With only a few opportunities to get out hiking until the end of July, I decided to run down to Medford for the night and take a shot at Mt. McLoughlin on Monday. McLoughlin is the 16th highest mountain in Oregon with an elevation of 9,495'. The trailhead elevation is around 5,575', and its approximately 5.5 miles to the summit. Last road reports had been sketchy weather or not the roads were open, but from the date of the last report it looked like it would be doable. I drove down to Medford Sunday afternoon after work and stayed at a hotel, leaving about an hour of driving to reach the trailhead.
I should have gotten moving earlier, but didn't get going until a little after 7am, reaching the trailhead around 8:20. I didn't think the insects would be so bad right now, so I didn't bring any repellant, but I was wrong. I've never seen mosquitoes that thick in my life. I quickly geared up and got moving, thinking that once I was hiking it wouldn't be that bad. I was wrong, they stayed in a swarm around me all the way up to 7,000'! Even though the roads were open, the trail was in horrible shape. The snow pretty much started at the parking area, even though it was broken and the trail was still discernible. That lasted for about a mile, then the trail was lost. About this time I tied in with a group of four skiers and we set out on some route finding. One of them had already plotted a few map points in his GPS, so we were able to steer toward the SouthEast ridge. After another mile or so, it was just a free for all, either find old tracks or head straight up.
Again, I over thought and over geared myself, such as bringing snowshoes when I didn't need them. It was also a very warm day. so I was sweating fairly heavy and trying to keep hydrated, but even that was a challenge. I kept going for several more hours, but I was becoming increasingly exhausted. Around this time, there was a front rolling through, and the weather didn't look like it was going to hold (forecast was for thunderstorms Tuesday), so I stopped at 9,200' and made a decision to turn back. At my current rate of progress I was only making 200-300' per hour anyway at last count, so one more hour up could put me into foul weather or darkness on the descent. Coming down should have been a breeze, made great time glissading down the steeper snow fields. Problem arose back in the tree line. The snow melt had obliterated most of the tracks from earlier, and one exhausted bad decision put me to the West side of a ridge, so I had to make a hook back East to reach the car, probably adding another mile or so to the hike.
Made it back to the parking area around 7pm, right when the skiers had returned. They'd summited and skied off the North side to where they had left another car, so after a quick chat and snagging some insect repellant, I threw my gear in the car and headed out. Within minutes of pulling out of the parking lot, a torrential downpour started, so it was a good call to get out of there when I did. Notes for next climb, lighten the pack, bring insect repellant, and remember to reapply sunscreen. I sunblocked before heading up, but with sweating heavy and not realizing how long I'd be on the mountain, my face ended up a little fried. All in all, it was still an awesome climb. I know now that with a snow free approach to McLoughlin, or even the Three Sisters, I can make the summit. 4 miles of mixed snow conditions, 3,625' of vertical gain, and still packing too much gear, the 9,200' mark was still pretty impressive for the ex-smoker who's lived most of his life between sea level and 500'.