Thursday, November 12, 2015

Climbing Lassen Peak

"Great things are done when men and mountains meet."  - William Blake

Lassen Peak devastated side

(**Ahem**  I'd like to amend the above quote:  Great things are also done when WOMEN and mountains meet.)

On the second day of my Lassen Volcanic National Park trip, I got the opportunity to achieve greatness by tackling the trek up Lassen Peak.

Golden fall meadow

After a night of sound sleep, I awoke to a beautiful clear morning.  Perfect mountain climbing weather!  Following the only highway that snaked through Lassen Park, I drunk in spectacular scenery while driving to the trailhead.  The winding road provided many wonderful viewpoints of this massive mountain. My arrival at Lassen Peak Trailhead was slightly delayed for a few (okay, many) photo stops along the way. 

Trailhead parking lot

The park road climbed relentlessly, from 5900 feet at Manzanita Lake, to 8200 feet at the Lassen Peak Trailhead.  As I parked my car in the huge lot, I realized this trailhead's elevation was almost equal to Mt. St. Helens' summit (MSH is at 8365 feet).

Beginning my climb

I was really high up!  Lingering snow patches still lined the parking lot edges and clung to the tops of nearby peaks.  Folks in the neighboring campsite had warned me that the upper reaches of Lassen Peak might be impassible due to snow and ice.  Feeling a little apprehensive about trail conditions, I fretted about being forced to turn around near the summit.  But I'd traveled too far not to give it a try.

Three mountains all in a row

The trek up Lassen Peak is short and steep, rising 2000 vertical feet in 2.5 miles.  The trail starts climbing right from the parking lot, and it didn't take long before I was huffing and puffing.  But this quick ascent meant rewards came quickly, and the stunning landscape began to spread out below me.

Lake Helen

Shimmering blue Lake Helen appeared below the mountain's rocky cliffs.

Faraway views to the east

And to the east, Juniper lake and surrounding hills emerged from the misty horizon.

A bit of snow on the trail

About a third of the way up, snow began to partially block the trail.  At first, it was easy to bypass most of it.  But as I climbed, the white stuff began to get deeper, and covered more and more of the path.  Finally, I had to start wading through.  Luckily, the temperatures were warm enough to make the snow soft and slushy, so it was relatively easy to traverse.

Lake Helen is getting smaller...

I had my trekking poles for balance and stability, and tried to place my feet in the steps made by others.  When the steps weren't in the right places, I merely kicked some of my own.  Because I ski a lot, I'm used to traveling in snow, and hiking in it didn't bother me.  But I watched many others who were having a hard time navigating the snow patches.

Almost there!

For a steep climb this trail attracted crowds, even in mid-September.  I saw many people who didn't appear to have the necessary fitness to tackle such a strenuous hike.  Lots of families with young children, and quite a few older people were struggling in some of the steep, snowy places.  Quite a few folks weren't wearing proper footwear (I saw one lady in leather dress shoes!) or didn't appear to be carrying enough water (or any water).

Made it!

I'm not a very fast hiker, but I passed quite a few parties.  Although the high elevation slowed me some (well...that and photo taking), I was pleasantly surprised when the final summit pitch came into view.

Spectacular panoramas

Oh were the views glorious!  Northern California stretched out in all directions.  I could even see Mt. Shasta on the northern skyline.

Actual summit elevation is 10,457 feet - my gps is close

There were quite a few people on top.  One nice man offered to take my photo, and of course I took him up on it.

Victory photo

The actual true summit was a rocky pinnacle to the northeast of where most people stopped.  I saw a few hardy hikers scramble up its steep slopes, but decided to pass.  The ascent and altitude had tired me a bit, and I wanted to save energy for the trip down.

My little snowman

I ran into a nice family from - of all places - Oregon!  Their kids were having fun rolling snowballs, and this gave me the wild idea to make a tiny snowman.  I packed three fist-sized snowballs together and added a couple of rocks for eyes. 

Someone else liked my snowman too

My little snow-guy was a hit!  Not only did the kids like him, I caught this man snapping a photo as I was heading back down.

Heading back down

After climbing all morning, it was time for some sweet downhill!  I happily glided down the trail, casting sympathetic looks to all the people still grunting their way up.

Navigating the snow

Reaching the snowy patches, I found them quite trampled from the morning hiker traffic.  Footing had become uneven, and the snow packed into slippery icy patches.  That, combined with my downhill momentum made for some treacherous passages.  But I took things slow, used my trekking poles, and got through just fine.

Snow is starting to melt

The views coming down were just as grand.  I felt lucky to have such perfect weather - clear skies and moderate temperatures.  There's not much shade on this trail, and I'm sure it can be a hot trek in summer.

Close up look at the devastated area

At one point, the trail switchbacked around to give hikers a view of the "devastated area," the side of Lassen Peak where mudflows and hot gases traveled during the 1915 eruption, obliterating everything in their path.

Rock formation near the trailhead

My return trip took half as much time as my ascent.  It wasn't long before I was rounding the final switchback, the massive parking lot in full view.  Although it was now mid-afternoon, a constant stream of people still marched up the trail.  But I was most happy to be done.

Post hike relaxing at Lake Helen

I celebrated by munching potato chips on Lake Helen's shoreline, whose blue waters I'd admired during my climb and descent.  Lassen Peak reflected in the lake's surface, and I gazed at the summit with satisfaction.  An amazing hike, I was glad the weather and snow conditions had cooperated.  Yes indeed, great things had been accomplished today.

Next on my Lassen list was hiking into Bumpass Hell, a unique hydrothermal area.  Photos and story in my next post!

