Andy: I was a little unsure heading up Thielsen this time of year. I’ve summited before in early October when very little snow exists and the upper spire is guarantied to be dry. But after getting a little taste of mixed climbing during our last few peaks, I was game to try. It ended up feeling pretty casual, with minor amounts of ice and snow up high and good opportunities for protection.
This peak was just 100% fun (Type 1). The hike in and out was fast, the approach and subsequent snow slopes were in good condition, and the above mentioned spire was a blast. I’m feeling more confident and prepared than I ever have in the mountains. The feeling of familiarity is unbeatable. This stuff is just way too much damn fun.
With the trailhead bone dry, I decided against bringing skis, which was a good decision. It would have been many miles of hiking for minimal shredding. I’m most interested in skiing the west face, but on approach we noticed a recent slide that had cut loose from the upper section. With a sharp increase in temperature, above freezing temps overnight, and loads of pinwheels and roller balls, it was obvious that at least the west face was not in good condition. It was a cool perspective to look directly down on this avalanche from the summit.
Corie: Going into this climb, we were both psyched. Not only does this mountain have a short, relatively flat approach, but the summit spire is just RAD. The minute Thielsen came into sight, our pace picked up (and we de-layered). I was thankful that I had decided to pack relatively lightly for this climb as the sun rose and the area began to warm up.
Once we cleared the tree line and hit the climber’s trail, we were faced with a combination of mostly-frozen scree (I’d nearly forgotten how fun Cascade mountaineering can be when there’s no snow and ice holding the ground together) and slowly melting snow. I had a few moments of mild panic down low as I retrained myself to walk up the loose stuff but once we hit the actual, steeper, climbing section, my confidence returned to its newfound level and I fell into the process of climbing- thanks, Yvon!
The snow was actually wonderful for crampon’ing and the softer, deeper stuff up top made for very secure climbing. It seriously was almost a staircase through certain sections- if you can call sinking up to your hips in snow ‘climbing a staircase.’ That fact aside, the steep sections of climbing were secure and despite my mild nervousness after seeing the avalanche debris on the west face of Thielsen, I felt completely safe.
When we finally reached the base of the rock/mixed climbing, we were greeted by another climber who I fondly referred to as “Snowshoes McGee” since I never actually learned his name. He was down climbing when we reached him and said that he didn’t feel very safe heading up the rock (I’m not sure why since it was pretty windy and I couldn’t really hear him). We de-crampon’ed, tossed on harnesses, and Andy started to head up, protecting the climb for my own sense of security. Right before he began the climb, three, rad, split-board-toting, girls that we had been yo-yo’ing with made it up to us and I got to make some small talk and hear about their adventures while I belayed Andy up the spire.
Then it was my turn. The climbing went down easily, the rock was more solid than any of the other climbs we’ve done in the cascades to date, and the windy summit was protected on one side by a huge rock so we got to chill out in the sun for a bit and eat lunch before heading down. One more summit in the books and I couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather (I eventually stripped down to shorts and a tank top since it was SO WARM!). It was really amazing meeting the awesome people we met on this climb, and the technical aspect went down like cake. I feel so fortunate, yet again, to have had the luck we’ve had thus far and cannot wait for Mountain #10!
We drove to the trail head on Friday night after work and pitched our tent next to the car in the parking lot. Wake-up time was set for 5:30am, in other words, we got to sleep in for this climb.
The approach to Mt Thielsen was relatively easy with low elevation gain for the first few miles until we reached the climbers trail. From there the elevation gain increases on moderate (30-40*) slopes until the final push to the base of the spire (approximately 50*). The spire itself is about 80′ of mostly class 4 climbing, but a fall would almost certainly be fatal. We protected this section and found ample opportunities for good gear on solid rock. The rope was also greatly beneficial for rappelling this section. We found rap stations with good slings and cord in two locations, but a 60m rope reaches the base easily with one rap from the top.
Overall, this is a fun and fairly easy climb. As mentioned above, the approach is relatively short (4 miles) and the technical climbing is moderate and protects well if desired.
Equipment List- West Ridge
- Identical to Saint Helens, plus
- 60m rope
- 4 slings/cord of various lengths
- 0.5, 0.75, 1 Camalots
- ½ rack of stoppers
- 5 alpine draws
- Belay devices
Total Distance: 9 Miles
Time: Car to Car: 8 hours, 13 minutes; Car to Summit: 4 hours, 33 minutes
Starting Elevation: 5,187′
Summit Elevation: 9,173′
Elevation Gain: 3,986′