Mt. McLoughlin/Mt. Thielsen
September 26-28, 2003
Rode to the Mt. McLoughlin trailhead with Lori Tierney Friday afternoon, where we met Ted Brasket, Gerry Roe, Peggy Lee Mathes, and George & Andy Jobanek. Some chose to sleep in their vehicles, whereas others chose to sleep out in the open on this clear, warm, mosquito-free night.
Dave Strutin arrived early Saturday morning. After brief introductions, the eight of us headed up the trail at 7:10 a.m. Gerry, my assistant for this mountain, set a moderately fast pace that soon had all sweating. About halfway up we switched places—I took the lead and Gerry performed long-distance sweep. We regrouped at “the tree” for a short explanation of how not to descend McLoughlin—don’t get sucked into following the south-slope scree down, or you’ll find yourself in for a long, tough hike out!
Most made it to the top in four hours or less, with the last coming in at about 4¼ hours. We spent a while at “the wall,” posing for pictures in front of, or on top of it. The summit book was passed around here, so as not to repeat last year’s loss.
The sky was near cloudless, and the temperature, while fairly warm, was not unbearably hot. The air was still on top. Visibility was good with Shasta showing in the south, Klamath Lakes to the east and the Crater Lake rim north. Also to the north could be seen Mts. Bailey and Thielsen, Diamond Peak and, just barely poking up above Crater Lake rim, South Sister.
We then went over to the west end where I assembled my “grabber”, a contraption made from a BMX bicycle brake and ½" CPVC pipe that I had put together last year in an unsuccessful attempt to recover the old summit book. All seemed amused at the amount of stuff we pulled from the crack I had worked last year. Lori then found another crack a bit to the west. From that crack we pulled, in addition to the usual wrappers and other trash, a baseball cap with odd lettering on it that was decreed, by mutual consent, to be Estonian, a nice pair of sunglasses and a working 35mm Pentax zoom camera.
After lounging around on top for well over an hour, we turned around and headed back down the east ridge. The faster ones stopped at “the tree” and waited for the rest (thanks George & Andy!) Back at the trailhead, I counted 25 others on the trail register in addition to our group—while not nearly as busy as South Sister, it’s still rare to be alone on this mountain.
After goodbyes at the trailhead, George and Andy headed for pizza at Diamond Lake, with Lori and me close behind. The four of us then headed to the Mt. Thielsen trailhead for the night. The parking lot was rather crowded when we arrived, with several groups still up the trail. One ill-prepared group had apparently left in the afternoon, and it was after 9 p.m. when they finally got back to the trailhead, and another noisy half hour before they were gone. The Harley riders’ ride finally came about an hour later—they had had a flat tire and had been waiting fairly quietly by the lot entrance since we had arrived—and they loaded their bike in an burst of noise and departed. Again, some of our group chose to sleep in their vehicles, and others out in the warm air under the stars.
Just before 5 a.m. a loud group drove into the lot. I counted four or five lights as they headed up the trail about half an hour later. Jim Pierce, assistant leader for this mountain, drove in before 6:30. Shortly afterwards came a large group of Mazamas and another, smaller group.
Under the threat of being hung up behind a big crowd at “chicken point”, our group of five was on the trail at seven. An hour and a half later we were surprised to catch up with the five o’clock group at the PCT—they were traveling at less than half our speed! Only one, small group was ahead of us, and they climbed without setting protection, and were off the pinnacle before we were ready to start up it.
Jim set a fixed-line to the top, and the rest of us followed him up in shifts. After everyone had had their fill, taking in the grand vistas, and getting in their photo op., we returned to “chicken point”, with George coming down last, and cleaning our route. In the meantime, the area had become thick with bodies—Jim estimated that there were about thirty altogether, including ourselves, the Mazamas, and several, smaller parties.
After lunch and other festivities at the bench below the gully, we descended to the PCT via the scree field, but the speed advantage of going this way is greatly reduced both by the difficulty of getting on to it, and the distance that you then must back track on the PCT to get back to the trail.