Mt Thielsen – Lightning Rod of the Cascades

September 15, 2009
Mt Thielsen from Crater Lake

Mt Thielsen from Crater Lake

I arrived at the Thielsen trailhead about 7:30 Saturday morning and was surprise to see 7 or 8 cars already there. This trail head is on Oregon Highway 138 about 70 miles east of Roseburg and sits immediately east of Diamond Lake. The pave parking lot along the road is about a mile or two south of the Diamond Lake Resort turn off. This trail head provides access to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Spruce Ridge Trail.

Thielsen - Sign

Mount Thielsen is known as the “Lightning Rod of the Cascades” as it top spire towers about the cascade at 9,182 feet. This old volcano has been extinct for 100,000 years but was deeply covered with a light pumice from the Crater Lake explosion some 6,600 years ago. Erosion of this material have left some unusual formation exposed and created a white field on the east side.

The first four miles, up to the PCT is pretty uneventful with the exception of some large blow-down areas. A storm brought high winds a few years ago that latterly toppled the majority of trees in some area. The trail has been relocated around stumps, rootwads, and jumbles of crisscrossed logs. It hard to conceive such winds that could take down 40 to 60 acres at a time. The trail climbs steadily but not too steeply so as you can walk a comfortable pace. After the snow fall a week ago there wasn’t a single mosquito seen the whole trip!

Trail thru Blowdowns

Trail thru Blowdowns

When you get to the point where the PCT crosses the trail, about 4 miles from the trail head, you get your first good views of the mountain.  From there the summit seem to tower over you and the trail from there soon hit’s 45 degrees. While distance wise it’s only another mile or so up there it feet like a mile up too. In fact there is almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead to the top.

Morning View of Thielsen from Pacific Crest Trail

Morning View of Thielsen from Pacific Crest Trail

Within the first quarter mile you begin to get about the tree line and you notice some of the strange formations.

Thielsen Strange Formations 1

Thielsen Strange Formations 2

Thielsen Strange Formations 6

The trail for all practical purposes disappears at this point so you just continue up the west ridge finding place where other have gone up. There are areas of loose rock so I stayed higher on the ridge to avoid the worst of it. At one point you cross a section of very sharp shale. As you get closer to the top you are using your hands to climb some of the steeper sections.

The West Ridge above the tree line

The West Ridge above the tree line

Is That The Trail?

Is That The Trail?

Going UP!

Going UP!

When you get to the toe of the spire you angle across the south face to find the notch on the east side.

The East Saddle

The East Saddle

All along the way the views of Diamond Lake to the west and Crater Lake to the south are amazing.

Mt Baily - Diamond Lake

Mt Baily - Diamond Lake

I stopped just below the notch to take some pictures of the weird formation on the near vertical east side. On rock I was standing on to get a good picture dropped vertically for 500 feet or more. I dropped a small rock over the edge to see how far it would fall before hitting the side of the face and I almost lost sight of it before I saw it bounce. 8 people coming down passed me as I took pictures.

Thielsen Strange Formations 4

The climb from there up to the notch was all hand and feet works but at least the rock was solid and provide good grip and steps. At the top of the notch is a small area that provides a picnic area. There is room for about 20 people to sit on the moderate slope. A lot of people will leave there packs here before doing the near vertical 100 foot climb to the top of the spire.

Looking Southeast from the Saddle

Looking Southeast from the Saddle

There was no one at the top of the notch when I got there and as my pack was small (and had all my camera gear in it) so I decided to take it with me up to the top.  The top spire is deeply cracked so even though it is near vertical it is relatively easy to climb. I was glad I’d been up this one before so knew which route to take. In about 10 minutes I was on the top and there was not another person there!

The Top - Looking North

The Top - Looking North

The Top Looking West

The Top Looking West

Brass Cap

Brass Cap

The view in every direction was spectacular. There was just enough haze to prevent me from seeing much past the Three Sisters to the north and Mt Shasta to the South. The top is pretty small and just a jumble of broken rock. Much of the rock looked fused and it’s been hit by lightning some many times. Looking over the edge of the vertical faces give you a real thrill and there nothing like having a bite of lunch with your feet dangling over the edge. There was a red-tailed hawk that had been circling about me most of the way up now floated and a very light breeze above me.

The West Ridge Trail from the Top

The West Ridge Trail from the Top

 

 Looking Down of the North Side

Looking Down of the North Side

North Ridge and Howlock Mtn from the Top

North Ridge and Howlock Mtn from the Top

I checked my watch and it was just a little after noon. Looking to the southwest I could see cloud building and I knew it was time to get down off of here before a thunderstorm moved in. Climbing down the spire was a little more challenging than going up. I was careful to choose a route I knew so I could find good holds and easy my way down.

Lichen Art

Lichen Art

I stopped numerous times on the way down to take pictures of the west side with was now in the sunlight. In the morning it was so dark that it was really hard to photo. As it was all downhill I easily made it back to the trailhead in two hours.

Crater Lake Rim

Crater Lake Rim

Weird Formations

Weird Formations

 

Banded Ourcropping

Banded Ourcropping

The West Ridge - Coming Down

The West Ridge - Coming Down

West Side View - Afternoon

West Side View - Afternoon

It had been another wonderful hike and I took my time driving back down the Umpqua to look at the beautiful scenery. Enjoy the pictures and a look and another one of Oregon’s unique places.

Dennis

Hello world!

September 15, 2009

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!