Mt. McLoughlin Climb/Crater Lake Bike
September 17-18, 2005
Jennifer Hartman met me at The Logical Company parking lot in Cottage Grove at 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning. We drove south on I-5 to Canyonville, then east on the Tiller-Trail Hwy., and south on the Crater Lake Hwy. (62) to Eagle Point, then cut over on some back-roads to Hwy. 140, and finally, up the FS road to the Mt. McLoughlin trailhead. Larry Huff had gone up earlier and spent the night there.
The NOAA weather forecast was for 20% chance of showers in the morning and partial clearing in the afternoon, so we three donned our raingear and, shortly after 8:00 a.m., headed up the trail. We came upon the first, small patches of snow at about 7000' elev. A bit after that, the showers turned to snow. A ways before reaching the open ridge, we met a group (father and two sons) coming down who had spent the night on the summit.
The ridge was covered with 2–3" of new, wet snow. We followed the tracks of a of two who were a short ways ahead of us, occasionally catching up to them. The clouds parted and the sun came out. We had a few glimpses of Fourmile and Squaw Lakes down below, to the northeast. It continued to snow just a bit, snowflakes sparkling in the warm sunshine. The snow-covered scree on the north side of the ridge, normally only used for descent, proved to be the easier way up—faster than boulder-hopping on the south side.
We were on the summit a few minutes after noon. While we did have sun, the clouds hid the distant views on usually has from McLoughlin’s summit—from Lassen Peak in the south, to The Sisters in the north. We spent about 45 minutes sunning, lunching, putting a few words in the McLoughlin summit book, and enjoying what views we did have of the snow-covered slopes and a few lakes down below. A pine marten played hide-and-seek with us over in the rocks on the west side of the summit, shyly begging for a hand-out.
We met many other groups ascending the now sloppy snow as we descended the ridge. Parts of the Klamath Lakes now and then appeared through the clouds. We left the ridge at “the tree” and rejoined the forest trail. In many places the trail had turned into a small creek from the rapidly melting snow. By about 7500' elev. the ground was mostly bare. We ran into a group of teenagers who were “thrilled” to learn that, although they were over half way along the trail to the top, they still had more than half of their climbing left to do. We returned to the trailhead about 2¾ hours after leaving the summit.
Larry returned to Eugene as he had chores to do on Sunday. Jennifer and I drove to Shady Cove, where we replenished calories at a Mexican restaurant overlooking the Rogue River. We continued on to Crater Lake National Park that evening, and camped at the Mazama Campground.
After a clear, cool, moonlit night, we had our tents packed and were ready to ride at 8:10 a.m. We started from the Steel Visitor Center parking lot, and proceeded up the three mile hill to the Rim Village—getting that climb out of the way at the beginning when still fresh.
After a quick tour of the Lodge we proceeded clockwise around the lake, stopping at just about every pullout to take in the view of the lake from all possible angles. The sky was near cloudless, the air clear after the rain of the previous day, the lake the deepest blue imaginable. The surface of the lake was rippled from the stiff, morning breeze, with large, odd-shaped calmer patches.
We had to walk our bikes for a short distance on the stretch below The Watchman as it was slick with ice. The day never did get warm, but that was good as any warmer would have seemed hot climbing all the hills. While only 32 miles or so, this is not an easy ride—not only is there over 4000' of climbing, but it’s also done at a fairly high elevation: from about 6400' at the Steel Visitor Center where we parked, to nearly 7700' at the Mt. Scott trailhead, with plenty of big ups and downs in between.
Our last view of the lake on the circuit was at Sun Notch—a short hike of about ¼ mile from the road. This is worth the extra effort as from there you get the closest view of the Phantom Ship from anywhere on the rim. By that time, the breeze had died down, leaving the lake’s surface a deep, glassy blue.
We returned to Cottage Grove by way of the north entrance, stopping before leaving the rim for one last view of the lake. From there we took Hwy. 138 to Steamboat, then the East Pass Creek cutoff to Row River Road.
—photos by Wayne Deeter