Maxwell Butte (Oregon Cascades; 6,229')



Maxwell Butte is a minor summit just west of Three-Fingered Jack. In summer it is an easy trail hike, but in winter it can be quite challenging, depending on conditions. Unfortunately, it is west of the Cascades crest, so the snow more often than not is awful. The main reason why I go there so often is that it is a mere hour's driving from my home.

Topo Map

Routes: W/S Side (moderate ski descent)

Maxwell Butte from Twin Lakes in December


Date: December 7, 2011

Party: DB solo

Route: W Side

Equipment: Ski poles

Time: Sno Park - Summit: 3 hrs 10 mins
Summit - Sno Park: 2 hr 10 mins
Roundtrip from Sno Park: 6 hrs 5 mins

Comments: Trailbreaking all the way, but reasonably good crust with some postholing

Trip report:

Another strong La Nina winter made for a cold and dry fall. I figured skiing was not a great idea, but several days of fog in the valley made me want to go out. I found an extreme temperature inversion: I sat in my t-shirt at 6,200' cooking lunch while the high in Springfield was 33 degrees. Travel on foot was okay, with between zero and six inches of snow on top of a crust that mostly carried me, there were only a few patches where postholing was a problem. The views were marvelous.

Photo Gallery:

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View of Three-Fingered Jack from the summit.

View of the Three Sisters from the summit.

Me on the summit, Mt. Jefferson in background.

View of Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood from the summit.


Date: February 11, 2011

Party: DB solo

Route: W Side

Equipment: None

Time: Sno Park - Summit: 2 hrs 30 mins
Summit - Sno Park: 1 hr 50 mins
Roundtrip from Sno Park: 4 hrs 50 mins

Comments: Good hiking conditions

Trip report:

I found out the night before that I had left my ski boots in Portland, so I set out carrying snow shoes instead. The lack of skis turned out to be just as well; most (but not all) of the skiing would have been awful.

I got going from Maxwell Sno Park at 9:40. The snow pack was pathetic, so I left the snow shoes on my pack. It turned out I never needed them; after a little while I encountered a few inches of soft snow on top of a very hard crust that easily carried my weight, and it stayed that way all the way to the summit. I reached Twin Lakes after an hour and twenty minutes, continued on the trail for a while and then kicked steps straight up the west side. High up it was a bit marginal without crampons and ice axe in a few spots, but soon I reached the summit ridge and continued on to the summit.

I got the stove going, cooked some lunch, enjoyed the views, and then started back down. It was warm, and a storm was coming in from the west, which made for interesting colors. Except for a few steep icy sections going down was easy, and I reached my car in under two hours. The soft snow on top of the crust was very wet and heavy by now, and below the lakes there was not much snow anyway, so I didn't miss my skis too much. The lower part of the west side and the meadows would have been nice on skis, though!

Photo Gallery:

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Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood from the summit.

Mt. Jefferson from the summit.

View west on the way down.

Twin Lakes.


For earlier ascents, click here .