The Northeast Ridge of Mt. McLoughlin is a tough climb and is hazardous. Do not do this climb in the winter because of the avalanche danger. You need perfect weather and no snow on the mountain to do this climb. The rock fall hazard is severe.
My climbing partner Chuck and I left Medford early and arrived at the Fourmile Lake campground early. We knew we were in for a long day. We parked at the end of the campground near the restrooms and easily found the Badger Lake Trail. Head west or to your right on the trail. In less than a mile up the trail we chose a good spot to head crosscountry towards the mountain. The brush was scattered and the trees were spaced out, so it was not difficult to make our way west towards Mt. McLoughlin.
As we climbed, the mountain came into view and our objective, the Northeast Ridge was displayed ahead. We got to the ridge and had every intention of staying close to the top of the ridge. It soon became apparent that climbing the gendarmes was beyond our capabilities. The first gendarme we chose to bypass on the right or north side. As we progressed the footing on the north side became very steep and loose. We made the decision to cross the ridgeline and continue up the east side of the ridge.
Crossing the ridgeline was a dangerous endeavour. The roacks were all loose. There is a yellow band of rocks that are quite steep and everything moved. We crossed one at a time because we were kicking so many rocks back down the ridge. After crossing over we determined that staying on the scree at the base of the next large gendarme was the prudent path to take.
We continued struggling up loose talus and scree up the ridge line aroundthe second and third gendarmes. I was glad we brought our rock helmets. We made a point of staying out of each others fall line because we were kicking so many rocks off the ridge.
Finally we rounded the last gendarme and could see the summit. We climbed up to the top of the ridge and followed it up to the summit. I think we climbed about 4,400 feet in 4 1/2 miles but it took us 6 hours to reach the summit. We were beat. We also knew that going back down the Northeast Ridge was not something we wanted to attempt.
We took the regular Mt. McLoughlin Trail back down to the PCT and then turned north on the PCT. We followed the PCT for a couple of miles and then headed crosscountry to Fourmile Lake. Unfortunately we did not navigate this last stretch too carefully and we came out on the Fourmile Lake Road instead of the lake itself. We walked the road the last mile to the car and arrived just at dark. Total trip took 10 hours and it was about 12 miles round trip. Our water ran out during the last hour, so we were really done when we reached the car. If you attempt this route take lots of water, there is none on the mountain.
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