Photo by  Marc Shandro

Photo by Marc Shandro

THE WALLOWA MOUNTAINS ARE THE SIXTH TALLEST MOUNTAIN IN OREGON WITH SOMEWHAT MYSTERIOUS HIGHEST ELEVATION.

Name: The Wallowa Mountains
Height: 2,999 m (9,838 ft)
Location: Northeastern Oregon, United States
First Climbed: Unknown
Climb Time: 7- 10 hours
Best Time to Climb: July- September

The Wallowa Mountains belong to a Colombia Plateau in the east of Oregon. This mountain range also called the “Alps of the Oregon” is about 64 kilometers (40 miles) long and its highest point is Sacajawea Peak. 

Until recently, Sacajawea Peak was believed to be the second highest peak of this mountain range, because of inaccurate measuring. The actual second highest peak Matterhorn 2,995 m (9,826 ft) was considered to be 3,001 m (9,845 ft) high, but this mistake was corrected later. 

The name “Wallowa” is the Indian (the Nez Perce Tribe) word for a contraption used for fishing salmon. The later settlers kept the name for the river where this fishing system was used. Finally, the name was attached to a town, a valley, a county, and the mountains.

The majority of the mountain range is known as the Eagle Cap Wilderness, a part of the Wallowa–Whitman National Forest. The Eagle Cap Wilderness was established in 1940. And enlarged in 1984. It now spreads over 146,280 hectares (361,446 acres) and is the largest wilderness in Oregon. 

This mountain range is also well-known for its many lakes (approximately 104 of them) formed mostly by glaciation. The diverse habitats support a variety of wildlife species. Several species of deer, sheep, antelope can be found there, as well as a black bear, mountain lions, bobcats. Some species, like lynx, bald eagle, golden eagle, and peregrine are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). When it comes to flora, it is also diverse, because of the past fluctuations in climate. 

The Wallowa Mountains are unique for their high number of endemic species. The reason for this high endemism lies in geographical isolation

CLIMBING THE WALLOWA MOUNTAINS

When it comes to climbing, it is necessary to stress that the Wallowas are more famous and suitable for backpacking, camping, and hiking trips. This is in part due to the climate of the region. Namely, there is a lot of snowfall in the area that doesn’t melt through the summer, so there is a constant threat of avalanches and that is why it is advised to climb only between July and September.

The technical climbs can be done, but the practice isn’t very frequent. The steep north and east sides of the mountain provide opportunities for rock climbing or ice travel enthusiasts. The south slopes are very steep, and can also be a venue for rock climbing and scrambling for those with an adventurous spirit.

However, there is a potential for this place to become a popular rock climbing area. The rock in these mountains is generally of good quality with a few exceptions. The walls fall between 30 m (100 ft) and over 305 m (1,000 ft) in height. There’s not a lot of known existing routes, and some interesting places for exploring are Eagle Cap, Main Eagle Creek, Pine Lakes, the Matterhorn, Cusick Mountain, Hawkins Pass area. 

Since the Wallowas are in a wilderness area, no drills or bolts are allowed.

 photo by   Marc Shandro

photo by  Marc Shandro

HIKING IN THE WALLOWAS

Hiking makes an excellent way to explore the Wallowa Mountains region for visitors of almost any age and ability level. There is more than 4,345 km (2,700 miles) of trails, so everybody can find a route for them to enjoy. Some trails are easy and suitable for families with small children, and some, on the other hand, make a challenging half-day trips. There’s also a number of trails excellent for an overnight backpacking adventure. For the most advanced visitors, the wilderness trails, which are a real challenge, are available. Many of these trails are multiple-use, so the visitors should pay attention to the signs.

The allowed forms of transportation are hiking or horse riding, and for the most laid-back visitors, there is a 1,128 m (3,700 feet) gondola ride from Wallowa Lake Village to the peak of Mount Howard.

Since this region has been developed for tourism, the visitors can enjoy many activities like mini-golf, organized campsites with cabins, and in towns close by art exhibits, shopping, craft beer, distilleries, and chocolatiers.

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