August 24, 2003
Most Obsidians are likely familiar with the sight of Mt. Thielsen. Its dramatic 9182 ft. summit appears impossibly narrow and steep from the distance, jutting toward the sky above Diamond Lake. One of the pleasures of leading a climb is sharing the excitement of those who are preparing to make their first attempt on a summit and, from the distance or on the approach trail, the imposing look of “the lightning rod of the Cascades” certainly generates excitement.
Yet, despite appearances, this is a relatively easy climb. Seven of us started from the trailhead at first light and hiked the four miles of well graded and maintained forest service trail up the ridge to its junction with the PCT. From there things get steeper, but the climbers’ trail up the ridge is clear and fairly solid until you are not far below the summit pinnacle and working around toward the east. The last couple of hundred feet are slow, somewhat treacherous work on steep, loose talus and scree. As on so many Cascade slopes, the main danger is from falling rock that may be dislodged by climbers above.
Our group gathered at the base of the pinnacle just three hours after our start from the trailhead. We had made good time, but still we were preceded by a group of eleven Mazamas. Since the summit really is almost as small as it looks from the distance we were content rest a while and enjoy the beautiful day as we waited for our turn on top. Our neighbors from the north did a fine job of getting their group up and down the last eighty feet of easy technical rock. Then our group got the chance to climb good solid rock and enjoy the spectacular view from that small, improbable summit.
The rappel from the summit went smoothly. For the descent we decided to stay farther east and go down the loose scree, rather than stick to the ridge. It was the first time I had gone down that way. I was not impressed . . . maybe if I had a new pair of gaiters that would actually keep the rocks out of my boots I’d like it better!
And so it was back to the cars. A bit later than anticipated due to the wait, but I think everyone was happy with the day and pleased with our success. I know I was. As always I am grateful for the good companionship and solid partnership I find when climbing with a group of Obsidians. For me this climb was especially meaningful, as I have now managed to lead a successful climb on all of “the Ten Peaks.” Thanks to everyone who participated and helped make it a great day.
Climbers were: Pat Adams, Larry Huff, Andy Jobanek, George Jobanek, Lee Schaffner, Mark Slipp (assistant leader) and Doug Nelson (leader).