Windy Lakes/Cowhorn Mountain
August 26, 2006
Our small group of three rode our mountain bikes into the Windy Lakes basin on the Meek Lake trail (#43), starting from Summit Lake road. The scenic five mile route to the South Windy Lake passes by numerous ponds and small lakes hidden among the old growth trees. There was a new pond or lake at every bend of the trail. The trail climbs steadily and gains about 900 feet before it deadends on the shore of the South Windy Lake. We had a quick lunch, filled our water bottles at the lake, and locked our bikes to trees before setting off on a trailless scramble up a steep hillside to the Pacific Crest Trail. The PCT passes within a half mile west of the lake on a ridgeline 400 feet above the lake. The scramble was steep and required passing through a low spot in the rocky cliffs that guard the crest of the ridge. We followed a compass bearing and stayed close to the edge of a talus field for easier climbing. We found that previous hikers had already marked this climbing route with a rock cairn on the side of the PCT. A couple of miles of easy and incredibly scenic trail brought us to the base of Cowhorn Mountain and the obvious climbers’ trail to the summit. Forest fires made the air very hazy and obscured many of the nearby summits from view. We shared the 7664' summit with two friends and Jasper their dog who had climbed Cowhorn by the more traditional route from Windigo Pass. After a quick snack and some photos, we retraced our route back to our bikes. The five mile, downhill single track trail went very quickly as we blasted back to the trailhead. We arrived at the trail head thoroughly exhausted and promptly devoured an excellent watermelon that Don had thoughtfully brought in a cooler. Ejoying this memorable adventure were Obsidians Brian Hoyland (leader), Scot Hunt, and our guest Don Suva.
Scot near East Windy Lake
South Windy Lake from where the Windy Lakes Trail ends. The Pacific Crest Trail runs along the ridge top, about 1/2 mile and 400 feet above this lake. There's no trail up to this ridge, but the climb up was not too difficult. We aimed for the low part of the ridge and followed a compass bearing up to the ridge crest. We stayed close to a talus field for footing and climbing up this steep slope. The crest of the ridge is guarded by vertical cliffs, but we passed through a low spot in the cliff band with easy rock scrambling and intersected the Pacific Crest Trail on top of the ridge. We found that other hikers had already left a rock cairn on the PCT to mark this climbing route to South Windy Lake.
South Windy Lake
Looking south from the summit of Cowhorn Mountain, Mount Thielsen and the rim of Crater Lake on the skyline.
Looking northwest from Cowhorn Mountain, Summit Lake and Windy Lakes basin in the upper left, Diamond Peak and the Yoran Peaks on the skyline.