Steve Kominsky of Medford had a plan Saturday to climb Mount McLoughlin three times in one day to kick off training for his attempt next year to summit Oregon's 10 tallest mountains in a six-day span.
It turns out Mount McLoughlin had a different plan for Kominsky.
The first storm of the fall brought 60 mph winds and 4-foot snowdrifts to the mountain east of Medford, forcing Kominsky to abort his try Saturday after two attempts to reach the peak.
"That weather was really something else," says Kominsky, 27, a former Jackson County Search and Rescue volunteer and Mount McLoughlin climbing veteran. "I've never seen it that severe on McLoughlin. The wind was so strong that when you stood up, it would blow you down."
It was not all for naught, however.
His two efforts to hike the trail netted him 19 miles of hiking on the mountain, and he was able to collect more than two-dozen orange golf balls, three empty Red Bull cans and other debris.
And his effort did raise public awareness of his 2011 climbing challenge, which he calls "The Oregon 10in6 Challenge," and the "leave no trace" ethic he espouses for hikers entering backwoods areas without leaving their fingerprints all over nature.
Kominsky decided to climb the state's top 10 peaks in less than a week after discussing it with a friend last December. Several Internet searches revealed that the fastest anyone has claimed to equal that feat was in nine days.
A former Olympic rowing hopeful, he's using the adventure as a way to gain donations for the Leave No Trace Center of Outdoor Ethics, which teaches outdoor skills and methods for enjoying backwoods public places without leaving a negative human imprint.
Kominsky started at 5:45 a.m. Saturday at the trailhead with a rain-and-snow mix already in the air. Three miles into his hike, he hit a 5-inch blanket of snow hiking the trail, and he hit intense winds at the 8,500-foot level.
Kominsky says he turned around at the 9,200-foot level where the snow drifts and intense winds made continuing too dangerous. "Getting hurt is never worth reaching the summit, and there is no glory in an obituary," he says.
He hiked back down and after a few hours of break he hit it again. But he found the winds even more intense.
Kominsky then traded his hiking boots for running shoes for a 6-mile, day-ending run to Fourmile Lake.
He still hopes to complete the three-summit climb one day, either next spring or next month if the snow melts and the trail conditions improve.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.