A Look Back: Barrett Spur

A lenticular cloud hung over the mountain for hours. Nearing Wy’east Basin.

The weather has finally turned and western Oregon is back to sanity weatherwise.   Not that I minded three months with less than half an inch of rain.  The next nine months will more than counter that drought, I have no doubt.   At the same time, life seems to get ever more hectic between teaching and firefighting and sickness, and I haven’t found the time to go for a real hike lately.  It seems a good time to reflect on a favorite hike from recent years.

A couple years ago, I ventured up the north side of Mount Hood to Barrett Spur, a prominent shoulder visible from Portland.   I had been to the foot of the spur multiple times coming via the Top Spur and Timberline Trails.  That was a great hike, but a long one if I didn’t get an early start (living close to trailheads, I am slow moving at times).  At any rate, I didn’t have enough daylight to get as far up the mountain as I wanted.

Looking back the way I came as I leave the official trail. Mt. Adams on the horizon.

This time, I drove over the top of Lolo Pass and headed for the Vista Ridge Trail.  The approach is longer, but the trail is shorter.  The road gained a lot of elevation for me, and I had an easy hour-long hike to treeline. The north side of the mountain is stunning, all verdant tree-dotted meadows, glacial meltwater creeks (this route avoided any tricky crossings), all below steep glaciers and volcanic ridges luring one’s eye toward the summit of a great peak.

Barrett Spur pokes up above the foreground ridges on the left side.

One in the lush Wy’east Basin, I found a herd path alongside a creek and headed up it.  The going was easy for a while.  Some routefinding was involved as I headed up steep scree sections and crossed a couple snowfields.

Beware! Sprained ankles waiting to happen in this moonscape

Taking a look back down toward treeline

I slogged up the slope of the mountain until we were at least a thousand feet above treeline.  The payoff was tremendous when I reached a saddle overlooking the Ladd Glacier on one side and the spur on the other.  I scrambled through a stiff wind up the spur and reached a relatively flat but rocky ridgetop between glaciers.   One word: spectacular.

Full frontal Hoodity.

Desolation world. Approaching the notch at base of the spur proper.  My route diagonalled up to the high point of the Spur on the near side of the little crags.

The mountain seemed to be on top of me as I scrambled along the ridge.  I wanted to go up, up, up, but I was not prepared for technical routes.

Only the hardiest of species survive above 7000 feet in the Cascades.

When I climbed Cooper Spur this summer, Barrett Spur quickly came to mind.   Barrett Spur is a bit more of an adventure, which lifts it higher in my favorites list.  Thousands of acres in the area were scarred in 2011 by the Dollar Lake Fire.  It could be fascinating to contrast my memories and photos with the current look of the landscape. One day, I will venture back, and I would recommend a trip there to anyone else looking for a modest adventure.

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on October 14, 2012, in Adventure, Alpine Hiking, Memories, Solo Hiking, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Lenticular cloud, my arse! That’s the Mothership… 🙂

  2. Looks like a great hike! I’d like to get out to the Northwest to do more hiking there!

  3. What a view!! Pictures of the fire devestation would look really interesting in B&W (imho). 🙂

  4. Wow I’ve never hiked that high up – the highest we’ve hiked was in Big Bear Lake at 8,700 feet. Did you give yourself time to adjust to the altitude?

    1,000 feet ABOVE the tree line is pretty desolate scenery and as you say “easy to sprain an ankle in the moonscape”

  5. Impressive pictures. Even more impressive is your use of the word lenticular. Awesome!

    • Thanks for checking out my blog. If you are around Cascade volcanoes very much, you get used to hearing about Lenticular clouds. The mountains, which stand out from the surrounding foothills so much, sometimes make their own weather.

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