This hike is probably easier in the summer, the packed ice made it a bit slick in areas but worth the extra effort! I definitely want to come back and explore the trail further past Elowah Falls, I wasn't sure where it lead so I turned around. The view on the way to upper McCord creek falls was gorgeous and a added bonus!
My Saturday afternoon cleared up so I decided to give this a go. I made it to the John B Yeon trailhead around 2 in the afternoon. The parking lot was packed with EMS and sheriff vehicles which I thought was odd. I ended up parking along the shoulder and walking up to the trailhead. On the way up I crossed a few small parties that quickly thinned out after Elowah falls.
I stopped, took a break and ate a snack at the first viewpoint on the way up to Munra point. As I continued climbing I decided to lighten my load. I ditched my pack and sticks as it was mostly scrambling up the slick rocks at this point. Right before I made it to the top I came across my first and only fellow hiker, he mentioned I would be the only one at the top, asked if I had a flashlight and wished me good luck. Once I finally summited I took a few pictures, enjoyed the view and began to make my way back. The sun set a lot faster than I had anticipated forcing me to use my handheld flashlight as the rest of my gear was further down trail. The chimney was fairly challenging holding the flashlight in my mouth but by taking it slow and feeling out the footholds I made it down without issue. About an hour of scrambling and carefully checking the trail later I made it back to my pack. I stopped and again enjoyed the view from the first viewpoint. There were a few helicopters circling over head that I thought were odd but didn't look much into. With my headlamp on and sticks back in hand I continued my decent without issue. It was fairly muddy do to the rain/snow that had been coming down the last hour but the exposed roots offered solid footing. Once I made it to the bottom I enjoyed the mostly level trek back.
At the fork to Elowah Falls and Upper McCord falls I came across a SAR team working on locating and recovering a hiker that had fallen earlier in the day. I stopped and talked to them briefly, mentioned I had not seen or heard anything and continued on my way. Once I made it to the parking lot EMS, SAR and sheriff vehicles occupied all the open spots. Looking back on the ridges I could see headlamps and spot lights from the helicopter all converging on one point.
I checked the news the next morning and learned they had recovered the hiker shortly after that with non life threatening injuries. They had fallen before I even started my hike and it took SAR crews over 6 hours to successfully airlift them out.
On that note, I would not recommend this hike unless it is dry and you have plenty of daylight. I did not anticipate it to be nearly that difficult or involve that difficult of terrain. Bring water, bring good shoes, pack a flashlight, snacks and a shell, take your time and enjoy one of the best views in all of the gorge.
Reviewing the timestamps on my photos:
I started shortly after 2PM
Made it past Elowah falls to the bike trail around 2:45
Made it to the first view point on the way up around 3:30
Stopped and took a break until about 4:00
Made it past the chimney around 4:30
Started heading back down around 5:00
Made it back to my gear around 5:45
Made it back to my car around 7
Good luck and be safe.
We did this hike on 8 Oct. and started at the Wachlella Falls area. We got to the trail at about 9:30 am and the parking lots for the falls was full so we wound up parking on the shoulder at the off ramp. We walked the little bike trail on the right hand side as you are going to the falls until we seen a little dirt trail going off the pavement marked Gorge trail 400. We walked this easy trail (a couple switch backs at start) for a little more than a mile and took an unmarked trail from there on the left hand side (we came across three parties that missed this turn off). This trail came to a T not long after and we took a left turn once again. From this left turn began the climb upwards. Other reviewers have said you will be grabbing tree roots and rocks to help you upwards, and that is no understatement. The trail splits quite a few times on the way up, but they all merge back together. Keeping to the right going up keeps you in the easier paths, trails on the left tend to be "shortcuts". Save yourself the energy and take the right. The trail has loose rocks everywhere so if you are traveling with others, make sure to give each other distance for those falling rocks! I had some serious doubts for myself on completing this trail because of the scrambles and the exposure. I'm proud to say I completed it. It was definitely a challenge but doable. The final push to the ridge from the chimney was the most challenging of the climbs but was still not overly complicated..just stay low (hips down) and make sure you have good feet and hand holds! There was no rope to assist here. The ridge was beautiful for sure and worth the effort to get up to. Time came to turn around which was more difficult in my opinion than going up, especially the chimney...be confident in your hands and feet and dont freak out if this is your biggest fear (like it was for me). In hindsight, that was the most challenging part and it is mostly mental...just have good hands and feet. We used our trekking poles after the chimney on the way down and still we're slipping and sliding all down the trail. The rocks were slick from the past rain and our boots had a good amount of mud packed in..either way we came down in one piece! If you have a fear like I do, go out there and challenge yourself. Don't let the reviews scare you away, try it for yourself and know your limits.