Tag Archives: Horsethief Butte

A low-key adventure weekend – climbing Horsethief and The Beacon, along with exploring Hood River.

A low-key adventure weekend – climbing Horsethief and The Beacon, along with exploring Hood River.

14-Aug, 15-Aug, 16-Aug

So this weekend was, originally, going to be an alpine weekend. Drive down to the trailhead in the evening of Friday, take a quick few hours worth of nap, then start onto the trail sometime around 03:00 in the morning. Summit before noon, and then head back down to grab some well-earned burgers.

Instead, it rained on our mountain… and this isn’t a mountain that you’d want to ascend in the rain. We’d aimed for Three Finger Jack – a 5-mile approach, followed by a 5.2 traverse and a 5.4 chimney. Both made up of loose, frictiony rock moves… not something pleasant or safe to do when it’s even partially damp.

So we stayed in Portland Friday night, then Hood River for Saturday. Horsethief and The Beacon were our goals – I’ve already discussed Horsethief, but The Beacon is described as “The best climbing in Northern Oregon… even though it’s in Washington”.

Friday, 14-August-2015

The weekend started when I met up with Sarah in Portland, tracking her and her dog Jasper down as they took their early evening walk. We discussed plans; how we’d planned on doing Three Finger Jack, but that the weather was starting to turn against us, and what other options we had for the weekend.

We flopped back and forth, debated, called Dave (the third member of our rope-team), discussed options, and finally ended up canceling the plan completely. In its place, we aimed to meet up with Dave in the morning, and do some low-key adventuring around my place in Hood River instead.

With the plans locked down, Sarah and I turned our attention toward dinner – we were in Portland, after all, and had roughly infinite options of where to go. We finally settled on a small Pizza place near the house – since it had the advantage that we could easily walk both of the dogs (We had Sarah’s roommates dog with us as well) there, and then keep them with us thanks to the outdoor seating.

We walked over, relaxed and chatted and dreamed about where to go over the next few days, and about bigger adventures that we could take over the course of the next few months.

That discussion ended up being a pretty in-depth one; we kept it going as we walked home, and then continued dreaming late into the night… possibly too late, with how early we were aiming to get up in the morning. But trip planning and telling stories about previous adventures got the better of us, though sleep did finally happen at some point.

Saturday, 15-August-2015

We started out early… but not excessively early.

Definitely nothing like the 03:00 plans that Three Fingered Jack had called for, at least. We had time for a quick bit breakfast before heading over to Dave’s house, where we traded cars, packed up the climbing gear and basic other stuff, and headed out to our first adventure location of the weekend: Horsethief Butte! You know, the nice and quiet crag that I’d started exploring… We all figured that it would a good spot for an uncluttered day of climbing.


What did we see when we arrived? Three vans, with the name of a local church group on the side. A fair number of cars too.

But we didn’t give up, being the tough and resilient adventurers that we are. We headed in anyways, braving the storm and figuring that we’d at least find a few good routes to set up and play around on.

And we did find some spots… But not nearly as many as I had been hoping for. These groups were sieging the entire area, setting up dozens of ropes for the 60+ kids that were mostly hanging around. I mean… they even had a poop tube, so that people wouldn’t have to walk the ¼ mile back to the restroom at the parking lot. They had multiple huge Gatorade buckets, and massive piles of gear strewn about.

It was impressive, but I can’t complain too loudly, because at least it’s better than sixty kids running around a tiny soccer pitch, screaming and crying. Climbing is always ideal.

So we put up a few routes, and enjoyed ourselves as best we could.

Side story: The kids were screaming and carrying on as they climbed. Cool. But it started getting a little much… so Sarah headed over and politely asked one of the leaders if he could, and I quote, “keep the death-screams down”. For good reason – death screams mean injury, and we’d been kind of on-edge constantly looking around the corner to see if someone had been hurt.

So he said he would, and soon enough the screams ended. And were replaced by “Ohh god I’m dying ohh no! Death screams!” Literally the words “death screams”, at full-tilt.

So Dave one-ups them by screaming “Does anyone need medical attention?! I have a first aid kit!”

They finally quieted down to more normal kid-levels after that.

So from there we continued climbing, moving around, and setting up routes. I couldn’t list the specific climbs that we did, since I don’t really know any names for the area… But Sarah lead a chimney, I led a few face & crack climbs, Sarah met a lizard on one of her routes, and Dave showcased his level-headedness when leading sketchy sections. It was a fun, yet relaxed (aside from death-screams) day.

Once we finished up and headed toward home, we were kind of famished… so we hit The Mesquitery for dinner… You know, since I’d been there a few times before and it’d been quick and simple. But it was a weekend, and for some reason they were super slow… our Burgers took nearly two hours to get to the table. Thankfully, our soup came out earlier, and the appetizer does come out a bit earlier as well… but lesson learned – don’t go there on the weekends, if you’re hungry and looking for a quick meal.

Then we hit a pub afterward, a small British-inspired place down the street. Drank some beers, chatted with some people, and then took the walk back to the house. A good night; relaxing and low-key. Even if it took a little while to get fed, heh.

Quick note: I felt tough, since everyone had mentioned how cold it had gotten that evening. I thought it was kind of warm, actually…

Sunday, 16-August-2015

Sunday is a day of rest and relaxation… so we woke up slowly again. But instead of getting up super slow, we still got up in time to get some good stuff done – breakfast, guide book review, and time to form some schemes for the rest of the day.

The decision was to explore Beacon Rock – a pretty famous climbing area on the Washington side of the Colombia River Gorge. So we ate, drove over, and started up the South East Face, the most famous of all the famous climbs up this famous rock.


