Tipsoo Peak and Howlock Mountain

August 14, 2004

The Sawtooth Ridge runs roughly north from near Mount Thielsen’s craggy north face and is comprised of six distinct peaks that all rise above 8000'. The Wit’s End Road provides excellent, but rough, access to this high country from highway 138 near Diamond Lake. The Tipsoo Peak trail head starts at 6500' of elevation where the road dead ends, and climbs at a steady pace into the Mount Thielsen Wilderness on a maintained and well graded trail through mountain hemlock forest. The entire region was heavily overlaid by Mazama ashfall, so the forest is not very dense, and there is very little undergrowth. Not far from the summit, the trail crosses meadows and through some stunted hemlocks before reaching the final lava scramble up the last 100 feet of rocky trail to the summit. The view of The Thielsen Wilderness and the Diamond Lake area was wonderful. We had a quick snack while we studied the peaks of the Sawtooth Ridge and picked out the true summit of Howlock Mountain, our next destination, a couple of miles in the distance. We traveled cross country from Tipsoo Peak southward down through a steep lava scramble, then into meadows and stunted hemlocks, where we found the Pacific Crest Trail. A mile and a half of hiking south on the PCT brought us through some incredibly scenic country with big hemlock trees and meadows in the shadows of the towering cliffs and rock formations of Howlock Mountain. Near the junction of the PCT and Howlock Meadows trail, we left the PCT and climbed cross country up to a saddle between Howlock Mountain and unnamed peak 8207' just to the south. From the saddle it was and easy scramble up onto the summit ridge of Howlock, and then an easy traverse and scramble eastward up to the true summit, which is actually heap of stacked Cascade dinner plates. The true summit rises to 8396' according to the USGS map, and though Howlock possesses several more impressive peaks, the other summits appear to be much more challenging climbs on very poor quality rock, and we were quite happy to have reached the true summit so easily. We had a quick lunch and began a nervous descent, retracing our route back to near Tipsoo Peak. While we were descending, towering thunderstorms began to move in from the east, and there was frequent thunder and lightning. We moved quickly, and had only some slight difficulty in navigating the trailless cross country hike from the PCT to the Tipsoo Peak trail. A quick stroll down the Tipsoo trail delivered us at the cars only minutes before the skies opened with hail, down pouring rain, and plenty of thunder and lightning. On a side note, according to the Umpqua National Forest, Howlock Mountain is named for a Paiute Indian Chief who lived in the territory just east of the Mount Thielsen area, and Tipsoo is a native Chinook word for grassy. This was a truly scenic hike, enjoyed by guests Scot Hunt and Mary Wade, and Obsidians Buzz Blumm, Craig Renkert, and leader Brian Hoyland.

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