Mount Thielsen at first light
For a few years now, I’ve been calling the Pedernal in New Mexico my favorite mountain. The seemingly insurmountable flat-topped peak, made famous by Georgia O’Keeffe, was one of the first big mountains I onsighted and soloed. I first saw it in one of O’Keeffe’s paintings and said “I want to go up there” and then I drove up to northern New Mexico on my 27th birthday and climbed it. Now I might have a new favorite: Mount Thielsen in the Oregon Cascades!
Selfie with Mount Thielsen. I want to go up there! Three hours later, I was standing on the spire.
I first saw Thielsen in 2005 on my very first road trip from Pennsylvania to Oregon. The spire is visible from Crater Lake but I’m sure it did not occur to me at the time that I might be able to go up there. In the 9 years since that first road trip, I have evolved from a woman who looks up at the mountains to one who climbs them.
The approach followed a moderately steep trail for 3 miles until it crossed over the Pacific Crest Trail and then followed a ridge up class 2 and 3 talus to the class 4 summit spire. The trail runs up to the right of that tree around the right side of the hunk of rock.
Even now, with several years of mountaineering experience under my belt, I didn’t believe I could climb Thielsen until I was actually standing on top of it. That crazy witches hat of a peak is even more intimidating in person! But I’ve learned over the years how to draw power from a mountain, to let it reel me in, pulling me upwards and onwards until there’s no more up to go.
Dio negotiating the class 3 scramble to the summit spire. Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey in the background.
Dio just below Chicken Ledge, where the trail goes from steep class 3 to vertical class 4. I poured out some water for him and laid down my jacket and he waited for me at the base of the spire. We were the first ones on the trail and the first up the mountain.
Selfie at the base of the summit spire. Easy climbing over an exposed, x-rated drop.
Self portrait with Norman Thomas just below the top!
USGS marker on the summit, placed in 1955
Fulgerites aka petrified lightning on the summit spire. Thielsen is nicknamed the Lightning Rod of the Cascades. Glad I was up here on a clear day!
The sheer 2,000 foot drop down to what’s left of the Lathrop Glacier
Self portrait with Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey
Hello Crater Lake! On clear days, supposedly you can see down into the supernaturally blue waters from the summit of Thielsen , but there was too much smoke from fires burning in northern CA.
After a month in Oregon, I’m remembering why I ended up living here for a year and a half. I love this state! I’m due in Washington to pick up a friend at the airport for a few days in the Olympics! Stay tuned…
Walking on water over one of the Earth’s greatest cataclysms. Before heading north, I ran down the steep Cleetwood Cove trail to touch the blue waters of Crater Lake.
For more on Crater Lake, check out the Travels in Geology feature I wrote for EARTH magazine on Oregon’s only National Park.