So I lead the first pitch of the 8 pitch climb, and then belayed Dave up, followed by Sarah. We were originally going to continue up for a bit, but unfortunately there was roughly a million people in line to climb the route… and a lot of them weren’t being particularly safe or pleasant.

Like… they were starting to climb up “alternate” routes to cut other parties off… and by alternate, they were climbing random spots and just getting in everyones way, while being rude / unsafe.

So, we moved on. We headed back to Portland, and dropped Dave off at his house after doing a thorough review of the gear, and taking some time to clean everything up.

Then, with the whole rest of the day/evening in front of us, Sarah and I took our time to enjoy Portland. We got slightly dressed up, leashed Jasper up, and wandered over to the grocery to get ourselves some dinner.

My birthday weekend! The fourth weekend that I’m in Hood River, Oregon, and the West Coast! — Saturday: Ribs and climbing

My birthday weekend! The fourth weekend that I’m in Hood River, Oregon, and the West Coast!  — Saturday: Ribs and climbing

Saturday, 11-July-2015

Waking up happens! Then heading for Breakfast!

Yes, it was a capital “B” for Breakfast, since it was pretty large and definitely excellent. We hit up a not-so-small place right by my house that I’d been eyeing since I first started moving… it labeled itself as a pancake house, and I was curious exactly what that meant, in regards to delicious breakfasts…

Turns out – it means that they have excellent pancakes. I know, I know… I should have known. But I don’t like assuming things until I have empirical evidence. And that evidence took the form of three monstrous pancakes covered in bacon and strawberry jam.

That’s right. Bacon pancakes with strawberry jam. And that’s not even counting Brian’s omlette-with-three-pancakes meal.

The car’s already packed, so we roll out to Horsethief Butte, the climbing spot that I’ve been scouting out earlier in the week. And since Brian is around, we don’t need to stick to the short climbs anymore – my trad rack is on my harness and Brian is giving me a belay almost as soon as we get there, and we’re exploring the routes…


  • What I’m calling “the entrance arrete” – 5.9/5.10, trad, Ben leads… partially. I finished up the first section, but after that it got a little too committing for me – so I lowered off, and we walked around to build an anchor. Then proceeded to crush it on top rope.
  • Middle Canyon routes – 5.easy, maybe as high as 5.6? All on trad, with Ben leading. These are fun routes, though no real technical difficulty. A few spicy moves make it fun, and the gear placements are definitely enjoyable. It sort of reminds me of Hammond Pond, back in Boston. The climbs are clean and solid, and there’s a ton of variants that can be done.

We climb ’till a little after noon hits, and then head back toward Hood to start the ribs cooking. We stick to my old-school recipe, and sauce them up before tossing them into the oven.

And now… we wait. But waiting is boring, so we head into town and explore a bit. Checking out the wind surfers and kite boarders, jumping in the water… you know, the usual. Because everywhere has huge populations of kite boarders, right?

The goal of the evening is hosting a dinner party – not a big one, but a small one for myself, Brian, and the folks who’d hosted me at the Airbnb rental when I first came to Hood River. We’d gotten along quite well, and so they’d made me promise to keep in touch as I got settled into town. I figured that a birthday dinner party would be ideal, and an especially good chance to show off my cooking skills!

So… I show off my cooking skillz. Everyone shows up around 7:00, and we relax and eat and chat and have a good time. The drink of the night is a Moscow Mule, which somehow goes super well with Ribs and cornbread and veggies. And Alexandra brings along raspberry tart, which is completely amazing and disappears quite quickly.

The rest of the night is chilling – chatting some more ’till they head out, then Brian and I light a fire out in the pit out back, and sip beers and poke fires ’till we get bored.

Exploring the rock climbing of Hood River – Horsethief Butte

Exploring the rock climbing of Hood River – Horsethief Butte

Various points during the week between 06-July & 10-July

Day 1

I love climbing.

Yeah, I know. Huge surprise. Hush.

But now that I’m in a new town, I’ve got to explore the area! I had an entire new landscape to adventure in – I’d never been to the Pacific Northwest, much less climbed all the fun stuff it had to offer. And the Columbia River Gorge is beautiful – with huge soaring cliffs every few miles.

I needed to climb some of those cliffs.

So I looked up routes on Mountain Project, and found the closest solid crag that I could – a place called Horsethief Butte, about a 20min drive from my new house. So, even though it was right around sunset, I hopped in the car and headed toward the butte.

And… I’d left too late – by the time I got there, it was too dark to really think about climbing. So instead, I pulled my headlamp out of my pack and headed in to do a quick recon run of the area.

First thing: The view of Mt. Hood is amazing from Horsethief – It’s a solitary peark, so it stands out beautifully from the rest of the landscape. And since I’m on the Northern side, there’s still snow on the peak, which makes it just that much more picturesque.

But, since there wasn’t any climbing to be had, I didn’t stay too long. Just a quick exploration in prep for the next day…

Day 2

This time, I left the house almost as soon as I got home from work. Just left enough time to have a quick snack and grab my climbing gear.

And this time, I hiked in with a crash pad on my back… Which normally doesn’t really make much of a difference. But the Columbia River Gorge is windy. And a crash pad is, at it’s heart, a large piece of foam. Which acts like a sail.

Basically, I just mean that the hike in was kind of more interesting than I expected.

As far as climbing goes? It was fun – there’s a ton of climbing to be done at Horsethief; the problems ranged from easily done to “wait… what?” levels of difficulty. I enjoyed it; I don’t know the sames of any of the routes, so I couldn’t comment on difficulty or anything. But I enjoyed it, and that’s what matters.

Even got home in time that dinner wasn’t even too late.