Highrock Mountain (Rogue-Umpqua Divide) 23-Aug-2016

In 2015, I did two dayhikes in Oregon’s Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness (details): an out-and-back on the Rogue-Umpqua Divide (USFS #1470) and Rocky Rim (USFS #1572) trails (post) and a loop hike around Fish Lake (post) on the Rocky Rim, Rogue-Umpqua Divide, and Fish Lake (USFS #1570) trails.  Highrock Mountain (6,195 feet) is a prominent feature visible from various points on all of these trails.  While not the highest point in this wilderness (that honor belongs to Fish Mountain, at 6,789 feet, about 4 miles to the northeast), it stands out from other peaks in the area because of its hulking rockiness and nearly treeless summit.  It’s such an obvious, exposed peak that I fully expected to find a route description for it in one of the usual places – Summitpost, Peakbagger, Peakery (where its listed as the 561st highest mountain in Oregon), etc. – but there was nothing.  When a Google Earth-based survey suggested that there were no obvious cliffs or drop-offs blocking a Class 2 scramble to the top via its southeast ridge, we decided to go see for ourselves if its summit was accessible as a non-technical dayhike.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Highrock Mountain from a meadow on the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Highrock Mountain from Highrock Meadow on the Fish Lake Trail

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Highrock Mountain from Fish Lake

Our starting point was where the Rogue-Umpqua Divide trail (#1470) leaves the dirt road to the Hershberger Mountain Lookout.  To get there, we drove Highway 62 to its junction with Highway 230 and then continued north on Highway 230 for 0.9 miles to Forest Road (FR) 6510.  We turned left on gravel FR 6510 for 1.6 miles, then went right on to FR 6520 for 0.5 miles, then left on FR 6515 for 6.6 miles, then right on to FR 6515-530 for 1.8 miles to a sharp bend at 5,730 feet where the #1470 leaves the road (this road ends 0.8 miles further up at the lookout).  These roads are passble to 2WD cars but the last 1.8 miles on FR 530 are very rough.  There is parking for 2-3 cars at the sharp bend.

From our parking spot, we followed the #1470 north for less than 0.25 mile to the saddle between Jackass Mountain to the north and Point 6086 to the south and then struck off west cross-country through the forest, aiming for a saddle on Highrock’s souteastern ridge.  Other than for the occassional fallen log, this was pretty easy going but a lot of side-hilling.  About half way over, we broke out of the trees atop a cliff, with a view of Highrock in the distance.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Highrock Mountain from our cross-country approach route

We soon reached the top of the southeastern ridge which, like many ridge tops (and unlike many of the adjacent slopes) in this area was pretty open, with short, easily traversed vegetation.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Along the southeastern ridge

In less than 0.5 miles, Point 5974 came in to view and the ridge top became rocky and open.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

The southeastern ridge opens up, with Point 5974 in the distance

Going toward the peak we climbed up and over the shoulder of Point 5974 – which wasn’t hard – but on the way back we simply contoured around it on its north side.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Hiking around Point 5974

Past Point 5974, the summit came into view, across another expanse of open, rocky ridge and with Point 5947 in the foreground.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

More open ridge, with Point 5947 in the foreground

Point 5947 is really two towers or gendarmes, the first of which is just a hike up somewhat loose and slippery scree.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Climbing the first piece of Point 5947

Once there, we had a commanding view of the southeast face of Highrock,

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Highrock Mountain from Point 5947

but it was not at all clear how we were going to get over there. We were standing on a bump just south of the marked Point 5947 and traversing over or around it looked daunting. But sometimes you just have to push on to see if a path forward reveals itself (or not). So we scrambled down this first bump,

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Scrambling down the first bump of Point 5947

and at its bottom noticed a well-defined game trail heading down and around the actual Point 5947. Thanks to the “Wisdom of Bambi” we were soon past Point 5947 and standing on the saddle just below the final climb to the summit.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

The first bump on Point 5947 is in the distance, Point 5947 is immediately in front on the left, and the game trail comes around on the right

