Mt. Washington is an eroded volcanic plug in the central Oregon Cascades, the main rock types are basalts, including andesite. As with most Oregon cascade mountains the rock quality is generally crumbly and poor, however the quality does improve at the summit's exposed volcanic plug (still not super though). The majority of summits seem to happen from mid-June through September, although year round summit possibilities exist. There are several routes to the summit though the most popular is the North Ridge route. Make sure to sign the summit register!

Getting There

From Highway 20 you take the turn off for Big Lake/Hoodoo ski bowl near Santiam Pass and continue on this road for 4.2 miles (US forest Service road #2690) till the road ends at the Patjens Lake trail head there is parking here and all along the roads numerous turn-outs. Take the Patjens lake trail for about a mile (shortly after it leaves the lake) then cut south-east through game trails to meet up with the Pacific-Crest trail and continue along the PCT for another mile or so till you'll see the climbers trail to your left, it is supposedly marked by a cairn but is snow fields are still present it can be easy to miss so pay close attention, if you hit Cold water Springs you've gone to far. Follow the climbers trail/bushwhack east till you hit the ridge desired for your route. An alternative and my recommended approach (although it is a couple miles longer) is to park at the PCT trailhead turnout off Hwy 20, about 3/4 mile further down the road if comming from the west. From the trailhead take the PCT south till the climbers trail just before Cold Water Springs. Both trailheads require self issued wilderness permits available at the trailheads. And I'm not sure but think you might need a Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent. Call the McKenzie River Ranger District Phone: 541-822-3381 for additional information.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Mt. Washington

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a Easy Snow
North Ridge
Trad, Snow 2 pitches
5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a PG13
Southeast Spur
Trad 9 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
West Ridge
Trad 7 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
North Ridge
5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a Easy Snow Trad, Snow 2 pitches
Southeast Spur
5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a PG13 Trad 9 pitches
West Ridge
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 7 pitches
More Classic Climbs in Mt. Washington »

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Prime Climbing Season


Just summitted with my son yesterday. There are a few bivy options on the N ridge but we passed then and ended up at 7200' with a minimalist bivy. I couldn't find the bivy I'd built back in the early 90's... Anyway, if you're going to bivy, stop at the nice spots on the N ridge starting around 6,300', and then at 6,800'. There's nothing above 6,800' save tiny cramped spots on the rocks, unless you spend the night on the summit. There's a good bivy at the summit for 4-5 people.

Also, on the way up, I'd recommend avoiding the siren songs to drop down the left or right side. If you stay within 20' of the ridge the entire time, from 6,300' you're best off. If you're further from the ridge than that, you're probably missing the better trail. I'll also point out that the climber's trail was very easy to follow all the way from the PCT up to the ridge. Might be tough if there's snow though.

Lastly, the rap off the first pitch was brutal. Rope fully jammed when pulling it. I solo'd back up to get it (still in the rap rings), unstick it, and rapped down again. It stuck again on the pull. So frustrating. Someone else going up, freed it the second time. My advice? If you're comfortable leading 5.10 outdoor sport routes and can handle exposure without panicking, take your rock shoes, put them on at the notch and just solo up the three pitches. You'll do in 30 minutes what would otherwise take 2 hours. There are only 2 spots with any significant exposure, and the worst is a 5.3 move on solid rock with big jugs. It's so much faster and in the end, probably safer to solo this peak than to mess with ropes getting stuck, and pulling down rocks on the other climbers. My 2 cents. Half the people we saw today were solo'ing most if not all of it. This 20-grit choss pile eats ropes like my dog chows on hamburger.

BTW, SummitPost has a pretty good beta map that we followed easily. Aug 14, 2016