Alvord Peak (Eastern Oregon) 14-May-2015

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

It was raining when we got up and it rained during the whole 60 mile drive from Frenchglen, Oregon to the turn-off to Alvord Peak at the southern end of the Steens, about 5 miles north of Fields, Oregon. This is Hike #72 in Bond’s 2005 75 Scrambles in Oregon, the difference being that the eastern Steens Road is now paved to the turn-off and beyond. We made the turn and, after a mile of 4×4 driving on a deeply rutted two-track dirt road, reached the trailhead at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wilderness boundary.  There we sat in the truck until the rain quit.  When it soon did, we went for the peak.

Although our objective was shrouded in clouds,

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Clouds envelop the summit of Alvord Peak

we marched on toward it nonetheless. It wasn’t raining but the wind was up and it was cold. We were glad to have the climb to keep us warm(er).

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Starting the climb of Alvord Peak

The route is essentially cross-country up an obvious ridge.

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

On the ridge to Alvord Peak

Although it looks like a sea of grass from a distance, the whole area was festooned with numerous low-growing and colorful wildflowers.

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Indian Paintbrush

Bond has you circling around to the north and west of the peak but we decided it seemed more direct to just go up the obvious gully below the summit. Given the touchy weather situation, we also didn’t want to take the extra time to circle the peak.

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

An obvious gully route (arrows) beckoned to us

While the summit had been cloud-free and its visibility had taunted us during most of our ascent, by the time we actually got to the summit gully, clouds started rolling in from the west,

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Mists began to fill the gully

and visibility dropped to 100 feet or less. It also got a lot colder.

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Another episode of “Hikers in the Mist”

But we pushed on up through the mists and soon reached the viewless summit,

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

The cold but happy couple on the misty, viewless summit

which we identified by its benchmark.

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

The 1935 Alvord Peak benchmark

No views were to be had from the summit, so we had to descend below the clouds to see the Pueblo Mountains to the south,

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Looking south toward the Pueblo Mountains

the Crooked Creek and Sheepshead ranges to the east (along with some approaching dark clouds),

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

More dark clouds to the east

the Alvord Desert to the northeast,

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Alvord Desert

and the Steens to the north.

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Looking north along the Steens

The clouds kept coming as we headed back down to the trailhead. But the rain held off.

Alvord Peak Steens Mountain Wilderness Oregon

Chased by clouds

Despite the weather it was a good hike (4.6 miles roundtrip; 2,600 feet of elevation gain) – well worth doing for the views in good weather. The excellent milkshake we got at the cafe in Fields was a great way to finish this hike! Despite the weather, we had a good time in the Steens and are considering a return to hike Big Indian Gorge and to explore the Pueblo Mountains. (Fortunately) the hiking to do list never seems to get any shorter!

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