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.
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.
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.
In less than 0.5 miles, Point 5974 came in to view and the ridge top became rocky and open.
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.
Past Point 5974, the summit came into view, across another expanse of open, rocky ridge and 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.
Once there, we had a commanding view of the southeast face of Highrock,
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,
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.
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.
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.
This proved to the way to the summit slope, which was only 200 feet or so up the chute and which proved almost level.
After some easy walking through stunted manzanita,
the rocky summit came into view,
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.
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.
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),
with Mount Thielsen, Jackass Mountain, and Highrock Meadow to the east,
To the northeast, I could just make out the rocky protuberance of Standoff Point,
which looks a whole lot more impressive close-up (as does the trail clinging to its cliffs).
And then we headed back.
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,
which was truly barren as expected,
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.
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.
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!