An Annual Ritual: Climbing to the Summit of Mt. Defiance

Starvation Ridge

It used to be that one of my annual rites of springtime was hiking the Starvation Ridge/Mt. Defiance Loop Trail in the Columbia River Gorge. It is 12 miles in length with 5,000 feet of elevation gain.

The hike has much to recommend it. There is a lake, several waterfalls, a very good workout and one of the best vistas in Northwest Oregon from the summit. Hiking experts consider it to be one of the most difficult day hikes in the Pacific Northwest. I have done it many times and the experts wouldn’t get an argument from me. My fellow Mazama Mountaineer members sometimes joke they climb Mt. Hood to get in shape for the Starvation Ridge/Mt. Defiance hike.

Sunrise in the Columbia River Gorge

On a pretty day in June a few years back, I arrived at the trailhead at sunrise. The hike began by steeply ascending Starvation Ridge, gaining 3,800 feet in four miles.

For the next three-quarter mile the Trail provided a respite, following the rim of the headbasin west before slightly dropping into a bowl containing Warren Lake. At the west end of the Lake, the Trail began crossing a vast rockslide before finally meeting the Mt. Defiance Trail. Now the final climb to the summit commenced.

The microwave tower came into view at the last switchback in the maintenance road. (I forgot to mention the summit can be reached from a road accessed in Hood River. In fact, once I ran into a maintenance person working at the facility. He joked about how much easier the trip was by truck than by boots.)

Summit of Mt. Defiance

At the summit I enjoyed the views in all directions with some help from two golden-mantled ground squirrels.

Early morning view down the Columbia River Gorge

Phantom Orchid

Mt. Adams

Wind Mountain

Summit far in the distance

Warren Lake

Lots of talus slopes to climb


Mt. Hood from Summit

A hazy Mt. St. Helens (a steep 5,000-foot descent to the trailhead from here)






Categories: Columbia River Gorge HikesTags: , ,

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