Gold Fork Rock Lookout

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Gold Fork Rock lookout is one of those "What were they thinking?" places.

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I had read about the Gold Fork Rock lookout in Points of Prominence. And I had seen pictures on Pictures of Cascade. But I had to see it for myself. When Jeff, who had been there before, invited me I was instantly IN.

Jeff knows this country pretty well, so he knew how to drive to Trail 113 without even looking at a map. You? You're on your own! It's not a bad road, but you'll be wondering if you went the right way. And for several miles as you get near, there are no turnouts or turnarounds.

 

Trailhead

Although the trailhead is marked, the trail is not maintained and in places it's pretty thin. Persevere.

 

Trail
After a couple miles of up and over ridges, you drop down to Gold Fork meadows, where you will also join a road. Yeah, you could drive in there, but the hike was fun and Jeff says the road to get in is pretty gnarly. Gold Fork Meadow

We navigated through a couple road junctions, then were headed up toward the lookout. Along the way, you get some great views of the Needles. Eventually you hit the end of the road and start what I think is the Needles Route Trail.

Needles

From that trailhead, it's only about 1/2 mile to the rock. This is the view from the trail.

For later reference, we are looking north straight at the stairs, and the ladder is on the right.

Lookout
I figured that if they could get a platform up there, I could climb it. So I had a rope and gear with me. So we started by doing a full circle to appraise the possibilities. North side
This is looking up the ladder. Art thought it was strong enough, but neither of us was willing to give it a try. From the top of the ladder, you can get inside a protected chimney to gain the top. This is likely how they originally got up. I'm guessing the crack is 5.9. Ladder
I could see a very possible route up here on the left side of the face, but there is no protection and there's about an 8' drop between us and the rock. And I was told that it would be illegal to displace the stair remnant, which are unstable and loaded with nails.... so no go. Stairs

We all bouldered up this section, but it ends in an overhang with an offwidth crack under a chockstone. Maybe an aid step or two?

There were several other possibilities, but none looked too inviting with my weak arms and limited rack.

Climbing
On the way home, we visited the old guard station. Guard station

Then it was time to return on our trail and some more trail snooping. Even following our own tracks, it was hard to follow.

The thunder didn't start until we were at the truck. And the rain didn't start until we had finished another lunch and started the drive home. All in all, a great day.

Heading home

Map of the hike

Heading home

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