Broken Top (Oregon Cascades; 9,175')

Broken Top, just East of South Sister, is an amazingly crumbly peak. Without snow cover, the only recommended route is the NW Ridge. In spring, however, the crater routes can be good snow climbs.

Topo Map


NW Ridge (Grade I, Class 4)

Nine O'Clock Couloir (Grade II, 50 degree snow, Class 4)

NW Ridge Summit Pinnacle Variation (I, 5.2)


Jeff Thomas, Oregon High , Keep Climbing Press (Portland, OR 1991)

J. Smoot, Summit Guide to the Cascade Volcanoes , Chockstone Press (Evergreen, CO 1992)

Broken Top in early July as seen from around 8,800' on South Sister (photo credit: Jörg Rollbühler)

Date: August 21, 2005

Party: Dietrich and Paul Belitz

Route: NW Ridge with Summit Pinnacle Variation

Equipment: 50m half rope, a small rack of stoppers and Camalots #0.5 - #3

Time: 2 1/2 hrs from Green Lakes to Summit; 9 hrs roundtrip from Green Lakes Trailhead

Comments: Roundtrip time includes descending the entire NW ridge.

Trip report:

Paul had never been on Broken Top, and I wanted to do the Summit Pinnacle Variation, so we set out on a Sunday morning from Greenlakes Trailhead. Monique headed to the big spring at the west end of Green Lakes to do drawings for watercolors.

We left the trailhead at 8:30am, and hiked to Green Lakes in a brisk 1 hr 20 mins. After a stop for a second breakfast we hiked up the ridge and arrived at the base of the summit pinnacle shortly before noon. The variation Jeff Thomas writes about shares the first step with the standard route, but then goes up left directly to the summit rather than doing the circuitous traverse. It's about 50 vertical feet of easy fifth class. The rock is perfect (believe it or not!) and protects well, and the moves are very nice. Not knowing what to expect, I had brought a set of stoppers and a few Camalots, but I used only one small stopper and two Camalots. The summit was covered with flying ants, a phenomenon we had observed earlier this time of year on Mt. Washington, so we did not stay very long. At the base of the pinnacle we met a party we had passed on the way up, and Paul gave them a belay up the step and showed them the way to the summit. After belaying them back down we ran down the ridge to the notch, worked our way back up on the other side, and then descended the pumice ridge until we could drop down to the hidden member of the Green Lakes family, where we found Monique.

By then thunderstorms had started forming, and on the hike back it even rained off and on. This was just fine with us, as parts of the ridge had been unbearably hot, and the rain made the trail less dusty. Just over nine hours after we had left the car we were back at the trailhead.

Broken Top is always enjoyable, but the summit variation makes it even more so.

Photo Gallery:

Click the pictures to see a higher resolution image

Fall Creek early in the morning Damn, we forgot to bring the dog! Paul in the notch of the NW Ridge Dietrich starting up the summit pinnacle Dietrich belaying near the summit Paul on the summit

Broken Top's summit ridge Dietrich downclimbing from the summit The NW Ridge from the pumice slopes of the lower NW Ridge The huge spring that feeds Green Lakes Green Lakes living up to their name The weather is closing in

Date: August 24, 2003

Party: Dietrich and Monique Belitz

Route: NW Ridge

Equipment: None

Time: 2 1/2 hrs from Green Lakes to Summit; 10 hrs roundtrip from Green Lakes Trailhead

Comments: Roundtrip time includes descending the entire NW ridge.

Trip report:

Both the Jefferson Wilderness and the Washington Wilderness were closed due to fires, so the Three Sisters area was the most obvious objective for a day trip. We settled on Broken Top, which Monique had not summited yet.

We left home at 4:30am and started from Green Lakes trailhead shortly before 7am. It was only 36 degrees at the trailhead, and a cold wind was blowing down the watershed. Broken Top had a strange cloud cover, probably a result of lots of smoke in the atmosphere. A fresh burn had just occurred south of Odell Butte (we actually saw open flames in some snags as we drove north on Cascades Lakes Highway in the morning twilight), and the Booth Fire was raging to the north. We hiked to Green Lakes in 1 hr 45 minutes, and had breakfast. When we started again at 9am, the smoke-induced clouds started to burn off. We gained the notch in the NW Ridge at 10am, and continued up the ridge. While hiking up the ridge we could see the Booth Fire to the North, which produced an amazing amount of smoke. We reached the foot of the summit block shortly after 11am. I was hiking in sneakers, Monique in boots, but we had brought rock shoes for the summit pinnacle, so we changed shoes here. The 10-foot technical section on the summit block was much easier and shorter than I remembered; after that it's just an exposed scramble to the summit. We admired the view for about 45 minutes, and then started down. We had not brought a rope, so we were just extra careful downclimbing the 10-foot step. After reaching the notch we decided to do a complete descent of the NW Ridge, rather than going straight back down to Green Lakes. So we scrambled back up a bit, gained the intermediate summit on the ridge, and then followed scree and pumice slopes to the NW. We had never been on that part of the ridge, and Broken Top looked unfamiliar from there. We finally cut left and went down steep scree slopes to the northernmost of the Green Lakes. It turns out that this lake is fed by a full-size creek that comes straight out of a steep blocky hillside. I would guess that the water flow of this "spring" is at least as much as that of the famed Mouth of the Metolius. It was extremely impressive. After filtering some water we hiked back along Green Lakes, and then down Fall Creek to the trailhead. It was a very nice trip, but I felt it was not quite enough of a workout. Monique disagreed on the latter point, though.