Approaching from Diamond Lake provides the easiest and quickest access to East Peak. The trail itself, which is primarily comprised of soft pumice below a bed of pine needles, rises so little and over such a great distance that you barely feel the gain in elevation at all. However, it is because of this great distance that the trail is rated difficult and estimated to take an average hiker 8 hours to complete; a fast hiker 5 hours.
Cross-Country travel begins once you're below Mount Thielsen's north face from the PCT crossing of Thielsen Creek - 5.7 miles from the trail head. The final portion to the summit pitch begins with crossing the rock field below Thielsen's craggy cliffs leading to a scramble toward the col, then a class 3 climb up Hollys Ridge on semi-exposed rock and finally a short jaunt over the summit saddle.
The upper portions of Thielsen Creek hold stunning beauty as it meanders through the rocky meadow surrounded by purple, violet and pink pedaled flowers and the views from here up toward Thielsen itself may give you a bit of vertigo as it can sometimes feel like a wave about to crash down upon you. This is definitely the most rewarding and best portion of the entire climb!
The Howlock Trail slowly rises in elevation as it progresses eastbound for 3.5 miles under mountain hemlock and true pine until a junction with Thielsen Creek. Follow the Thielsen Creek Trail alongside and above the creek for an additional 2.1 miles until you intersect with the Pacific Crest Trail. Your cross-country journey up East Peak takes off 0.1 mile to the south from the PCT at its crossing of Thielsen Creek. Continue following the creek southeast to its source, the Lathrop Glacier, and from here aim for the rock banks left of the col. Continue due east up Hollys Ridge until reaching East Peaks false summit. Finally drop down and across the broad saddle to East Peaks true summit.
It is recommended that you hike the ridge proper and not the slopes on East Peaks south side, as the ground is highly unstable. If looking at the image below on the left you'll see the route variations and my line of sight is looking upward along the ridge, my ascent path - a tight squeeze through branches on some class 3 rock - which is the easier choice. The image to the right was taken on my descent. Note the rock cliff on the right and the scree below it; that scree is only skin deep and thus you end up traversing on the equivalent of a hillside of marbles.
North: From Bend, OR drive south on Highway 97 for 75 miles, turn right on Highway 138 and continue for 22 miles, turn left onto Diamond Lake Loop for 0.3 mile and take the first left turn onto Corral Road. Park next to the bathroom and horse stalls.
West: From Interstate 5, either north or south, exit onto Highway 138 in Roseburg, OR heading east for Crater Lake. Follow 138 for 78 miles until reaching Diamond Lake Loop.
South: From Medford, OR head northbound on Highway 62/Crater Lake Highway 22 miles past Shady Cove and fork right, staying on Hwy 62 for an additional 35 miles. Fork left at Highway 230 and follow this an additional 24 miles before reaching the final 5 mile stretch along Highway 138 to Diamond Lake Loop.
Extra clothing, food and water/water purification (although the water closest to the Lathrop Glacier should be fine to drink directly), headlamp, whistle, map and compass, etc. ... the usual 10+ essentials.
An ice axe would definitely be helpful if climbing in the winter, although crampons are likely unnecessary.
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