May 10, 2003
Participants: Amy Davidson, Roger Fox, Rick Johnson, Paul McClellan, Jeff McClelland, and Allison Turner
The early winter low snowpack suggested a spring climb of Mount Thielsen. But later frequent snowstorms restored the snowpack and unsettled weather the day of the climb suggested that the climb would turn into a snowshoe trip, instead. Still, we were eager to start the climbing season and see what presented itself on the mountain.
We carpooled to the Mount Thielsen trailhead, driving through rain showers and without a glimpse of the mountain due to clouds. Still, it was pleasant at the parking lot and we were soon on our way.
We immediately found snow on the trail and soon put on our snowshoes, frequently swapping leads with another climbing team. We could not see the mountain but the trail was well marked with blue diamonds and appeared to be headed in the correct direction. Gradually the trail shifted to the northeast. We checked our GPS readings and oriented ourselves with the local terrain and determined that we needed to leave the trail to gain a ridge and traverse southeast back onto our intended route. From there we continued climbing up the ridge leading to the scree slope below the summit.
The heavy snowfall and thick clouds obscured our view of the mountain. We were breaking trail through deep, fresh snow, and were becoming aware of potential avalanche hazard on the open scree slope on the route above. So we decided to stop for lunch and a turnaround point at tree line near 7900’ elevation (see photo).
Click to see larger image.
We aimed directly for the trailhead on our descent, navigating by compass, and soon met the other climbing team, which also turned around near our lunch spot. The hike out started in heavy snowfall and the deep, fresh snow of winter. Lower, we traveled under the dripping, thawing snow of spring suspended in tall pine. Finally, the trailhead had the warmth and sunshine of early summer.
The other climbing party reported that this winter the weather patterns had been unusual and that the snowpack was much deeper than in normal years. So it might still be feasible to attempt an early climb of Mount Thielsen some other spring. In any event, the trip was a fun exercise in orienteering and a fine snowshoe trip. We’ll plan a return to Mount Thielsen soon to try again for the summit.