Ascent of Mount Thielsen on 1992-08-19
|Date:||Wednesday, August 19, 1992|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Motorized Transport to Trailhead:||Car|
| Elevation:||9182 ft / 2798 m|
Ascent Trip ReportI woke up very early, before dawn, not allowing myself to waste another morning the way I had wasted all of yesterday. After eating cereal for breakfast I drove out of Chemult, OR on U.S. 97 south until OR 138, which I took east to near Diamond Lake. Near it I located the Mt. Theilsen trailhead after some searching, parked in the nice paved parking lot there, got my battered daypack in order, and started up the easy-to-follow trail.
My goal was 9,182 foot high Mt. Theilsen, not a particularly high peak, but one with an amazing profile that, from certain angles, looks like it's topped by an impossibly slender needle-like spire. I had been intrigued by it back in 1989, and had read in guidebooks that despite its appearance that it could be climbed fairly easily, so I thought it would make a good regular, non-snowy hike after my experiences in Washington.
The trail ascended through conifer forest for a long time, and then it emerged on a semi-wooded prominent ridge that led to the summit cone, rising impressively ahead. The trail crossed the Pacific Crest Trail high on this ridge, and I took a long rest here. Above this the way became very steep, with lots of miserable loose rock, and the trail pretty much disappeared. I climbed up over massive slopes of ball-bearing scree or over big, crumbling rock outcrops, heading for the thin rock spire up ahead.
Near the top I saw my first other hikers, two guys scree-skiing down what looked to me to be the wrong way. I had gotten an early start, but these guys must have really been early risers. After much travail with the rock I arrived just below the final spire, pretty much a cliff, but it had lots of cracks and shelves. Most importantly, it was very solid, strong rock, unlike the rest of the mountain, because it was the erosion-resistant "throat" of an extinct volcano. One guidebook had rated this final pitch as 5.0 or 5.1, but another had said it was just easy class 3.
I had no real problems with it, since the handholds and footholds were excellent, large, and easily spaced. I also realized after getting a third the way up that someone had painted the best holds with yellow spray paint, which showed the easiest way. All I had to do was be very deliberate, and not get rattled by the exposure. I arrived on the tiny summit with no major difficulties.
It was a perfectly clear, nice day, and the view from the summit, as one might expect, was a total 360. I found a place to sit down, and admired views of the Cascade Range from Mt. Hood to Mt. Shasta, ate a snack, became annoyed at the flies and wind, and took some pictures. I was glad I was alone, because there wasn't much room on top for anyone else. One fascinating thing about the top was areas of the summit rocks that had been turned into a kind of black glass by lightning strikes--I later found out that Mt. Theilsen was called "the lightning rod of the Cascades", making me glad that I wasn't up here in a thunderstorm.
I carefully descended the summit spire, grateful for the spray paint on the holds, and then made my way down the ugly and disgusting loose rock of the main cone, falling down, scree-skiing, slipping, and carefully walking in various combinations. I got a lot of rocks in my boots, but had better luck following the faint path that I did on the way up. I saw a lot of climbers on their way up, too--one even had a dog. Once down at the Pacific Crest Trail I started seeing lots of mountain bikers, going both up and down, and as several whizzed by me as I hiked down the hot, forested, and boring lower section of the trail I wished I too had one for the easy downhill. No bikers (or dogs) were planning to go to the very summit, though, obviously.
After longer than I remembered of hot downhill, during which I ran out of water, I reached the car, changed, and drove off.
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