Red Cone (Mt. Thielsen Wilderness) 13-Aug-2019

Red Cone is a small volcanic protuberance on the east side of the Mount Thielsen Wilderness (not to be confused with the Red Cone in nearby Crater Lake National Park). The cone in the wilderness is readily visible from Tipsoo Peak and I’ve long harbored a desire to see if it could be climbed. Leaving The LovedOne at the library talking šŸ™„ taxes, I went to the wilderness alone šŸ˜„ to explore Red Cone.

I started by taking the nice, easy trail up to the big views from atop Tipsoo. There was some high overcast – and a few overly hopeful mosquitoes – but it was otherwise a perfect day for a hike.

The easy trail to Tipsoo Peak
Diamond Peak (D), Cowhorn Mountain (C), and some of the Three Sisters (S) from Tipsoo Peak
Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey from Tipsoo
Howlock Mountain and Mount Thielsen from Tipsoo
Today’s goal – Red Cone

After soaking in the views from Tipsoo, I dropped off its southeast side to intersect the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in the meadow below.

Tipsoo Peak from the PCT

From the PCT, I went east through the forest toward Red Cone. Although the cone is visible from Tipsoo, it’s totally invisible once you leave the divide, so I just navigated to where it’s shown on the map. The forest here has almost no understory and few fallen trees so it’s a lot like strolling through a manicured park. This was the easy part. After about two miles, I emerged from the forest at the prow of the cone’s rocky west ridge. The surface of the ridge was treacherously loose and slippery rock and scree – this was the hard part.

On Red Cone’s west ridge
Red Cone’s volcanic plug looms over the ridge
Howlock Mountain and Sawtooth Ridge from Red Cone’s west ridge

The map (and Google Earth) indicated that the cone’s east side might be the easiest path to the summit, so I worked my way – slowly and precariously – up and around to the east side.

Nearing the top of the cone’s east ridge
The steep east side of the cone

I came around to the east ridge to find about 50 feet or so of steep – and possibly loose – terrain between me and the true summit. A few Class 3 moves brought me to the base of a high Class 4 or low Class 5 crack system that looked as though it might go to the top. I imagined seeing a rappel sling near the top of this crack. I also imagined dying if I tried to climb it, so I didn’t. There might be an easier way to the top but I was in no mood to wander around on loose rock and scree looking for it. So a snack followed by an honorable retreat. šŸ˜¦

Diamond Peak from the east side of Red Cone
Miller Lake from Red Cone
This tree fungus was the only “color” in the forest
Tipsoo Peak from my return to the PCT
The PCT near its high point in Oregon and Washington

Rather than climb back over Tipsoo, I circled around it to the south and rejoined the built trail at the end of its longest switchback. From there it was truly a stroll down to the trailhead. The sting of not making the summit was assuaged by a stop at Beckie’s in Union Creek for pie. šŸ™‚

Howlock and Thielsen from the south side of Tipsoo

Some post-hike research found that there was a fire camp somewhere near the cone in the 1920s (it wasn’t officially Red Cone until 1940). There was one listing that even suggested a fire lookout had actually been on the summit at one point. I did find a few pieces of wire and some milled wood at the base of the crack – these could have been from a lookout or a triangulation station. In either case, there’s no indication of how they might have gotten to the top back in the day. Of course, then they were adept at notching tree trunks to make ladders…

My track to and from the attempt on Red Cone
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Cowhorn Mountain (Deschutes NF) 05-Oct-2017

Cowhorn Mountain Deschutes National Forest Oregon

First off, it seems useful to review where we are here.Ā  This is not the Little Cowhorn Mountain topped with a lookout and located on the Willamette National Forest at the end of a one mile trail. This Cowhorn – what some also, for extra confusion, callĀ Cowhorn Butte – is on the Deschutes National Forest (in the Oregon Cascades Recreational Area) a few miles southwest of Crescent Lake.Ā  Back before this Cowhorn’s cow-horn shaped summit spine fell over in a 1911 storm (some storm!), it was called Little Cowhorn to distinguish it from Mount Thielsen, which was then called Big Cowhorn.Ā  The hike to this Cowhorn Mountain’s 7,664-foot summit is along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) starting north from Windigo Pass, which is reached via Forest Road (FR) 60 (a good gravel road) off State Highway 138 about six miles north of Diamond Lake.

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Cottonwood Creek Falls (Mt. Thielsen Wilderness) 15-Jul-2016

Last year, we did a loop hike along Thielsen Creek in the Mount Thielsen Wilderness. Our report on this (post) triggered some comments about the spring (shown on the USGS and USFS topo maps for this area) in the large pumice basin immediately east of Mount Thielsen. So, last week, we explored a cross-country path from the Howlock Mountain trailhead to Thielsen Meadows on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and then up to the Sawtooth Ridge overlooking the pumice basin – it’s actually called Cottonwood Creek Basin and is an area with unique botanical speciesĀ (post). At that timeĀ we decided not to press on down into the Basin to actually see the spring. It was the right decision then but it left unfinished the business of actually seeing this fabled spring. So yesterday I went back up there to rectify thisĀ situation.

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Thielsen Creek Divide (Mt. Thielsen Wilderness) 06-Jul-2016

Nine days after this hike, I hikedĀ over the Sawtooth Ridge and across Cottonwood Creek Basin to Cottonwood Creek Springs and Cottonwood Creek Falls, as describedĀ HERE.

The 55,151 acre Mount Thielsen Wilderness runs along the crest of the Cascades from the southern end of the Oregon Cascades Recreation AreaĀ to just north of Crater Lake National Park. Elevations range from 5,000 feet to the 9,182 foot summit of Mount Thielsen. Born of the same volcanic activity that created Crater Lake, this is an area with a seriously tortured geology. Last year, we did two hikes in this wilderness, one a loop from the Howlock Mountain trailhead (USFS), up the Howlock Mountain trail (USFS #1448) to the Thielsen Creek trail (USFS #1449) and up that to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We then took the PCT south to the Mount Thielsen trail (USFS #1456), followed the #1456 west to its junction with the Sprague Ridge trail (USFS #1458) and took the #1458 back to the Howlock Mountain trail and the trailhead. Ā It was screaming hot that day, so this became known as the Beau Geste hike (post). About a month later (and on a much cooler day), I did a trail and cross-country hike to Tipsoo Peak (USFS #1472) and the eastern summit of Howlock Mountain, again using a piece of the PCT to make a loop (post). Ā An upshot from this hike was a question about the spring (what we’re calling “Cottonwood Creek Spring” since it appears to be the sourceĀ of Cottonwood Creek) in the large pumice basin immediately east of Mount Thielsen.

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Tipsoo & Howlock (Mt. Thielsen Wilderness) 27-Jul-2015

Tipsoo Peak Howlock Mountain Mount Thielsen Wilderness Oregon

Mount Thielsen is, justifiably, “the” summit in the the Mount Thielsen Wilderness and is the focus of much of the scrambling/climbing activity in that area. But it sits near the end of the north-south ridge that divides this wilderness and which is itself studded with peaks and peaklets. One of these, Tipsoo Peak, has its own easy trail to its summit (and to some grand views). The other, multi-summited Howlock Mountain, is a short but intense exercise in cross-country trail and scrambling over loose rock and scree. But the views to be had – wow! Continue reading “Tipsoo & Howlock (Mt. Thielsen Wilderness) 27-Jul-2015”