Mount McLoughlin in a Cloud 14-Sep-2009

Mount McLoughlin Sky Lakes Wilderness

We had planned to do this climb for some time and just took our chances that when we were able to do it the weather would cooperate. This being Oregon, the answer was no. A weak cold front moved in the night before our ascent and had stuck a cute little lenticular cloud right on the summit, absorbing all the views in the process. We still did the climb but for this much gain and pain, a view would have been nice.

We followed the driving directions in Bond’s book (75 Scrambles in Oregon (2005)) to reach the trailhead – which involved 0.5 miles of unmaintained road that would have been impassable with our passenger car if it had rained while we were out hiking. The driving directions in Sullivan’s book – via Fourmile Lake – take you the whole way to the trailhead on good gravel roads. From there, the trail seems to start out fairly level but is really beginning a relentless and ever steeper climb upward. The first four miles or so are in trees (which get ever smaller) and is fairly easy to negotiate.

Mount McLoughlin Sky Lakes Wilderness
Climbing the lower part of the trail

The trail was rocky but obvious, as was the low cloud cover – which stubbornly refused to dissipate!

Mount McLoughlin Sky Lakes Wilderness
Along the upper part of the trail

At about 8,200 feet, we reached a sandy open spot where the official trail essentially stops and a maze of use trails start up the volcanic ridge. This would also have been our first close-up view of the summit, had it been entirely visible.

Mount McLoughlin Sky Lakes Wilderness
Looking toward the cloud-shrouded summit

We stayed right on the ridge both up and down – there were a few spots requiring scrambling but most of it was just use trail and scree.

Mount McLoughlin Sky Lakes Wilderness
Following the ridge to the summit

The views we could see only emphasized what we were missing by climbing in a cloud.

Mount McLoughlin Sky Lakes Wilderness
Fourmile Lake under the cloud deck

Reaching the summit was gratifying but our joy was somewhat dampened by the all enveloping cloud.

Mount McLoughlin Sky Lakes Wilderness
A summit in the mists

Certainly a climb (all 3,900 feet of it) worth doing at least once but best done on a clear, sunny day. Once on the summit, it’s tempting to just head down a big scree slope to the south but this will not necessarily re-connect you with the trail. It seems I’ve now climbed all of the volcanoes over 9,000 feet between Lassen and southern British Columbia with the exception of Bachelor and Lassen itself. Lassen next year maybe. Bachelor not so sure – I keep getting distracted by the bar at the top of the chair lift.


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