Twin Peaks - 9673' - via legore lake class 3
Hurricane divide north - 9600 - class 2
When I got an invite to go to the Wallowa Mountains I didn't hesitate to join since I have never been to this area before. We had this fun ridgerun in mind to do that involved a total of 9 peaks (2 ranked and 7 unranked) along a circuitous ridge that circumnavigated completely around Frances Lake. Most of the route would run along the Hurricane Divide Ridge, one of the higher ridgecrests of the Wallowa Mountains. Since my car is still parked in Colorado, We to meet me at the train station in Vancouver and pick me up there. Then we drove east through the Columbia River Gorge and after a quick grocery run in Pendleton, we continued east to the small town of Enterprise at the northern flank of the Wallowa Mountains. We arrived at the Hurricane Creek Trailhead, elevation 5000 feet at about 1pm.
I honestly had no idea what to expect on this trip. All I knew about the Wallowa Mountains was the existence of Eagle Cap, which I thought was the only real high peak in the whole range however I was pleasently suprised as to how large of an area these mountains extend, and that they rose over 5000 feet above the surrounding terrain and had considerable alpine terrain above treeline. I always thought the mountains of northeastern Oregon were just fargone hills without any real scenic value based on the observations of my many trips driving I-84 from WA down to Utah and Colorado. After all, you don't see much along the interstate there, and I hadn't really given the Blue Mountains or the Wallowas much thought over the years. While these sentiments likely still hold some truth for the Blue Mountains, the Wallowa Range is a hidden gem that is invisible to most people unless you take the winding two lane highways well away from the interstate. The town of Enterprise actually had some charm too.
We started up the main trail, which heads up the main Hurricane Creek valley, which is the trail one would take to hike up the highpoint of the range; Sacajawea Peak (which I didn't even know existed). I thought Eagle Cap was the range high point, but in reality, Sacajawea is and it's even an ultra prominent peak. We however only hiked on the Hurricane Creek Trail for about 3 minutes before turning right onto the Falls Creek Trail which ascended steeply and consistentely for 4000 feet to Legore Lake. This trail is a great workout! The trail ascended the slopes on the north side of Falls Creek, passing above a small waterfall and gaining elevation quickly. We apparently were far enough inland for there to be aspen trees glowing yellow, and my hopes of golden larches quickly vanished (I wasn't sure if we were in larch territory, but seeing the aspen trees answered that question with a rersounding no).
The trail steepened at about 7000 feet elevation and the ominous northeast face of the Twin Peaks demanded attention. The rock looked to be pure and utter garbage so I was thankful the route would have us ascend ridges. There were also and endless supply of spiderwebs, some strands over a hundred feet long, blowing in the wind and weaving through the bushes and trees. At 7700 feet after gaining 2700 from the trailhead we passed by the old Legore Mine, which was nothing more than a small adit dug into the hillside about 15 feet deep, then a few hundred feet higher we got to the small grassy basin at 8000 feet that offers the first good camping. Since it was still early enough in the day, we opted to continue northward up a boulderfield into the basin just below Sawtooth Peak. The trail peters out at the 8000 foot basin but there was an obvious route up, and we reached a second flat basin at 8600 feet where a beautiful grassy meadow greeted us. The north facing aspects were holding some remnant snow from the storm a couple weeks ago which made the views just divine.
After a short rest we continued south and met back up with the trail and ascended to a small 9100 foot saddle and dropped a short ways to Legore Lake where we set up camp. The scene at Legore Lake was quaint but beautiful. The Wallowa Mountains offered a vibe of simplistic beauty that was rather calming, similar to the feeling I get when I'm in the Chelan Sawtooths. After we cooked dinner, we walked back up to the small saddle right above to watch the sunset. The sunset glow on the red colored rocks was awesome. It unfortunately gets dark too early now that it's late September so by 7:30 I went into the tent to try and sleep.
That night there was quite a bit of Wind, and as the sun rose we emerged to a chilly and breezy morning. This is probably ther last trip I do in 2021 without bringing any real insulating layer. We quickly started ascending towards the summit of Twin Peaks to keep warm and in no time, we were standing at the base of the north tower, which is the higher of the twin peaks. Along the east side of the north tower there is a class 3 ramp that can be used to attain the summit. Touching the highest point involved some exposed belly crawl or au chavel on a knife tower rock that is just far enough out of reach for most people to be able to easily touch it so pucker up and prey the rock doesn't fall off! The scramble to the top of the tower was short and only involved about 40 feet of class 3 but with the melting snow up there, the rock was slick and the bottom of our shoes holding wet mud so we had to take extra caution. After enjoying the chilly summit in the sun we continued traversing around the east side of the lower south tower, then up to the southernmost peak which I guess could be called the third "Twin Peak" however it is just an easy walk to this point. The view back to the south sides of the twin peaks, and their west faces was a scary sight. The west face of both towers is overhung, and it's only a matter of time before both of these towers end up completely falling over.
