Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SOTA RadioAdventure to the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, NE Oregon

Eagle Cap Peak (SOTA W7/NE-008) is one of the predominate landmarks in the Wallowa Mountains in northeast Oregon. Popular as a premier trout fishing and backpacking area, the wilderness area encompasses over 50 SOTA-qualified Peaks, many over 9,000 ft. The backcountry is characterized by deep river valleys with soaring summit ridges, often 4,000 ft above the valley floors. Most mountain ridges are characterized by significant glacier carving with spectacular cirques and headwalls, numerous high mountain lakes, and big moraines that formed Wallowa Lake, the central tourist and camping destination for this area. The area is bordered on the east by the Hells Canyon Wilderness Area and the Snake River.

Historically it was home to the Nez Perce Indians from the early 1400's and their descendants still occupy this region adding a cultural dimension to the cities and small towns. See for more of the despicable history of broken Treaties and massacres by the US Military in the late 1800's.

From the city of Lostine, we drove up the Lostine Creek Corridor, a deep mountain valley which follows the Lostine Creek to the Two Pan Trailhead and campground. There are several trails into the "high lakes" area which includes Minam and Mirror Lakes. We hiked up the East Lostine Creek trail for about 7 miles gaining over 2,000 ft. The majority of the elevation gain is in the first 2.5 miles then plateaus out to a more gentle high valley area flanked by huge mountain ridges either side of Lostine Creek.

The Eagle Cap summit trail branches off from the Mirror-Minam Lake trail and is a fairly steep 2.7 mile hike. Elevation gain is about 2,000 ft from the Mirror Lake (7,600 ft). The top is spectacular with vistas in all directions. The north and east sides of the summit are steep dropoffs of 2,000 ft or more. The east side is an open cirque and "looks" invitingly easy as a return trail past Glacier Lake. Don\\\'t be deceived (as we were). There is no trail down and you will be "bouldering" for most of your descent. Granite rocks are very slippery when wet.

Ham Radio Setup: This is an open and exposed summit. High winds should be expected and be especially careful near the north and east sides of the summit. It would be very easy to "slip" on the loose rock and plummet over a 2,000 ft drop to become a SK!

There is a very good local 2m repeater (KB7DZR, 147.000+, 103.5T) with Echolink and APRS nodes and excellent backcountry coverage, at least from the mountain tops. It is monitored by a number of friendly locals and is owned/maintained by Scott Hampton. See his webpage for more information and weather-reporting capabilities. Make sure you contact Tim/KB7RVL, Lorna/KB7RVI, or Larry/K7BUY if you are in the area.

Eagle Cap Peak would be a difficult day hike. Plan at least to camp overnight at Mirror Lake. In the summer months, especially on weekends, this campground can get "crowded" so plan your trip accordingly. Also expect horses or llamas on these trails.

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