Thursday, September 6, 2007

Climbing Steens Mountain

On Thursday morning, we woke up early, packed up, and headed out to explore Steens Mountain. Before we did that we stopped in the Lobby/Dining Room to have breakfast, since we knew it was the only food we'd be eating all day that didn't come out of the cooler.

The western side of Steens Mountain rises in a gradual slope, gaining 5,700 feet over the course of about 20 miles. The Eastern side drops the same distance in a near-cliff -- maybe a quarter to half mile from the summit down to the floor of the Alvord Desert below. We took advantage of the slow ascent from the West side and drove to the rim on Steens Mountain Loop, a ~40 mile gravel/dirt road. Like the roads around the Newberry Volcano, long stretches of this road were more or less flat and straight, allowing us to drive at speeds resembling those we'd be able to attain on a normal paved road. The only real difference is the amount of dust we kicked up in the process.

Our first stop was at Little Blitzen Gorge, which is a glacier-carved valley very similar to what you'd expect a glacier carved valley to look like.

Me, looking out at Little Blitzen Gorge

From here, we proceed onto the East Rim, which is a lookout that is literally on the edge of the mountain. The drop from here is very, very steep. As you can see below, I walked out just a short distance beyond the ridge and had already lost several feet of elevation. Beyond where I'm standing, the drop is much more pronounced.

East Rim

After taking a bunch of pictures from the East Rim, we drove to the REAL summit.

Insane cyclists

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