We contined hiking south along Hurricane Divide battling 20 MPH winds, however we were now on easy class 1 and 2 ridgerunning terrain. We hiked over Frances Point and The Undertaker, both unranked peaks before reaching the top of Hurricane Divide North. This ranked peak has roughly 460 feet of prominence and was our second ranked peak for the day. SInce it was still early in the morning by thispoint, we decided we would have enough time to continue the ridge around the Frances Lake basin all the way to Marble Point. So we descended to the next saddle, where the rock type changed from a reddish colored volcanic rock to a white sandstone. The contrast was very stark, and the ridge also changed from easy walking to some class 3 scrambling in order for us to summit Hinterstossier Peak (ridiculous name). I looked north and south from where the rock type changed and saw this same white sandstone was the rock found on Sacajawea Peak on the other side of the valley. The Sandstone was also steeply dipping to the northeast, the geology was so cool here!
We then continued west on the ridge, passing a couple more very short class 2+ steps to Point 9280, crossing back onto darker colored volcanic rock again along the way. This peak marked the furthest away we would get from our camp. Here, the long and more rugged continuation of the Hurricane Divide Ridge went south and could be taken over 5-6 more peaks all the way to Eagle Cap if someone had more time. We turned back north though and went over The Troll and The Goblin enroute to Marble Point. There was some exposed class 3 ledge scrambling between The Troll and The Goblin, and we crossed back onto the white sandstone rock at the summit of The Goblin. Some class 3 scrambling was also done navigating around a series of small towers along the serrated ridge between The Goblin and Marble Point. Once we reached the summit of Marble Point, we were shocked to fins a large ammo box summit register. Despite this peak being unranked and virtually uninteresting to anyone looking to climb peaks in the Wallowas, there was a very nice register here. In addition to that, we were the only people to sign it in 2021...how was this possible? We would soon realize that despite the popular trail that crosses the ridge north of Marble Point and descends to Frances Lake, people cannot easily walk the ridge south to Marble Point due to a cliff that blocks easy passage along the north ridge from where the trail crests the ridge. Either way, we took a small rest here as it would be our last peak for the day.
We then began descending down to Frances Lake following a more or less direct line, and we also scouted out an uphill treeless traverse on the west slopes of Twin Peaks we could ascend to get back to Legore Lake. We reached the outlet of Frances Lake at 7700 feet and took a nice long break to eat and refill water. The yellow color on the plants surrounding the lake literally gave me an eyegasm haha! It was a gorgeous afternoon and we had the entire lake to ourselves. With hesitation, we started the grueling 1500 foot ascent up the slopes of Twin Peaks towards the low saddle directly west of Legore Lake. We had to make a long ascending traverse, cutting all the way across the slopes mostly on loose talus. Occationally we were able to find goat trails which helped a lot. We reached the saddle above the lake after a bit over an hour ascending and were greeted to a new vantage point of the lake. The final 250 foot descent back to the lake from the saddle was tedius since the rock was so loose, and the hardpan dirt covered in kitty litter ball bearing garbage, but by 5:30pm we were back at camp relaxing. The lake was about 5 feet lower than normal due to the dry summer but in the evening we noticed it still has quite a bit of fish living in there. As the sun was setting we saw a couple people with a dog descending down Twin Peaks, and they were headed back to their camp at the 8000 foot level in the first basin right above the old mine. We had some tea and went to sleep once it was dark. Due to the rocky ground we were camped on it was another sleepless night for me.
The following morning we slept in a little and packed up camp. We started the hike out and retraced the trail back over the small ridge and down to the 8600 foot basin below Sawtooth Peak. Olga made the 550 foot ascent up the southeast slopes of Sawtooth Peak while I hung out in the basin. I wasn't too interested to go up another unranked peak so I enjoyed the morning sunshine while she made the 45 minute detour up and down. I ran into the same couple we saw the previous evening as they returned back up to also hike up Sawtooth Peak. Once she returned we made very quick work hiking down the steep Falls Creek Trail, stopping only to check out the old mine. I crawled inside the 15 foot deep tunnel to see if I can find which ore the old miners were chasing, but I quickly realized the reason the mine was so small...there was nothing of value there so whatever it was they thought existed there ended up being a quick bust. Once we got back to the trailhead, I took a bath in the river by the road and we started driving back west.
The map below shows the loop route we took from Legore Lake (red), and the location of the Falls Creek Trail (blue). The whole trip was 16.5 miles round trip and 7800 feet of elevation gain, so for a two night trip it was actually quite leisurelly.