So when I first moved to Oregon and started talking to climbers, I heard about The Beacon. I believe the actual phrase was “the best climbing in Northern Oregon is the Beacon. Which is in Washington.”
So I’ve wanted to climb it for a while – I did the first pitch of it with Dave and Sarah a few weekends ago, and the climbing was fun! It was pretty clean, made up of solid granite that’d been broken up by time and weather. From what I read at the entrance signpost, the spire is actually the core of an ancient volcano; the rest of the mountain was worn down by the floods that carved out the Columbia River Gorge itself.
So when Sarah and I found ourselves in possession of a free Saturday, we racked up the gear, reviewed topos, and got ourselves on the rock!
South East Corner – 5.7 Trad, 5 pitches official. Grades with “?” are estimated, based on my opinion. Which is clearly important, since this is my blog.
Pitch 1 – 5.6ish? – This is the one that we’d done before, so it went cleanly and easily. The anchor was huge, and the belay was comfortable. Good, clean climbing.
Pitch 2 – 5.2ish, if that. – A traverse… basically just walking along a ramp, with a few spicy moves with a bit of air. Not a lot of protection, but you don’t really miss it as you walk along a 2ft wide ledge.
Pitch 3 – 5.7 – Now this. This was the climbing. This pitch is generally classed as the best on the route, and I have to agree with it. Basically, we worked our way around two huge roofs; 5+ ft big, give or take. This was where I started seeing old Pitons, which is always a really fun thing.
Pitch 4 – 5.6? – The first section of a fun ramp. Not the traverse like Pitch 2, but a good technical section of fun climbing.
Pitch 5 – 5.4? – the remainder of the Pitch 4 ramp. Split into two due to the wind causing communication issues between Sarah and myself, and rope drag starting to become an issue.
Pitch 6 – 5.6? – This one was pretty fun for the first few moves, then evened out a lot. An interesting chimney turned into a standard-issue ramp… basically, I started to feel like I was just hiking a series of really steep switchbacks.
Pitch 7 – 5.2? – So the topo calls this a “4th class to summit trail” section. Which is totally believable if you’ve done it repeatedly, and/or have a death wish. Large, slightly-loose blocks on a steep arete, with huge falls on both sides.
Pitch 8 – 5.2? – The finish of the “4th class” section that Pitch 7 started. Then, we topped out onto the summit trail!
Descent – We descended The Beacon via the summit trail, a beautifully designed and built “trail”, that consists of concrete embankments, wooden bridges, and amazing civil engineering. To quote the builder…
“My purpose in acquiring the property was simply and wholly that I might build a trail to the summit.”
– Henry Biddle
Please note that this trail descends what is, basically, a vertical wall. In a fashion that a wheelchair could get up. Dude was awesome.