With the late snowpack this year, Hurricane Creek was running a little high and I wasn’t sure if I’d skip merrily across or… you know… not. I asked my husband to join me for the ⅓ mile of trail until I got to the Hurricane Creek crossing. The crossing ended up being pretty straight forward, but sometimes you don’t know until you’re in there and I was glad I had someone to witness it. Other than that I carried everything I needed. It’s a short trip and no water on the ridge, so no filter needed.
Once across Hurricane Creek, I was pretty immediately swimming through bushes. Mostly ninebark. Fortunately it was nothing thorny. I tried to stick to the ridge as much as possible, but I did find that it helped to bear a little more to the south of the ridge (ie stay right on the way up.) The north side of the ridge seemed to have thicker brush, more blowdown, and cliffier dropoffs. Route up was incredibly steep. As soon as the trees started thinning out though… the views! I got up to the main ridge and again found staying just right (southwest) of the ridge was to my benefit. Mostly, I wasn’t even tempted to go left of the ridge because it would mean jumping off a cliff. But there was one spot where both sides looked tricky and I went left and immediately regretted the choice.
On the way up, I went over every little nubbin on the ridge thinking it was the summit, but there’s almost 2 miles of the main ridge to Chief Joseph. No need to do that next time. I forgot to take a photo of the actual summit once I got there, but included a photo of the summit from a different trip. Saw a couple goats hanging out up top. It was up here that I was so enchanted with the world that I thought maybe this would make a good FKT route? Hadn’t really been thinking of that earlier. I decided to descend as fast as I could and see how it turned out.
Crossing the main ridge was delightful, but once I dropped off the main ridge to the subsidiary taking me back to Hurricane Creek, it was back onto the steep, steep, steep stuff. Then farther down I had to beat my way back through the ninebark. This is probably where I maximized the swearing because I was theoretically trying to go fast, but bushwhacking does not make me feel fast. Back across Hurricane Creek, then run down the tiny bit of trail to the trailhead and I was done.
I’m quite certain that I’m not the first person to do this route but I haven’t found much in the way of trip reports for it. There’s this- I’m still trying to figure out where they started that would stretch this into a 3 day trip. Folks doing the Hurwal Traverse seem to descend Chief Joseph from the ridge just south of the one I took. Not quite sure why they chose that ridge because it looked like that would give you some extra bushwhacking challenges near the Hurricane Creek crossing. That said, this is the only ridge I’ve gone up or down, so I could be missing something. My time is pretty comparable to the fastest Strava time for summit/descent from the Wallowa Lake side, though that route is a mile shorter and a hell of a lot less shrubby.