Mt. McLoughlin 1/4/15
To be honest, I was expecting little from this mountain. Before deciding that this would be an ideal inclement weather peak, Andy and I read a few trip reports from various ‘bloggers’ and basically the gist of the posts was this: a bunch of people epic'ing over the summer ascent of the mountain.
Yes, mountains are steep. Yes, climbing can be hard. Yes, water and food are necessary if you want to be safe and successful.
No, I do not have patience for dramatic, over the top posts about things that I’m trying to encourage other people to try. So, anyway, going into it, Andy and I both were like, “oh okay, so this will probably be relatively easy- 7 miles round trip during the winter time, and we can totally do the climb (and the drive) during one long day.” After we “decided” that that would be our plan, we set our alarms for 2am and got prepped to drive to the trail head, climb the short, but steep trail, finish the climb, and drive home.
Well… turns out that 2am is very, very early. So we woke up, had a bleary eyed and relatively incoherent discussion about whether or not we wanted to do the drive and climb in a single day or if we would rather leave that afternoon, camp over night, and do the climb on Sunday.
We elected for option #2.
Once we arrived in the general area where the 'shorter winter route’ would start, we noticed that there was zero off the road parking and we elected to park in the parking lot at the main McLoughlin trail head. We also elected to follow the “11 mile” main trail rather than bush whack for what would likely be MILES in order to find the shorter approach.
We ALSO noticed that Andy, in our scramble to change our plans, had forgotten his bottom base layer, his pants, and his socks. Luckily, I had an extra pair of dri-fit pants AND my waterproof carhartt pants in my trunk. Score. I knew those things would come in handy one of these days…
Falling asleep was a chore since the moon was SO SUPER DUPER bright. But it happened eventually and we rose in the morning feeling relatively well rested.
The climb started off very well. The trail was incredibly well-marked by both signs and by ski tracks from previous climbers. The snow down below was very walkable, too, so I didn’t have to snowshoe up until we were a few miles in. The initial approach was relatively flat and the snow was pretty packed which made the warm up stretch quite lovely. As the morning light started to fade in through the trees, the forest lit up and we were suddenly climbing through miles of sparkling majesty. It was glorious.
Eventually, (well, after 5 or 6 miles) we made it out of the trees and were able to see the summit. I, stupidly, downed WAY too much food at once and made my self physically sick. This was a poor life choice but it was definitely a learning moment for me. We crampon'ed up shortly after our brief rest and began the summit push. The snow angle was the steepest I’ve encountered but, for the first time in my brief mountaineering career, I was not scared. I did not cry. I did not need reassurance from Andy that I was going to be OK. I felt EMPOWERED. Also, the ridgeline to the summit was INCREDIBLE and I felt incredibly motivated as we locked eyes on it and dug in. We tagged the summit, took some selfies, and started back down. The entire push up? 7 miles… not even close to the 5.5 we were anticipating.
The snow was FANTASTIC for crampon'ing. It was a bit less than ideal for Andy’s skis near the summit but eventually, he hit some pow and we both enjoyed the down climb… well, mostly. Realizing that 7 miles up means 7 miles down, we soon became ready to hit the car and eventually, well, I got a bit cranky. And envious of Andy’s skis. But we survived. We saw an amazing sunset. We drove home. And we crashed into bed like the happiest pandas in the world.