Golden Gunsight Peak
Photograph - Photo
We had a family camp out near Anthony Lake which is above 7000 feet and this beautiful alpine lake was only a very short hike form our camp site. This was taken in the morning just as the sun was breaking the horizon.
Just as beautiful, but more accessible than the more famous Wallowa Mountains nearby, the Elkhorn Range boasts craggy granite peaks and high alpine lakes surrounded by wildflowers. A paved road climbs to a lovely campground and picnic area beside 7,140-foot-high Anthony Lake. From here hikers can stroll around the lake in half an hour or tackle a more demanding 8.2-mile loop around Gunsight Mountain.
A little history on how it was formed. The Blue Mountain range began as a volcanic island archipelago in the Pacific Ocean 210 to 270 million years ago. The Earth's crustal movement "rafted" this volcanic and sedimentary debris onto the advancing North American continent about 200 million years ago. Later bubbles of relatively light granite rose through the sediment to form the core of the range. This granite has since been exposed by erosion.
A glacier scoured out Anthony Lake's granite basin from the crest of the Elkhorn Range relatively recently, during the Ice Age 6,000-20,000 years ago. Today there are no glaciers in Eastern Oregon. Instead, subalpine firs and wildflower meadows ring the lake. Still, exposed patches of granite often exhibit "glacial polish," shiny surfaces where the weight of grinding ice has polished the rock as smoothly as a granite tombstone.
Gunsight Mountain lies in the northern Elkhorn Mountains of Oregon, and is one of the more easily accessible peaks in this range. Gunsight Mountain has two summits, the eastern one being the highest at 8342 feet. Gunsight Mountain is accessed most easily from Anthony Lake. An ascent via the west ridge is a steep, but fun class 3 scramble. The south ridge is a class 2 scramble, and is not as steep. Round trip distance up the west ridge and down the south ridge is about 3 miles, and takes three to four hours. The views of the surrounding lakes and peaks of the Northern Elkhorns are excellent, and on a clear day can range from the Wallowas in the east to the Ochocos in the west.
Gunsight Mountain is part of the backdrop for the Anthony Lakes ski area, which is known for having the highest base elevation in Oregon, and excellent powder skiing with minimal crowds.
The Elkhorn Mountains lie in northeastern Oregon, and are a sub-range of the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains were once a volcanic island arc, and were accreted to the North American continent as it advanced westward. The northern Elkhorns are a part of the Bald Mountain Batholith, which was generated as the rocks and sediments from the Blue Mountain volcanic arc were subducted, and melted from 158 to 131 million years ago. This magma rose, but did not reach the surface, and slowly cooled forming the granitic rocks (mostly granodiorite) that can be seen today, and comprise Gunsight Mountain. Dark blotches called xenoliths can be found where pieces of the host rock were assimilated into the intruding magma. Over the past eight million years, faulting along the Olympic-Wallowa Lineament has lifted this material to its present height, and erosion has worn away the original surrounding rock. The many tarns, cirques, and U-shaped valleys found in this area were carved by Ice Age glaciers. The notch between Gunsight�s two summits is a joint, which commonly form as igneous rocks cool and fracture, on both small and large scales.
October 9th, 2013
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