to be on the west side at all since we'd just have to cross back over again to the east side higher up. Back across the bridge we went.
We climbed up the steep bank of the creek on the east side, following north where the slope leveled off. Through the thick jumble of trees I soon lost Rick and Matthew behind me. After a few minutes Rick appeared saying he said he believed Matthew may have turned back. Matthew had been having knee problems that turned him back on Mt. Hood the day before, but I was surprised that he would turn around without saying anything to us. To be sure, I chased him back down the slopes, catching up with him after a few hundred yards - yep, he was turning back and would wait in the car for us to return. Less than a half hour into the climb, it was down to two again.
Rick and I continued together uphill over relatively easy terrain in dense forest. A waterfall along the creek was about the only interesting thing we found in the first few hours. Not until we were in the shallow valley SE of Green Lakes and west of Broken Top did the forest relent and we got views of the summit and the surrounding area. South Sister loomed high to the west, in much better light than the day we had climbed it in a whiteout. Once above treeline, it seemed to take far longer than it should have to reach the West Ridge of Broken Top, but by 9:15a we had climbed the steeper snow-free slopes on the south side to reach the ridge. Fine views and fine weather combined to make it a very pleasant outing.
The West Ridge itself was nothing special for climbing, but it had swell views. We followed the braided climbers' trail on the ridge towards the summit, for the most part snow-free. At the purported class 4 rock band we were aided by the snow piled at the base which made it at most a class 3 effort. Above this was supposed to be an airy traverse followed by a class 4 effort to the summit, but that was not the case at all. Though the ledges were sprinkled with loose debris, the traverse was quite easy, and the last 15 feet were a simple class 3 exercise with almost no exposure. And just like that, we were on the summit just after 10a. We had brought rope and other climbing gear but needed none of it, and in fact felt a little foolish for bringing it all the way to the summit. Oh well, better too much gear than not enough.
We enjoyed swell views of the Sisters to the west and NW, Bachelor to the South, Jefferson to the north, and the High Desert of Eastern Oregon to the east. We surveyed the frightfully steep snow couloirs on the SE side, glad we didn't try to approach from that direction. We stayed about 15 minutes on the summit before making our way back down.
The return was largely uneventful, retracing our steps as much as possible (somehow we still managed to lose our prints now and then). The sun was beating down almost unbearably and when we could find shade from the trees we were more than happy to take it. It was 1p before we returned to the van where we found Matthew busily perusing Sierra maps and guidebooks. He was certainly looking like he'd had enough of Oregon, but he was a great sport to wait patiently for Rick and I. Back to Bend we went, still two more days of climbing remaining.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Broken Top
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