Hells Canyon

After a failed attempt to backpack up into the Wallowas for an early season snow hike, I switched goals and drove further for this three day backpack into Hells Canyon via the standard Freezeout Saddle route. The weather was warm (70s) and sunny and generally with a nice breeze, so it wasn't so hellish despite most people choosing to do a hike like this a month or two earlier. Almost all the creeks were still running so water was frequently available and pleasantly cool. Sunrise was at 5am and the sun came over the ridge at 5:15 so it got warm quickly each morning.

Hells Canyon is also famous for poison oak - I got none, and for ticks: I pulled many of them off me and out of my clothes, but got no bites. Mostly they were on the Hat Creek trail, not the main High Trail, for some reason, nor around camp. And they were not the small deer tick species that carries lyme disease, they were much larger.

Near the Freezeout trailhead - looking down Freezeout Canyon into the Imnaha River canyon

There were a lot of grassy switchbacks, three different sections of like these

After a 1700 foot climb, looking down the other side of Freezeout Saddle into Saddle Creek Canyon, which feeds into Hells Canyon miles in the distance

After descending 1500 feet to the High Trail and turning left, a couple hours later, turning around and seeing Freezeout Saddle as the low point on that ridge

Looking ahead, it looks easy, but there are many canyons where the trail does a sharp detour, which adds a lot of distance. My final destination was about 2 miles beyond that forested ridge in the distance

Once I got near camp, there was a deer and obviously plenty of deer food

I camped on a flat area about 300 yards past Hat Creek in a stand of pines that provided nice shade

Just beyond the trees you can see the massive grassy flats that Hells Canyon is famous for, among other things. I would explore out there the next day

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