Ascent of Owens Peak on 2003-06-09

Climber: Patrick Shannon

Date:Monday, June 9, 2003
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Owens Peak
    Elevation:8453 ft / 2576 m

Ascent Trip Report

From my Pacific Crest Trail journal ( Then, after hiding my pack in the bushes, I started up the approximately 1400-foot climb to the summit on what looked like a faint unofficial trail. It soon disappeared, which I rather expected, but I continued on through an open forest. I was annoyed at all the grasses that kept sticking to my socks, but had I known what lay ahead for me on this climb, I probably wouldn't have complained so much. Actually, I probably would have turned back!

As I continued up, I had to work my way through thick patches of live oaks and across various rock slides, which made the climb very slow going, but I was making progress. As I got closer to the top, I started having to do some rock scrambling and then even borderline rock climbing (Class 4 routes). One rule to keep in mind when you free climb is: "Don't go up what you don't feel comfortable going back down." This is a rule I normally follow, especially after an experience a couple years ago during a backpacking trip in the Canyonlands in Utah. I was out with a couple of friends from college. After we had made camp, I quickly scrambled up about a 25-foot boulder to get a good sunset shot of the valley below. I got some great shots and even sat and watched the rest of the sunset. When I attempted to get down, though, I found no way I could safely do so. After about 30 minutes of trying, I yelled down to my friends in camp that I couldn't get down. It wasn't one of my finer moments! One of them helped me while I came down a very sketchy route. My two companions were surprisingly merciful at not mocking the big outdoors guy too much for getting trapped on a boulder.

Anyway, today as I climbed Mt. Owens, I thought about how uncomfortable I would be coming down what I was climbing, but I could see the summit a little way up, and having looked at the south side of the mountain from the PCT, I thought that the other side would be an easier route to descend. So I continued on, focused on reaching the summit, so that I wouldn't have to descend what I had already climbed. At one point, I got quite an abrasion on my left shoulder from ramming it against a rock I hadn't seen as I climbed over a ledge. To make matters worse, I soon found out that what I was climbing was actually a false peak (a lower hilltop that obscures the actual summit from the view of the climber and can thus be mistaken for the summit).

So I was forced to go back down the way I came. It actually went fairly smoothly: I was soon walking to the side of the ridge I had just tried climbing to try to get around the false peak. Once while I was walking across another rockslide, a loose rock nearly rolled right on my foot. Finally, an hour and three-quarters after I had left the PCT, about 100 feet from the top, I found the summit trail I didn't know existed! What I said at that point should probably not be repeated. The clean version went something like: "What's this? A trail? Golly, I sure would have liked to know about this a couple of hours ago!"

I followed the trail to the summit. It's the strangest thing: As of today, I was the only 2003 PCT thru-hiker crazy enough to summit this darn peak! I got some more great views from the top and then started back down the trail. As it turned out, it was a horrible trail and it started veering away from where I wanted to go, so I soon was cutting cross-country again back towards the PCT. It was slow going, but there were no more "attacks" from the mountain. I returned to the PCT 3½ hours after leaving it, having hiked 2½ miles and (more importantly) having peaked Mt. Owens.

Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Bushwhack, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Ascent Part of Trip: Pacific Crest Trail 2003

Complete Trip Sequence:
1San Jacinto Peak2003-05-09 
2Mount Baden-Powell2003-05-22 
3Mount Jenkins2003-06-09 
4Owens Peak2003-06-09 
5Mount Whitney2003-06-182898 ft / 883 m
6Half Dome2003-07-01 
12Mount McLoughlin2003-08-20 
14Mount Thielsen2003-08-25 
15South Sister2003-08-30 
Total Trip Gain: 2898 ft / 883 m    Total Trip Loss: 2898 ft / 883 m

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