Mt. Thielsen, high and humbled

On Saturday June 23rd I completed a solo hike and climb of Mt. Thielsen in Oregon. Ever since I moved to this area I have stared at this craggy, pointed peak with desire to summit and finally made it happen! 

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entering wilderness

Near Diamond Lake, Oregon

The drive down from Bend took just under two hours, arriving to the trailhead under a cloudless sky, and I was hiking before 9am. 

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mt.bailey

Diamond Lake below, Oregon 

Great views of Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake peeked out from the trees on the gently ascending trail toward Thielsen's western flank. The going was quick, the temps cool under the tree canopy, and after an hour of walking I arrived to a junction with the PCT. Here I took a short break, chatted with a family from Roseburg, and prepared to begin the scree scramble toward the summit pyramid. 

mt. thielsen

Near Diamond Lake, Oregon

In typical Oregon Cascade fashion, this became a choose your own adventure climb, with a faintly defined trail switchbacking up and up over loose pebbles and large collections of dinner plate flakes. Thankfully, the sun was still making its way up, and heat was not a major concern on this climb, but without any place to obtain water, this route would be a sufferfest later in the day or in hotter conditions.   

At the base of the summit pinnacle I changed out my trail runners for rock shoes and scrambled up the south face to the top of Mt. Thielsen. I am not a strong rock climber and found this easier than expected, low 5th class at most, but would not hesitate to rig a fixed line for a follower to prussik as a fall would be disastrous. Leading this with rock protection would be problematic as any place to fall is exposed to big ledges, would most likely result in injuries to the leader, and a rescue from here would be quite the undertaking. Taking these factors into account, I only recommend climbing this if you are solid at the (easy) grade, and are able to ensure the safety and comfort of less experienced climbing partners.

summit

Mt. Thielsen, Oregon

From the top of Thielsen it is possible to see Crater Lake, Mt. Shasta to the south, the Three Sisters to the north, and numerous small peaks and buttes scattered in between. Atop the blocky perch, 10 or so adults can comfortably rest and take in the view, staring down the sheer exposure on the west, north, and east sides of the so called "lighting rod of the Cascades". 

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mountains around crater lake

Mt. Thielsen, Oregon

For me, the scariest part of this outing was descending the 2nd and 3rd class scree/flake fields down to the junction with the PCT. I passed many groups heading up, making me very happy to be coming down, as a traffic jam on the technical summit block could take a while to clear and delay your trip significantly. 

From the PCT to the trailhead, the trail gently meanders through the trees, cutting a few big switchbacks, and is very runnable. As I was jogging down I became complacent, probably thinking of what I was going to eat or do with the rest of my day, and turned my ankle on a shaded rock or root. I didn't fall down, but let out quite the string of expletives, and immediately was reduced to a limp. Very happy I could put weight on it, but angry at myself for losing focus on the descent, I proceeded to hobble the remaining two miles to Karen. Every so often I stopped to asses my ankle and found it to be swelling quite profoundly, but with minimal pain and no obvious signs of fracture or injury beyond a sprain. 

Once I got back to Karen, I took Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen, drove to Diamond Lake Resort, and obtained some ice and put it on my ankle for 30 minutes before starting the drive home. Back by late afternoon, I spent the rest of the day supine with my foot compressed and elevated, doing my best to RICE this injury into submission. Unfortunately I think this will keep me down for the next few days, a bummer as my birthday is Monday and I was hoping to get back into the mountains for another adventure. Trying to stay positive and grateful as it could have been much worse and I'm lucky to have been able to hobble out of there on non-technical terrain. 

Happy to have ticked Thielsen off the list on such a perfect summer day, this felt like the start of peak bagging season and an end to the ski season. Although I'm sad to see the snow melt, I'm equally excited to get up into the alpine and move fast and light once this ankle heals! 

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r.i.c.e

Bend, Oregon 

Have Fun and Stay Safe, 

Andrew  

Andrew Kersh