Mt. Mcloughlin is a pure delight to climb. If you are new to climbing, this is a good place to start. It's more difficult than South Sister even though it is shorter. The final part of the trail is pretty steep and there are a lot of boulders to bound over. This is what separates it from South Sister. The trail is ten miles out and back, it can be accomplished in a day. We were coming from Central Oregon so we decided to make it an overnight expedition. I am glad we did. It gave us the chance to kick back in the wilderness, enjoy the atmosphere. We camped about two miles from the trailhead, leaving us with three miles to the summit on Saturday morning.
Aaron arrived early and had a fire and tent sites figured out. It was the closest thing to five star camp service that I have experienced. We all made it to camp around late afternoon. Everyone except Lance, he arrived as the sun had set and darkness covered the forest. We spent the evening enjoying camp food and did our best at telling scary stories. Does an urban myth lose it's effectiveness the more you age? Yes it does. Even if it is a true story? Let me answer it this way. Is the thought of losing your job and not being able to make a mortgage scary to you? Maybe failing health causes anxiety. An urban myth can't even scratch the surface of your scary bone. You know, the scary bone? It's the one that's connected to the, my life is so repetitive and the best thing I can see on the horizon is binge watching a Netflix show, gristle bone. So while I will give props to Tyler and Brittanie for trying, overall scary story grade, D+.
When we emerged out of our slumber jackets at 5 am, we had anticipation coursing through our veins. By the way a slumber jacket is a tent. Here at the Peak Posse we broaden our horizons literally and our vocabulary gets to grow like a fresh blade of Mt Mcloughlin grass. Speaking of someone that knows a lot, Lance. Climbing with him is story time on the trail. He told us about the different trees and the clouds, what kind they were and how they formed. Plus many other things. When my wife saw the video of this expedition, see saw Lance and asked who he was. She said he looks like a real life lumberjack. We both agreed that we wouldn't be surprised to find out he lives on the top of Mt Mcloughlin. His stories get an A+. Thanks Lance!
The trail to the summit climbs steadily. Soon we were in snow covered landscape and at the ridge of the mountain. Although the weather forecast had been for rain, possibly thunderstorms, we had perfect weather. The wind was also a concern. In fact about 700 feet below the summit, it was blowing really hard, dropped the temperature down to around 20 degrees. I remember thinking that if it was blowing like this up at the top, maybe we shouldn't cross the spine. Turns out when we reached the spine, the wind was non-existent or a very slight breeze. Aaron remarked afterward how everything we were concerned about, disappeared as we climbed. I had prayed for weeks prior, that we would have sunny skies, no wind, on the mountain. For me, it was an answer to my prayer.
The false summit gives our first look at the landing strip and above that, the summit
I mentioned "the spine." As we were walking to camp the day before, we met four travelers who had reached the summit of the mountain They showed pictures and described the conditions as fearsome. At least one of them did, the guy who is scared of heights. They also said the wind was ferocious. We all seemed to focus in on the spine. Especially Tyler. If you haven't read the story or watched the video of our South Sister adventure, then you must know that Tyler is scared of heights. So all of this information had created a great amount of emotion among the group. I must say it didn't disappoint. The summit was a lot narrower with snow on it then from the pictures I had seen sans snow.
Once we reached the ridgeline, it was pretty basic, follow the ridge to the false summit. From there, continue along the ridge to the summit. It was a bit tricky walking in the snow along the ridge. There are voids in the snow, so sometimes you posthole up to your waist. It makes you feel a bit uneasy. Couple that with the wind, the exposure from being on the side of Mt Mcloughlin and you have the ingredients for a little dish I like to call, Mountain sloppy Joes. When you eat a sloppy Joe, it ain't pretty. soon you can have sauce all over your face, clothes and plate. A sloppy Joe is a culinary enigma. That's what our footsteps were. Will I sink? Will I sink? Will I sink? Repeated 5000 times.
There was a rock outcropping that I called the landing strip, close to the summit. That's what I thought from the false summit anyway. Once we were on it, the truth was revealed. The final push to the summit meant going across a steep face of the mountain that was totally snow covered. Trekking across it was more unnerving than simply climbing up it. It was so steep that as I was standing upright, I could reach out straight in front of me and touch the ground. Steep! Once across the face it was a matter of scrambling up to the spine. For me, the spine was easy after traversing the face of the mountain. Everybody made the summit except Vivian. She had health concerns once she reached the false summit and decided to enjoy the beautiful view and wait while we tredged up. We were the only people on the mountain, the decision to stay alone for 20-30 minutes was acceptable. I applaud her for being able to listen to herself and analyze the conditions. She made the wise, safe decision.
Tyler told me later that as he left the landing strip and moved across the face that he was yelling, not thinking, yelling out loud. "It's only wind! It's only snow!" This gave me a glimpse into the fight he was waging on that mountain. A mountain let's you experience a whole range of thoughts and emotions. I felt fear, doubt, joy. I was overwhelmed when I approached the landing strip and saw what confronted me. At the same time the awesome scene that was the backdrop for the movie of my life that day was humbling, isolated, majestic. I'm sure I didn't experience the fear that Tyler did. He started up Mcloughlin that morning as Tyler. He isn't the same Tyler now. Something that can get inside you and change you is powerful beyond words. It seems the more I stack words, one on top of another, the less successful I am at conveying the true essence of climbing a mountain. As much fun as we have on our expeditions, and we do have fun, the true reason for the Peak Posse is to get shoes kicking up dirt, or snow, on the trail. The effect it will have on you is a mystery.
Tyler described the climb up South Sister as the longest, coolest amusement ride he had ever been on. That's a good word picture. For me the walk down South was nothing short of unrelenting anguish. In some cases the hike down is the real climb on the mountain. So it was with Brittanie. She scampered up the thing like nobody's business. Coming down was a different story. She struggled. Kyler, Joseph, Lance and Aaron made it to the summit and The views were breathtaking. Joseph was the first to reach the spine. He has a calmness about him, Vivian too, that is much needed on expeditions. I imagine seeing their faces on many more expeditions. This was Kyler's first summit. I have a sneaking suspicion that he will reach many more. This guy is one of the cool kids. Hey ladies, he's single! In the short time I have known him, Aaron has become a brother to me. We giggled like schoolgirls standing on the summit together. It's crazy how you push and strain and moan and complain, even if by thought only, for hours. Then, instantly the outlook changes. I found out on the way down that beside all the struggle inherent for climbing, some of the posse had soaked, freezing feet. We all can tell you things we learned and won't repeat on the next expedition.
It was a pleasure to hand each of the Posse members their Mt Mcloughlin patch. It's something that will remind them of what they did June 1st 2019. Mt Mcloughlin is a fantastic mountain to climb. If you decide to try it, Prepare and prepare some more. Some of the Posse missed out this last trip and we are planning a one day, summer attempt, probably in July.
A new chapter has started, it's entitled "The Peak Posse and Middle Sister" Will you be one of the characters in the story? The world can always use more travelers. If you want to be a part of the Peak Posse, It's so easy. Get some friends together and start climbing.
There are mountains all around you. There are mountains inside you. What will you do when those mountains collide?
For your enjoyment, we have a video of this expedition below.