Douglas County High Point Trip Report

Mount Thielsen (9,182 ft)

Date: August 17, 2003
Author: Adam Helman

This one is really is just class 3, folks. Despite its imposing appearance, Mount Thielsen, the result of glacial scouring on all sides to the very core of its volcanic plug, is achievable sans rope and sans special skills.

Route Description

Various resources on the Internet, including other reports on this website, adequately describe the approach route. From the trailhead at some 5,350 feet, the standard route starts off as a broad trail amidst a coniferous forest, and climbs gently for perhaps 3.5 or 4 miles to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at just over 7,200 feet.

Once at the junction, note the obvious west ridge leading in your direction from the summit pinnacle. To ascend along it, find the climbing path trending upslope from the junction. The faint, upslope trail heading south is what you want: the PCT itself also goes south, but trends downhill from the junction in that direction.

The climbing path becomes increasingly steep and difficult to negotiate owing to the switchover from dirt and twigs generated by the forest, to scree and talus above treeline. By about 7,800 feet you will find the going steep enough, and the footing sufficiently precarious, that one's sanity will be at issue.

At perhaps 8,000 feet you approach some bizarre rock formations immediately south of the (now braided) path. To the east, in the direction of the summit, lie more rock formations that do not comprise the easiest route. Instead, and as the path seemingly disappears, begin contouring around the southwest slopes of the mountain, climbing slightly so as to make vertical progress. Eventually you want to wind up perhaps five hundred feet below the summit pinnacle, amidst the ball bearings and dinner plates known more commonly as unstable talus and scree.

Choose your path wisely. I elected, wherever possible, to climb atop pumice rock instead of on a scree-laden path. It is a depressingly slow process. However the increasingly dominant vision of the final goal should spur you onwards.

Achieve the saddle on the east side of the eighty foot summit pinnacle. Note the small rock outcrop, with perhaps eight feet of prominence, to the east or northeast. Since the Douglas/Klamath County boundary might run east of the true summit, you should scramble over and surmount this outcropping just in case it truly is the Klamath County highpoint.

Consider removing your pack for the final assault. I did - it is too fat to have enabled passage through the crawl space I used one-third way up between two desk-sized boulders. Choose your route wisely - you may have to back down partway after finding your first route was not doable.

Once atop, amaze yourself at the views beneath you - nearly vertical drops in every direction. This is not a place to have vertigo! It would be well to have noted the exact route of ascent from the saddle eighty feet below - that way, you at least know of one way for getting down.

I enjoyed lunch at the saddle with a sweeping view to the east. Crater Lake was visible - a fact confirmed by the observation of a symmetric reflection of the far, southern slopes of the crater interior.

Some photographs of Mount Thielsen are available.

While eating lunch, a father and son pair approached, having camped at the PCT junction the previous night. They seemed neither confident nor experienced. So I waited for them to complete their ascent, and return to the saddle, prior to heading down. Only the teenager was skinny enough to go through that crawl space. So the dad spent much time, and grief, finding an alternate path.

My round-trip time was 7.1 hours - including a fifty minute siesta at the aforementioned saddle immediately under the class 3 section.