Sawtooth/Cowhorn Mountains

September 5, 1998

Sawtooth and Cowhorn Mountains rise above Timpanogas Lake basin, a few miles south of Diamond Peak. Although they are the tallest peaks in the ancient Calapooia Range, their summits may be climbed with no technical climbing skills required. Our four-mile approach to Sawtooth began on the south shore of Timpanogas Lake and climbed steeply, crossing two ridges before passing high on the rocky, south side of the peak. From the south side, a simple, off-trail scramble to the north, and then a final pitch up the north face, led to this remarkable summit. A few of the people in our party decided not to attempt this final exposed scramble to the top. The view of Indigo Lake and Timpanogas Lake was spectacular, as was our view of the Cascades from Mt. Hood to Mt. Thielsen. While we were taking in the view, a Peregrine falcon soared just below us. We quickly rejoined the rest of our group and continued hiking on the Windy Ridge Trail. Near the southeast corner of Sawtooth we had a lunch break in a beautiful, grassy meadow, with Sawtooth’s craggy summit towering above us. After lunch we continued east on the Windy Ridge Trail, passing through nearly-pure stands of old growth Mountain Hemlocks. After three miles, the ridge trail dead-ended at the PCNST, directly beneath the looming summit of Cowhorn Mountain. We climbed the easy scree slopes of the northwest ridge of Cowhorn, and then crossed a narrow rocky ridge to the base of the craggy summit. Cowhorn has a wonderful view of the Willamette Pass area, including Crescent Lake, Davis Lake and the Crane Prairie area. All but one person in our group made it to this summit. After a snack and many photographs, we headed back down to the Windy Ridge Trail. We retraced our route back to near Sawtooth, where we joined the recently completed trail down to Indigo Lake. Many descending switchbacks brought us to the shore of this incredibly scenic alpine lake. Several people stopped to filter drinking water for the final three-mile trail back to the cars. This 14mile loop. with several thousand feet of elevation gain, required about 9.5 hours to complete. There were many murmurs of relief as we returned to the parking lot, but I think all of our party enjoyed this exhilarating alpine adventure. Hikers were Dan Bates, Jim & Melody Clarkson, Jane Engert (a. visitor from Washington, DC), Ellie Maliner, Doug McCarty, Karen Meyers, Doug Quirk, Lucy & Karen Rayle, Michael Wolf, Bev Woods, and leader Brian Hoyland.

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