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,
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).
The route is essentially cross-country up an obvious ridge.
Although it looks like a sea of grass from a distance, the whole area was festooned with numerous low-growing and colorful wildflowers.
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.
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,
and visibility dropped to 100 feet or less. It also got a lot colder.
But we pushed on up through the mists and soon reached the viewless summit,
which we identified by its 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,
the Crooked Creek and Sheepshead ranges to the east (along with some approaching dark clouds),
the Alvord Desert to the northeast,
and the Steens to the north.
The clouds kept coming as we headed back down to the trailhead. But the rain held off.
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!