Crane Mtn, OR
Copyright Chris Erikson 2005
Location: 10 miles SSE of Lakeview, OR
Coordinates: (NAD83 / WGS84 datum)
Wind: SW to NW
Access: Dirt Road, medium clearance, rocky
Season: June to mid October, limited by snowpack
Vertical Relief: 4000’+
Skill level: High Intermediate
Background: Crane Mtn is a former lookout site at 8347′ in south central Oregon, a few miles from Lakeview. This enormous ridge consists of a single narrow ridgeline at least 2000′ taller than the surrounding peaks. The ridge runs nearly perfectly north to south and the flying site is located at it’s northern terminus.
This massive and spectacular alpine slope sits atop a huge fault block mountain which faces directly into prevailing winds. It overlooks 20 mile long Goose lake, 4300′ down at 4000 feet elevation, as well as the surrounding desert in all directions, and Mt Shasta 110 miles to the SW. The vast, 360 degree regional view from this elevation in south central Oregon must be seen to be appreciated, and on a moonless, clear night, the view of the Milky Way from the summit is nothing short of stunning.
The forest below the peak on the mountain’s western flanks generates huge thermals. Odd basalt prominences and outcroppings sprinkled with desert pines characterize the summit ridge.
Weather: Due to it’s location far east of the Cascade crest in the deserts of south central Oregon, summer weather here is generally dry and hot, but watch out for thunderstorms on this exposed, very prominent ridgeline. Temperature drops very fast at night. Generally prevailing winds are westerlies, but high pressure systems may result in easterlies, especially early morning to midday.
Slope Terrain: Summit is a pile of broken basalt with no soft landing area, small alpine trees cover the slope but none extend higher than the summit line, so approaches from any direction are possible. The lip of the slope is moderately steep and composed of talus. There are flyable basins to both left and right. The slope itself is a moderately steep alpine meadow, comprised of light brush and regularly spaced trees, growing in loose, rocky soil punctuated by small cliffs.
Flying: Steep hill provide OK sight lines, trees to S block low view into basin on left. Endless lift band with very vertical lift, may shear in SW wind.
Thermal activity from the large forest below slope can be gigantic. On a good day the lift extends entirely around the summit. A minor basin crests out a few hundred yards downslope and slightly to the S of the summit, providing a good elevator ride on a regular basis, so try ranging a bit in this direction for the “house” lift.
Landing zone: Landing is a typical small summit top landing. There are no tall trees around the summit to inhibit approaches, the summit is small and covered with rocks. Approaches can be long with a good amount of time to set up, but the area free of trees and outcrops is very small. Plus, watch out for the plane killers…..the foundation of the former lookout remains, four giant steel shackles set in concrete and projecting up about 2 feet.
Walk of Shame: Steepish slope with medium sized, widely spaced pines. Generally easy location of airplane. Blowovers will fall into medium sized trees.
Consideration must be given to the altitude at this site. For most people living at low elevations, 8300 feet is something you will feel given a moderate walk. If you have a big walk of shame here, take some water and do not underestimate the difficulty of your return.
Camping: Campsites numerous and obvious, beginning at bottom of hill and continuing all the way up. Sites are unimproved, pay attention to fire conditions as this area is extremely dry. Please clean up after yourself.
Getting There: From Lakeview, travel N 4.5 miles on Hwy 395 to intersection with Hwy 140, Warner Canyon Highway.
Turn E onto Hwy 140 and proceed about 6.5 miles eastwards, climbing up the canyon to Camas Prairie and crossing along the foot of the mountains with the prairie on your right for two or three miles. Watch for paved road turning S at about this distance, noted on map as “turn South”.
Turn S on this unnamed road, proceed ½ mile to “T”, turn right to go W for about 1.25 miles where pavement ends, turn L to go S on dirt road. Road is bermed so you cannot go straight. (Note the “dogleg” on the map here where you double back W before heading S.)
Stay on obvious main road while heading S and climbing along E side of Camas prairie, entering tall ponderosa pines before hitting a wide, shallow pass and multiple intersection at about 3.5 miles.
Continue straight ahead, following main road along hillside for another 6 ¾ to 7 miles, where you’ll arrive at an intersection with a sign for Crane Mtn Trail and Willow Springs campground. Turn S on this road and follow the main road 6 miles W to the summit of Crane Mtn.
Close study of the map provided will help, as will stopping at the Lakeview Forest Service office for a forest map.