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Is Munra Point the Columbia Gorge's Mailbox Peak?
posted by John : May 28, 2017


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Back in the olden days I would take a day for a hike every time we went to Portland. I had some amazingly memorable trips, but always by myself. For the last few years my Oregonian adventures have been family affairs. They've been less adventurous than they used to be. Still fun, but they haven't been getting the blood pumping.

On this trip, though, I secured an early morning on the trail and chose a harder trail. Better yet, Clara decided she wanted to hike, too. Winning!

We headed to Munra Point. There's an unofficial, but very popular trail from the Columbia to a high point where three ridges come together. The summit is generally known as a little "sporty," to borrow an Arizona term. I was a little concerned about Clara on a "knifeblade ridge," but I figured we could always bail if it was too much.

We were pressed for time so we chose the shorter approach from the Wahclella Falls Trailhead. (We arrived at 7am and the small lot was already nearly full. When we returned around 11am cars were parked up and down the road so be prepared.) It cut a mile off the trip, but meant we didn't get to see Elowah Falls, which looks to be a perfect example of a Gorge waterfall. Looking at the pictures, it hardly seems a good trade.

Once we started up the hill I quickly felt like I was back home on Mailbox Peak. The trail had all the same charm and beauty of my local slog. Loose rocks on steep slopes, exposed roots we had to use as a ladder, and nobody in our way on the way up.

Above the trees it was a little more interesting than Mailbox. Mailbox is a (steep) stroll through a meadow to the summit. Munra has only a small section above the trees, but it's much steeper. First is the Chimney, the crux of the entire climb. It's a gully of steep sharp rock narrow enough that you can touch both sides. If it were wet it would be no fun. After the Chimney is the summit ridge itself. There are people that have fallen and been hurt, but it was no worse than many other ridge walks in the Northwest. The summit area itself is pretty small, but the views up and down the Gorge are great.

Back below the Chimney it felt like Mailbox again. We slipped and slid in clouds of dust and a hundred thousand people were on the way up. Some of them had even less of an idea of what they were in for than we did and many seemed completely unprepared. We repeatedly told hikers roughly how far it was to the top and I cringe to think of the line of people waiting at the top and bottom of the Chimney or the crowd on the small summit itself. All the way at the bottom, a car stalked our choice spot in the parking lot so we hurriedly got going.

Munra Point isn't for the faint of foot, but it's also not the exercise in death defiance that many of the online descriptions would have you believe. Much like Mailbox Peak, you can summit with perseverance and care. And if you have the stomach for twice as much gain it's time to head north to climb Mailbox Peak itself.

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