Mount Thielsen: West Ridge

The standard route on one of Oregon’s most recognizable peaks.

Hiking Extreme

Distance
14 km
Ascent
1.1 km
Descent
1.1 km
Duration
4-5 hrs
Low Point
1.7 km
High Point
2.8 km
Gradient
28˚
Mount Thielsen: West Ridge Map

Note: This route gets a "Moderate" mountaineering difficulty rating.

Description

Of all the Oregon volcanoes, Mount Thielsen appears as one of the most imposing in form. Its summit is a singular crooked spire jutting dramatically upward, making it the tallest thing around in this region of the Cascades. On most aspects, it looks completely unyielding, but the west ridge alone offers a clear route to the summit. This is largely a hike along the ridge, followed with a final stretch of exposed but nontechnical scrambling up the pinnacle.

The route begins from the Mount Thielsen trailhead near Diamond Lake. From there, a hiking trail leads through the forest, starting out rather flat but gradually steepening. Eventually, it becomes a climber's trail going up the ridge and breaking above the treeline. The views get really spectacular, and the hiking remains straightforward until the base of the pinnacle.

Once there, the ascent turns into Class 2 and 3 scrambling, following a gully to a notch on the south face. The final 80 feet or so is much steeper, but should never exceed Class 4 moves up blocky basalt. The fall hazard is real though, so some parties opt for rope and trad gear. There is also a fixed anchor near the summit, so a rope could be used for rappelling this section instead of downclimbing. The top is a narrow and wildly airy summit, with a thousand feet falling away on all sides. From this vantage, one can see quite far up and down the Cascade Range, and Crater Lake is even visible to the south.

Note that this route is done in all seasons, but most commonly in summer when it’s snow-free, making a beginner-friendly alpine climb. Colder conditions can add significant difficulty and technical demand to the route. The peak is also notorious for lightning strikes, so be extra cautious of weather.

Sources: https://www.summitpost.org/west-ridge/155580 https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/umpqua/recarea/?recid=63524

Difficulty

Extreme

Scrambling up mountains and along technical trails with moderate fall exposure. Handholds are necessary to navigate the trail in its entirety, although they are not necessary at all times. Some obstacles can be very large and difficult to navigate, and the grades can often be near-vertical. The challenge of the trail and the steepness of the grade results in very strenuous hiking. Hikes of this difficulty blur the lines between "hiking" and "climbing".

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November

Features

  • Alpine
  • Summit Hike

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