Day 14: Mount Theilsen snow slide

Sunday 3rd July

Start: Bushcamp, mile 1845.5

End: Bushcamp, mile 1856

Miles: 10.5

The Crater Lake waterless despair continued today, until we finally reached a creek, on the northwest flank of Mount Theilsen.  Getting there however was tricky.

Morning has broken in camp

After setting off from camp we had a nice couple of miles clear from snow where we could actually walk as expected.  Then the pockets of snow and ice started creeping up more frequently the closer to Theilsen we got.  By the time we were scaling the western face the hairy snow and ice traverses were back! At over 7000 feet I was feeling particularly breathless, and having to methodically cut each foot into the snow was tiresome on the legs.

Mount Theilsen peak in the background
Just perfect.

We caught up with Dan, who had left camp before us.  Up until now he had deliberately avoided getting himself into these type of situations, but today he had set out to see if he could do it.  So we linked up – safety in numbers – plus he has a GPS help beacon device so if we fell off a cliff he could at least call search and rescue!  He was even more nervous than me.  For Conrad and I this was not our first snow rodeo, and I was becoming even better at learning how to fall without breaking anything.

Dan butt-sliding down behind us

We met a couple of southbound hikers who had set out from Cascade Locks (the northern border of Oregon), who gave us a condition report.  They revealed that between here and there we have two key areas of snow to get past.  Today we [hopefully] completed the first. The next awaits us up near Sisters.

There were also a few day hikers out around Theilsen eating their lunch at the trailhead.  Munching on big bags of crisps, and making huge sandwiches with whole loaves of bread whilst talking to us I began salivating.  Why didn’t they want to share?!  Especially after I subtlety complained about dehydrated food.  Hint, hint!

The heart-thumping part of the day came in the form of another butt slide down a very steep chute on the northern-side of Theilsen.  It was possibly scarier than the Devil’s Peak slide because there were many more trees dotted around for me to crash into.  Luckily I didn’t, but I did seem to fall over a lot in the slushier areas.

So once again we had a slow day due to a combination of snow and navigational difficulties – the trail was buried.  When the three of us arrived at Theilsen Creek, we had to walk 150 metres downhill to find any access to water as it was flowing beneath the ice our feet were walking on!

Theilsen Creek snowed over

The creek proved our best break spot so far.  There was a clearing beside the fast-flowing stream bathed in sunshine, so we set about gathering water.  We had also decided to eat our main meal there so that we could add a few miles and do another night dry camping.  So the stoves came out and the mac ‘n’ cheese got going, whilst we washed our stinking feet in the ice-cold spring water.

Water at last
Drying out our socks










Meanwhile a lady had appeared carrying a huge rucksack.  It transpired that Ginger had just “fallen off the mountain” that we had slid down, smashing herself into a tree in the process.  Her trousers were covered in blood and she was obviously shaken. By the time we left an hour later I think she had calmed down.  Dan had gone through some maps with her as she intends to hike out.  The quickest way would easily have been going back up the path she had just came down and taking a popular day-hiking trail out to the highway, but she couldn’t face returning to the site of her fall.  She decided to make camp at the spring, but she is heading in the same direction as us, so we may see her tomorrow.

As we finally left the mountain behind us on a steady climb up and along Sawtooth Ridge, we caught magnificent views of the dramatic shard-shaped peak getting further away. I couldn’t believe that we had started our day on the other side of it.  It looked huge!  I could also make out parts of Crater Lake’s rim even further away.  It feels rewarding to be moving further north, even though it’s so slow-going.

Tonight we are camping on a spot beside Dan at 7133 feet. It already feels much chillier than other nights, I really hope I don’t need a midnight pee!

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