Many folks climb Mt Defiance (4,920ft)  in preparation to climb Mount Hood. Eric and I decided to do things a bit backwards. We climbed Mt Defiance the day after climbing Hood. We used the loop variation beginning practically at sea level. We climbed up Starvation Ridge and then descending the Mt Defiance Trail totaling 12.9 miles. There are other easier way to climb to the summit beginning at trail heads that start at higher elevations. But that’s cheating!

We began at 6:00am. We confused and turned left on the paved path along Highway 84. We realized after a half-mile and not coming to the Starvation Cutoff Junction that we must be going the wrong way. So we turned back and found a paved path on the other side of the parking lot paralleling 84 west. The cutoff was at .4 miles. The Starvation Ridge Trail is pretty steep for a day hike and levels out only for short stretches. We quickly rose high above the Columbia River Gorge staying left at another junction. We were granted with open views of the Gorge before disappearing into the forest.

We followed the ridge for quite some time happy to be the the shade as the sun was beginning to break through the clouds. We got some views of Mt Adams on the open scree slopes before reaching another junction in the forest was a faded signs. We turned right here heading to Warren Lake (don’t get confused and go left on the Warren Lake Trail…you will not end up at Warren Lake… its confusing). Warren Lake is full of campsites. We skirts the side of the lake and across some large scree and talus piles.

Every now and then we were afforded with views of Adams and The base of Helens (the top was covered by clouds), but we soon entered the forest again. We made a left at the next two junctions before the final 500ft push to the summit crossing two service roads.

The top of Mt Defiance is disheartening in my opinion because there are radio towers and small building located on the summit. This makes sense since it is the highest point in the Columbia River Gorge.. however, see this infrastructure after climbing for 6.6 miles takes the wilderness right out of things. The view of Mt Hood was quite grand though. We didn’t linger long, but descended about 100ft to open area of scree that afforded an even better view of Hood without the towers buzzing behind us. We rested here before turning right at the junction and heading down the Mount Defiance Trail.

We took lefts at two junctions as the trail wasted no time in dropping elevation. At one point we there were switchback no more than one yard in length making us wonder why they even bothered. The grad evened a bit the the switched back lengthened as the Columbia River Came Back into view. The sun was hot by now as we were excited to be mostly in the shade with a nice breeze every now and then. Even more refreshing was Lancaster Falls… the spray was wonderful and putting our heads under the flow exceptional!

We arrived back at the trail head just as the clouds rolled in and raindrops fell from the sky. Eric and I cooked dinner in a picnic area by Starvation Falls. Then it was time to get some rest before our long drive back to WA at 2am to beat the Memorial Day traffic.

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