Under the Arch

After taking 4 failed trips to get under the arch and a better picture, I finally got serious.  And I finally got success.

Here's what I was listening to on the drive to the location:

Moving Up Living Down by Eric Hutchinson.  A ways down the Pop side of the spectrum but sometimes getting out of our musical comfort zone is an important and necessary route towards growth.  This same analogy can be applied to hiking.

The arch is a tricky place.  It's not all that difficult to get to the location where I found it, but that spot prevents any decent pictures.  The ~20' rock wall you face has no quality handholds and all faces slant toward the climber.

Last time, we made it above and looked for a way down and did not find one.

Before this trip, I spent a lot of time studying Lidar images of the area, particularly using the Bare Earth Slope layer.  This led me to find three potential entry points into the arch section of rocks, which I marked on my Garmin Oregon GPS.  These three entry points appeared to carry the worst-case scenario of light scramble climbing, which I have done a lot of.  Best-case scenario, I could basically walk through one of these entry points down to the arch.  To hedge my bets, I bought a 100' climbing rope with loops built-in for carabiners, as I thought there could be some small sections where a rope would be handy.

 

Some red flowering currants before I start the fun.

 

Looking back down as I made my way up to the chute.

 

Somewhere in there is a really steep route to the top of the rock formation.

 

These pink flowers blooming from rhododendrons were everywhere.

As I climbed through the chute, I noticed small birds flying up to the rock face.

The red circle is where two were flying back and forth to.  I'm assuming their nest was there where that brown spot is.  When you think of what that rock faces goes through with regards to weather, it's amazing how tough those little birds are.

 

I couldn't tell if it was a built nest stuck to the wall or they were simply using a hole, but I'm assuming it was a hole.  It was hard for me to see from that far away and I was standing on a very steep and unfriendly section of ground at the time.

 

Huge section of those same pink rhodies.  Very steep in here, not much to grab onto, loose dirt and duff on top, straight slide right off a large rock to a 30' drop.  All that brush visible just ahead is a relief, as it gives something sturdy to grab onto.

 

Aside from the impressive rock formations, caves, and arch, the biosphere here is unique for the overall area.  The vegetation, ground, and the way it all works together looks more like something from Central Oregon.  Instead, it's about 1-hour from Roseburg and over 50 miles west of where these scenes are more common.

 

Paintbrush/prairie fire.  I believe it's irregular paintbrush.

 

Here are a couple bits of beargrass, which is pretty rare this close to town and that far away from Central Oregon.  This place reminds me of the Three Sisters Wilderness.

Climbing up to the top is very rewarding.  You can see what feels like forever and it's a beautiful view.

That's Diamond Peak in Central Oregon.

 

Here are Mount Theilsen (L) and Mount Bailey (R) to the south by Diamond Lake.

 

To the right of that tree is Diamond Peak again.  To the left of it are the North and South Sister way off in the distance.

 

A 360 from on top of an outcropping on the other side of the ridge.

 

Down over there is a rock pillar.

 

One of these days, I may decide to go check that out, but it's on the "doubtful" list.

Back to hunting down the arch.

 

I tried Entry 1 and it was sketchy.  I looked at Entry 2 and it looked surprisingly easy.  I went over to Entry 3 and it also looked doable, though a little more sketchy than Entry 2.  While I was at Entry 3, I noticed being able to see something that had thus far eluded me.

 

On the last trip with my dad, Duane Cannon, we were unable to catch a verifiable glimpse at the arch from up above.  While at Entry 3, I climbed out to a boulder and laid on top of it and saw sunlight beneath the arch and behind the rocks.  I admit to being a little giddy at this sight.

 

This is the rocky center on top of the arch.  It almost looks worn by heavy water, but that's just an illusion.  This is probably how it will meet its eventual end and collapse into the forest floor below.

 

I headed back to Entry 2 and started down.  The tricky thing here is that you can't see all the way down a path.  Everything is a leap of faith.  I took out my 100' rope and wrapped it around the tree at the top of Entry 2.  I didn't need the rope to get down this section and probably wouldn't need it to get back up, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to break it in a little.

 

I was focused to the point that I did not see this small cave as I walked past it within 15 feet.

 

This was a little sketchy and made more so by those pretty pink flowers covering a rock path.  Those flowers were covered in bees, so I chose the harder route so I didn't disturb the stingers.

I left my rope attached to that top tree and it was long out of reach by this point.  There was a 10' drop below that was not pretty.  It is technically doable to climb down and up here without a rope, but a rope would be really handy and much safer.

 

One thing that struck me as I made my way down was how bizarre this felt.  You're climbing down through towering rock walls, but mostly on dirt.  It's like the lid has been lifted off a pot and you're an ant climbing down inside.  This was one of the most unique experiences I've ever had while exploring the woods.

After that last drop, it was fairly easy as I made the last 100' down to the arch.

 

There are very few of these structures in Oregon.

 

I brought along a laser measuring device and it said the highest point inside the arch was ~50' from the floor under the arch.

The next step is to explore the other side of this ridge, where there is a long stretch of rocks with visible caves and other features.

4 thoughts on Under the Arch

    • Thanks Richard. I have a lot more details I could share but I’m kind of keeping the exact location under wraps for a bit, especially after this trip.

  1. Very cool, dude! Sounds like a great adventure! I believe those pink flowers may be stunted rhodedendrons blooming…although I did see sone salal leaves mixed in bit they have different flowers. The other flower was an Indian paintbrush.

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