Sharing with:  Scenic Weekends and Our Beautiful World


  1. Great post, loved it all. Congrats for making it to the top... and yes, that quote needs to be amended...
    "Great things are done when women (okay, and men) and mountains meet."

  2. WOW! What an amazing track and trip. FANTASTIC views and i love seeing you on top with the snowman!

  3. Fantásticas estas montanhas de uma grande beleza com paisagens espectaculares.
    Um abraço e bom fim de semana.

  4. Hello Linda, your hiking adventures just amaze me. I love the views of the lakes and Mt Lassen. Your little snowman is so cute. Congrats for making it to the top and thru the snow and ice! The ski poles are a big help. Thanks for taking me along! Awesome photos. Happy Friday, enjoy your weekend!

  5. What an amazing hike! Judging by that first photo of the big mountain, I still can't believe you could walk all the way to the top so readily! Love to have a few more serious mountains around here!

  6. Isn't it fun to summit a peak from a short hike! Looks like it was a really good thing you had trekking poles! It always cracks me up, the people who really are not used to hiking and are not really prepared! Actually, it is scary to see!

  7. Absolutely spectacular, Linda. Gorgeous scenery! And I agree with your version of the quote! :)

  8. At 10000 ft. I am gasping so I know the effort this took. Fantastic photos of your climb.

  9. I can see why your little snowman was so popular. He was very expressive!

  10. Love your view from above of Lake Helen. So reminds me of some of my hikes at Glacier water ton park. Also think your amendment is a very good one. Love seeing the scenery you are around through your eyes. Awesome

  11. Well done Linda. Oh how I envy you admiring those spectacular views. Enjoy the rest of your break.

  12. What a stunning ascent. Wow! Mind blowing. Love all your photos.

  13. Gorgeous! What a spectacular place and what beautiful photos. And I love that quote...especially after you 'fixed' it with the replacement of the word 'women' ;)

  14. What a great hike! Leather dress shoes? People are crazy!

  15. Awesome! I went up Lassen in June and the snowy patches looked similar, only the ones I passed through were remnants from the winter snow, not new stuff. Went up in August too, only in the smoke. You got a perfect day!!! Can't wait to hear about Bumpass Hell, I haven't been there yet.

  16. Thats one heck of a climb. I don't think I would've made it to the top. Love the view out over the lake below.

  17. Stunning photos, Linda. They are spectacular!! I almost feel like I was there with you! I especially love the little snowman and the way others were snapping photos of him!

  18. Very nice - that first shot is spectacular

  19. You reminded me how much I used to love to Colorado's fourteeners when I lived there. Now my hiking is in the lowlands of the Pacific Northwest, but I would LOVE to climb this peak. It's beautiful, and your pictures are fabulous! :-)

  20. Absolutely stunning! I love the snowman, he seemed to be popular. Take care of those feet!!

  21. Beautiful! I especially liked the photos of Lake Helen! Your snowman was cute too! :)

  22. I want to go back again and try the summit - we only had a day and decided to do a hike nearby was fairly warm and sunny the day we were there - so I decided a hike in the shade would be better. Now - I wish we would have just done it! It is such a beautiful park!

  23. Oh just beautiful. Love the views from the top. It reminds me of St. Marys Glacier in Colorado. If you ever get to Colorado you need to go there.

  24. HelloLinda,
    thanks for your comment! I discovered great photos on your blog, and I also discovered that I was twice near Lassen Park in Big Bend, Shasta County. It's beautiful there!
    Best wishes from Cologne

  25. Hi! Congratulations for your climbing up the mountain top. The first photo and Lake Helen's photos are breathtakingly beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  26. What a great hike - spectacular views and photos. Sea-level people staying at my house (7,100 feet elevation) notice the elevation, and hiking higher up is even more breathtaking!

  27. Wow, what a spectacular climb! The views are simply amazing. Kudos to you for doing this one; that's a lot of elevation change in less than 3 miles. Looking forward to the next post in your adventure!

  28. What an absolutely fantastic hike you have had in such perfect weather. I haven't had any time to catch up on your blog but it appears that you really have been enjoying the great outdoors.

  29. Well done. Looks an impressive mountain and great views. Lucky to get it in fine conditions. We received our first big snowfalls of winter here over the mountains and flooding at lower levels. Not seen any sun for a while now :o(

  30. Such beautiful views and I love your cute snowman!

  31. Beautiful photos and a lovely story to match. So glad to have found you through Our Beautiful World.

  32. Spectacular! Whew.. that one tired me out just looking at those steep trails and imagining the thin air. I could feel the huffing and puffing on the way up and the wind in the sails on the way down (with caution brakes on!)
    I like your modified quote Oh, Great One, Linda!!

  33. You make me wanna go to the mountains right NOW! :) Beautiful beautiful post with gorgeous photos of a stunningly beautiful place. Thank you so much for sharing your hike with us at Our Beautiful World Linda, I very much enjoyed reading it!

  34. Oh what lovely photos!! I loved seeing these! Thanks so much for sharing at OBW!!

  35. spectacular views. I absolutely love Lake Helen (image 6). Oh how I wish I could visit Oregon for about 6 months.

  36. What striking photos! Sounds like you had a wonderful journey. Actually, it looks like you had a wonderful journey too. The sapphire-blue lake and skies are simply stunning. Thanks for sharing.

  37. Wow, quite a place! So Bumpass is a real name... poor guy!
    Love the chipmunks.

  38. Gorgeous views! The lake is very pretty. Your snowman is so cute. :-)


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