Climbing Mount Thielsen (August 1998)

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon

Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on Kodachromes. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the Kodachromes haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. This is one of those.


Today, climbers summit Mount Thielsen starting from the trailhead (and Sno-Park) right off of Highway 138, follow the Mount Thielsen Trail (USFS #1456) up to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), thrash up the prominent use trail from the PCT to the ridge, then do an 80-foot or so scramble (Class 3+) to the top. We can’t recall whether the current trailhead and Sno-Park were there in 1998.  If they were, we missed them. Instead, we followed a part of the old Oregon Skyline Trail up from the south end of Diamond Lake to the PCT. The Skyline’s old tread was faint in places, but not hard to follow, and some of the old metal Pacific Crest Trail System signs were still in place. From the PCT, we went directly up the crumbly pumice slope to the notch (Chicken Ledge) on the ridge below the summit. I climbed the summit blocks trailing a rope and then brought The LovedOne up on belay.  Big views all around! The summit of Thielsen is famous for the little patches of melted rock where it’s been struck by lightning. As we were admiring those, clouds began to build with surprising rapidy, the sky darkened, and suddenly we could envision ourselves as two little melted spots. I belayed The LovedOne down, she retrieved the rope while I downclimbed, and then we shot down the pumice slope. We had just reached the PCT when Zeus started hurling bolts. Those missed us but the inch-in-diameter hail did not – it was like being pelted with rocks. We took the chance that we were far enough downslope to seek shelter from this pelting under a pine tree without it becoming a lightning rod. There was a certain medieval feel to this – death by stoning or burning (after a lightning strike) – your choice! However, after only a few minutes (it seemed longer), the storm spent itself, the pelting stopped, and we were able to make our way safely back down the Skyline. In the end, it was a unique Thielsen climbing experience: an historic approach trail, a fun scramble, big views, lightning melts, lightning itself, a stoning, and beers in Klamath Falls.

Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
The Oregon Skyline Trail (arrow) from Diamond Lake to Mount Thielsen (1956 map)
Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Thielsen from the Skyline Trail at the PCT (arrow is Chicken Ledge)
Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Climbing scree and loose rocks on the way to Chicken Ledge
Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
At Chicken Ledge
Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Climbing the ridge; Cottonwood Creek far below
Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Almost there…
Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Running down the scree ahead of the approaching storm
Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon
Hail!

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