March 6, 1999
What do you suppose happens when four mountaineers set off for a hike around a mountain?
When it is a group of Obsidians, it is likely that there will be more climbing than hiking.
That is exactly what happened when our group set off for a snowshoe hike on the
Cone Peak/Iron Mountain trail.
The snow gauge at Tombstone Pass was showing more than nine feet of snow, with about 15 inches
of dry powder snow on top.
Warm temperatures, light winds and spring sunshine put us in a good mood as we struggled with
alders and low hanging fir boughs on the lower portion of the climb.
There were no visible signs of the summer hiking trail and we resorted to following the path of
least resistance through the trees.
With Van breaking trail on his big Alaska Beavertails, we were quickly out into the open slopes
of the southeast meadows.
After a quick assessment of the conditions on the upper part of the mountain, we decided as a
group that a climb to the summit would be more exciting than a continued slog around the
dangerously loaded north slopes of Iron Mountain.
There were impressive snow cornices on the saddle between the two peaks.
We fueled up with a lunch break, high on the southwest shoulder, before tackling the final
climb to the top.
The intense wind storms of the previous week had scoured the snow away from the upper slopes,
and we found safe, easy climbing in shallow, wind-packed snow.
The view from the summit was limited to Mount Washington and a beautiful Three Fingered Jack
shining in a ray of sunlight.
Mount Jefferson’s upper slopes were cloaked in clouds, and to the south we could see
storm squalls flying over the Sisters and Belknap Crater.
We explored the wind sculpted summit snow and snapped a few trophy photographs.
On our way back down we passed a couple from Corvallis, the only other people we had seen all day.
They thanked us for our well-set track that had allowed them easy access to the upper slopes.
Surviving the dangerous highway crossings, alder thickets and profound discussions,
with laughter and smiles, were George Baitinger, David Becker, Van Likes and leader Brian Hoyland.