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Broken top is a peak that I knew nothing about until I climbed South Sister during 2019. After seeing Broken Top’s summit and discussing it with another hiker from South Sister’s summit, I decided to make it one of my 2020 goals. Despite recommendations to the contrary, I chose to take it on solo. I have been working on my rope solo skills and saw this as the perfect opportunity to advance them a smidge.
The trail starts off super easy on the approach to green lakes. if climbing it mid-summer as I was, be sure to leave the parking lot early. The entire area is desert and gets hot early. The trail to green lakes it stunning as it passes waterfalls and winds along fall creek. This section is easy, enjoy it.
Once you have reached the Junction for green lakes you will want to follow the trail signs pointing to the right. The trail is well marked but this is the one spot you will need to be careful for the day with your navigation. Immediately after the first trail junction, there is a second one with a sign pointing to “Broken Top Trail”. DO NOT GO THIS WAY! This is the trail to no-name lake and does not take you to the summit. Instead, continue north. As you pass the smaller of the Green Lakes look up to your first view of the day’s goal. From here you can see the entire ridge-line and the summit block high above you. Continue a short way around the west side of the lake to a short hill. This is the turnoff you need and the start of the climbers trail.
The trail is no joke, especially in the heat of Oregon’s eastern desert. It goes straight up to gain the ridge. The trail stays obvious as it winds up to, and along, Broken Top’s northwest ridge-line.
Along the ridge-line, there will be some moments of scrambling and others of plain hiking. There is a lot of loose scree and falling would be dangerous. So, don’t let the views distract you too much.The real fun of climbing Broken Top is the last ~150 vertical feet. At the end of the ridge trail, you will arrive at a 15 foot tall near vertical section of rock. You have several options at this point.
Upon my arrival at the normal spot where people ascend, it had a few climbers in it. So, I chose to move around to the right-hand side along an obvious trail. There is a spot to ascend where the scrambling was far easier than the crack everyone uses and required no rope. No matter where you choose to climb up, there is a precipitous drop below this section and some will want a rope.
From here there is some easy scrambling to the catwalk and then a short ridge section to arrive at the summit. The worst part is the continued exposure below you. There are excellent handholds and easy ways to move up toward the summit.
For me, the best part of climbing Broken Top was the short rappel on the way back down. It’s not long or horribly exciting for most, but for me, it was the first time that I was rappelling solo. I hooked up my own gear, did my own checks, caught my own mistake, and got back down safely. A few days later, I would get to set my own anchor and rappel off a far more intimidating precipice on Washington’s Silvertip Peak.