September 20, 2008
We glided past the fire on highway 58 with just a minor slowing rather than the expected 20–30 minute delays. At Diamond Lake, we could see and smell the smoke, but could see across the lake. Dinner at the Lodge was rustic elegance. The south Campground was closed, so we spent the night at the trail head. It drizzled as we set up Steve’s tent. Elle decided to sleep in the van. We were in bags by 9:00 p.m. Brian arrived about 11:00. During the night it was partly cloudy with brief glimpses of stars. We were up by 5:00 a.m. It was still quite dark and started drizzling again as we took down the tent and packed up the gear. Breakfast was by van light.
We hit the trail with headlamps at 6:00 a.m. . . in a light drizzle. There was still the aroma of fire in the air, despite the drizzle. After 10 minutes it started to rain steadily. We were sure that the fire crews wanted that rain. Headlamps were off about 6:30. After 40 minutes we reached the trail junction to Howlock Mountain. . . just under two miles in.
Above the junction the trail steepened. There were several places where a wind shear had come through and blown down most (if not all) the trees in a swath 100–200 yards wide. The trail had been cleared or rerouted through those sections and was in good shape. At 7:00 we got a nice view of Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey. Ten minutes later we got our first look at Thielsen. We reached the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) at 7:43. We had covered four miles and about 1900 feet. . . half the elevation gain.
Above the PCT we were on the west ridge of Thielsen. The wind picked up and occasionally we were pelted with icy sleet. Since we were wet from the rain, we got cold quickly. We added layers and continued up the ridge. The wind got stronger near the tree line. After a conference, we concluded that the wind, wet and cold were too great to try the summit. So we turned back about 8:20 at about 8000 feet.
We could see the smoke layer on Mount Bailey up to about 7600 feet. We crossed the PCT at 8:45 going down. The rain stopped below the PCT. We got to the Howlock junction at 9:45 and to the trailhead at 10:20. On the descent, we met three other parties… only one pair was going to try the summit, but they had not yet felt the wind. It was a disappointment not to summit, but the hike was nice anyway.
Climbers were: Brain Hamilton, Jim Pierce (leader), Steve Still and Elle Weaver.