Summit Mt. Thielsen
Oregon › Mt Thielsen Trailhead
Added by Dan Loch
Breathtaking views of Central and Southern Oregon from the spectacular spire summit w/ 1000-2000+ ft drops on either side. Eery and unearthly volcanic terrain to take in the views of Crater Lake to the south, Diamond Lake, Mt Bailey, the Sisters...called the "Lightning Rod" of the Cascades.
It may look quite intimidating from the base and surrounding areas but this hike/climb to the summit is quite straightforward and the standard route is non-technical. That being said, there are areas with some significant exposure with 2200 foot drops on its north and east faces that will definitely get your heart pumping should you chose to explore those areas. The spire summit itself is rather small, so be aware of potential crowding at the summit (summer, late to mid-day on weekends). I recommend going in early summer (some intermittent patches of snow along trail likely) with an early start to catch sunrise and beat the heat. If going in the winter or spring, this climb is more advanced requiring experience and skills in snow/ice travel.
Mt Thielsen does not get its nickname "Lightning Rod of the Cascades" for no reason, it is struck more frequently than any other spot in the cascades. In actuality, weather is the most inherent danger on this climb so be sure to check weather before you hike and make the appropriate choice as weather can move in rather quickly in this highly exposed area. Fulgurites (lightning caused deposits) all over the summit block from its countless lightning strikes.
The most popular and least technical route to the summit is the West Ridge/Mt Thielsen Trail. The trailhead is just east of Diamond Lake on Highway 138. Gain access to the trail by parking at the Mt Thielsen trailhead and hiking 3-4 miles to its junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. Cross the PCT and head up the West Ridge to the base of the summit horn ( about 5 miles total to summit). The scree fields to the summit horn are rather tedious and unstable. Once at the summit horn, stay to the southeast for the easiest and least exposed route to the summit. With a Class 5.1 scramble at the top, roping up is not necessary though some parties do decide to do so as there have been fatalities from falls near the summit. Rockfall is also a potential danger on this crumbling mountain so please be aware of climbers above and below you. There are more technical routes available for those wanting a bit more exposure and adrenaline. Plan on 4-6 hrs to summit on average without snow (which may be prevalent through mid-summer depending on the season). There are no sources of water along the standard route.
Some hikers have chosen to bring mountain bikes with them to leave at junction with PCT to allow for a quicker descent after summit. In the winter, one can also snowshoe/skin up and ski/board down though be aware of avalanche danger as there a few avalanche prone areas along the way to summit.
Things to Know:
There is a vault toilet at trailhead, which normally has ample parking as well. $5 daily permit required or Northwest Forest Pass. Bring your mosquito repellant, they are feisty along the wooded-areas before tree-line.
- Hiking boots (some do it in gym/running shoes) but something a bit more sturdy for the scree fields is recommended
- Day pack
- Trekking poles (optional)
- Helmet (optional, for rock-fall)
- Mosquito repellant
- Appropriate clothing (cool in mornings, hot during mid-day summer); for spring/fall/winter: appropriate multilayer, moisture wicking, waterproof layers
- Camera, GoPro, etc
If climbing in spring/winter:
- Ice axe
- Snowshoes or skis and skins
- Avalanche beacon
- Rope and harness (recommended)
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What a summit
Summited in June of 2015, and what a summit it is. The views are spectacular in all directions, but the best part was the glimpse of the southern shores of Crater Lake. Thielsen is just tall enough to peer down into the caldera. Go early, before the winds and clouds pick up, and before other hikers make it to the top. We had the summit to ourselves.
This is a wonderful X-country ski trip. You can get significantly above tree line/PCT before grade and avalanche issues come into play. If you lose the trail (which you will) just continue east on an easy grade and soon you break out above tree line. I have always done it as a day trip, but would make a lovely overnighter.
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