Our initial plan – dreamed up at home – was to simply climb directly up the ridge from the saddle to the summit. I got up as far as the “X” in the photo below before running into Class 3 moves on dirty, loose terrain. The moves to be made were probably no harder than those needed for Pilot Rock but the amount of loose sand and rock was a whole lot more bothersome. So I backed down.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Uninviting Class 3 terrain (at the X) on the southeast ridge

The LovedOne then suggested that we traverse north to where we could sorta see what looked like a chute pointing toward the summit. So we traversed over on some loose dirt and scree to the base of what turned out to be a steep but otherwise walkable chute.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Looking up the steep chute

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Climbing up the steep chute

This proved to the way to the summit slope, which was only 200 feet or so up the chute and which proved almost level.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

The easy slope just before the summit

After some easy walking through stunted manzanita,

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

The walk to the summit

the rocky summit came into view,

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

The summit

along with its benchmark. Obviously people had been up here before but not very often. There were a couple of old cairns near the top (one of which had a manzanita growing through it) and we found a discarded water bottle on the ridge but otherwise evidence of people was non-existent.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Benchmark on the summit (note that the elevation stamped here does not match that on the USGS topo)

So, looking back, the photo below shows our route to the summit – not directly up the ridge but a short traverse off the saddle and then up the chute – easy Class 2 all the way.  Looking down from the summit slope, I could see that if I had forced that first Class 3 move directly up the ridge, all I would have done was run into yet more gendarmes and Class 3+ moves.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Our indirect route to the summit (arrows)

The view from the summit was great! Paradoxically, the only thing you can’t see from up there is Fish Lake. To the north was Mount Bailey (post),

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Looking north toward Mount Bailey (B)

with Mount Thielsen, Jackass Mountain, and Highrock Meadow to the east,

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Mount Thielsen (T), Jackass Mountain (J), and Highrock Meadow (H) to the east

and Union Peak (post), Rabbit Ears, Mount McLoughlin (post), and Mount Shasta to the south.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Union Peak (U), Rabbit Ears (R), Mount McLoughlin (M), and Mount Shasta (S) to the south

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Mount McLoughlin and Mount Shasta

To the northeast, I could just make out the rocky protuberance of Standoff Point,

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Standoff Point: 6,042 feet (arrow)

which looks a whole lot more impressive close-up (as does the trail clinging to its cliffs).

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Standoff Point above the Rocky Rim Trail

And then we headed back.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Back to the trailhead

Rather than repeat the side-hilling through the forest, we decided to stay on the ridge and follow it up to Point 6086 and then down to the #1470 trail. We had seen from the summit of Highrock that the top of Point 6086 was bare and thus possibly easier walking than the forest. So we climbed along the ridge and out of the forest, traversed some rocky ledges up to the top of Point 6086,

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Traversing rock ledges on Point 6086

which was truly barren as expected,

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

The top of Point 6086

and which gave us one last view of Highrock Mountain in the distance. We then continued along the ridge to hit the Rogue-Umpqua Divide trail at the saddle and were soon back at the car.  If we were to do this again, we’d use the route over Point 6086 to the ridge rather than wander through the forest.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Highrock Mountain from the top of Point 6086

One of this year’s hiking themes has been “a rodent on every summit.” There wasn’t one on the top of Highrock but one was waiting for us back at the car. Thanks to human duplicity, we were able to escape without having to offer up what few snacks we had left. Then, after a visit to Hershberger Lookout (details), we headed for home.

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

The rodent is watching…

The stats for this hike (4.3 miles roundtrip; 1,000 feet of elevation gain) make it seem easy but that’s somewhat deceptive. Almost all of it is cross-country, with the attendant route finding and brush avoiding challenges, and there’s also some scrambling along the ridge, along with what’s needed to reach the summit. And the footing is loose and slippery in some key spots, which makes for slower going that you’d have with a trail. But, overall, a great hike to a big view summit in perfect weather with no biting bugs.  On the way home, we stopped at Beckie’s Cafe in Union Creek for two pieces of their heart-stoppingly delicious chocolate pie!

Highrock Mountain Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

Our track to and from the summit of Highrock Mountain

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