A month ago, I climbed Mt. Yoran, an extinct volcano in the heart of Central Oregon’s wilderness east of Eugene.
Have you climbed all the easy stuff in the Northwest? Dog Mountain, Mt. Defiance, Mt. St. Helens? Are you looking for a peak that provides a taste of what the more difficult Cascade volcanoes are like, without a lot of the danger and arduous effort? Yoran luck. In fact, Yoran idiot if you don’t climb this peak.
Okay, I’ll stop.
All puns aside, Mt. Yoran boasts scenic forests, gorgeous views of Diamond Peak and Divide Lake, and a short, sharp, exciting Class 3/4 summit scramble that flirts with significant exposure but never leaves you one mistake away from an untimely death.
This eight-mile hike starts by meandering through beautiful forests for three miles, gently climbing to Divide Lake. Follow the signs for Mt. Yoran Trail (if you couldn’t figure this out on your own, you might want to hire a guide). Once you’ve reached Divide Lake, take a minute to walk to the far side of the lake and snap a couple pictures of your stately quarry, majestically reflected in Divide Lake’s green waters. Look for a climber’s trail that angles towards the right side of Yoran’s prominent South Gully. It’s worth the extra effort required to locate this small trail, because otherwise you’ll be scrambling through a steep field of scree and rubble for quite some time just to reach Yoran’s South Gully.
At this point, Yoran eighth of a mile from the summit, but the fun has just begun.
Sorry, I promise I’ll stop this time.
Scramble left around a large rock outcropping into the obvious South Gully itself. Climb this class 3 gully on surprisingly solid rock, staying on the right side of the gully. I took my time here, since I was climbing solo and wasn’t in the mood to become a statistic due to the rubble that remains on many of the gully’s ledges.
Work your way towards the obvious headwall at the top of the gully, and exit via a nifty class 4 move onto a slightly airy ledge. If you’re not accustomed to exposure, take your time here, and walk to your left towards the obvious, steep rockfield just below the summit ridge. Scramble up these class 3 rocks to the ridge (don’t know what these rock climbing ratings mean? Click HERE), turn right towards the higher, true summit, navigate a narrow catwalk, and you’re there.
Mt. Yoran’s summit is, in a word, spectacular. It affords up-close-and-personal views of Diamond Peak and South Mt. Yoran, and 360-degree vistas of the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, and more. Its 7,100' elevation is short by West Coast standards, but bear in mind that if transplanted, it would be the highest peak in 35 US states. In other words, you can still shamelessly brag about this summit to your friends anywhere east of the Rockies.
I spent over an hour on Yoran’s summit, devouring the delectable views and snapping photos. The weather was perfect, and, like a kid in a candy store, I couldn’t get enough. Yes, I used my selfie stick. Yes, it was a gift. Don’t hate.
Though Yoran wouldn’t even make the list of the tallest 50 mountains I’ve climbed, it will always hold a special place in my heart. Its summit was the first real summit I’d stood on since fully rupturing my Achilles 17 months ago. This mountain meant more to me than almost any other peak I’d climbed, because of what it’s taken me to get back to doing what I love. So I sat, munching BBQ Cornnuts and taking it all in, so grateful for life, for grace, for every step I’d taken, and for the fact that the body heals.
Finally, I retraced my steps to the top of the South Gully and carefully downclimbed it, pausing several times to admire the emerald waters of Divide Lake, seemingly directly beneath my feet. Once back on the Mt. Yoran Trail, I returned the route I’d come.
A word to the wise: bring mosquito repellent on this climb. I didn’t. The mosquitoes were hungry, and I was delicious. I got eaten alive, especially in some of the marshy areas towards the beginning of the hike. Anytime you can learn from your own mistakes, it’s a beautiful thing. Anytime you can learn from someone else’s mistakes, it’s even better. You’re welcome.
Also, bring sunblock, plenty of water, plenty of food…you know the drill. For directions to the trailhead, click HERE.
In the Pacific Northwest? Climb this mountain. As soon as possible. Yoran for a real treat.