Hot Rock
Lassen Peak 4x P5K WSC
Mt. Helen P300
Turner Mountain P1K

Jun 21, 2018

With: Jackie Burd

Lassen Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profile
Hot Rock later climbed Jul 27, 2023
Lassen Peak previously climbed Jun 21, 2007


Jackie had been wanting an opportunity to use crampons for some time now. I picked Lassen Peak as a good beginner's option, hoping that the South Face would still be holding enough snow to allow us to take that route to the summit instead of the trail. We had already been in the area for two dayss, climbing other peaks in the national park and adjacent national forest. I figured doing the snow hike on the last day would allow us to get our boots and clothes wet without having to worry about them drying the next day, as well as ensuring we were adequately acclimatized. We were staying at the Hat Creek Lodge in Old Station on SR44 north of the park and were up early to drive to Lassen Peak before the snow had a chance to soften much.

Hot Rock

This was an LoJ freebie on our drive through the park. Hot Rock is a large volcanic boulder lying roadside, carried to its location 5mi from Lassen's crater by the 1915 eruption and a subsequent avalanche. We were sad that it was no longer hot, but it makes for a short class 3 scramble.

Lassen Peak

When we got to the large parking lot at 8,500ft on the south side of Lassen Peak, we were dismayed to find there was very little snow on the South Slopes, certainly not enough to climb more than a few hundred feet before hitting rock and gravel. We would take the trail to the summit, then play with the crampons and axe when we got back. There were a few other cars in the lot when we arrived, a few parties having gone to the summit to watch the sunrise. There were a pair of gentlemen starting up the trail just ahead of us, but we would pass them about 15min after starting out. Most of the trail was clear of snow, but there were a few sections of snow where the trail switchbacks up the southeast side. These were still hard and icy since we had started pretty early, around 7a. One long stretch in particular went across a steep slope that would have been impossible to arrest should we slip. This had Jackie understandably spooked, but with very careful attention we made it across. It would be nearly as treacherous on our return. As dad, my strategy was to follow right behind her with my hand hovering over her daypack. At the first sign of slippage I would have pushed us both down onto the slope to maximize our friction with the snow, hopefully clutching the irregular bumps in the snow with my other hand and keep us from initiating an uncontrolled slide. I was rather glad I didn't have to test that out in practice. The rest of the hike was far less unnerving and we enjoyed the views stretching out over almost half the state and parts of Nevada as well.

There were three other guys at the crater rim, bundled up when we arrived, having gotten up early for the sunrise. We continued north along the rim to the highpoint in that direction, scrambling up through the rocks to bring us to the highest point. We laughed as we saw the other three in the background taking off their shirts in turn to pose for photos against the snowy backdrop. One of us commented that it was "a very bro thing to do." There was no register at the top, just the battered benchmark and the concrete foundation of where the small summit station used to be (it was nice to see that they removed that silly-looking thing sometime in the last 17yrs since my first visit). It had taken us about an hour and a quarter to make our way up the 2mi trail. The descent would go faster than usual since Jackie likes to speed up the process with a bit of jogging - not across the snow sections, of course.

Mt. Helen

When we got back to the parking lot we took a break to rest and scrounge for some of the remaining snacks from our cooler and food cache. Immediately across the highway to the south from the parking lot rises the modest Mt. Helen, with ample snow on its northwest and east sides for us to use for crampon practice. It was after 9:30a by this time and the parking lot was filling up with the usual crowds heading up to Lassen. The snows had softened now on the east and southeast slopes, but the northwest side of Mt. Helen proved to still be quite firm and just right for a short crampon climb. We carried our gear across the road where we donned the crampons and dad held class. We practiced the basics of the french technique (or duck walking) as we zigzagged our way up the slope over the firm snow. The snow was not continuous so we had to take the crampons off several times which was itself good practice in learning to take them on and off in various positions without dropping our gear down the slope. The last part of the climb was along the summit ridge, a class 2-3 rock scramble carrying our gear, also good practice. We stayed only a few minutes at the summit (though nice, the views hardly compare to Lassen's) before heading off the east side. This involved a class 3 downclimb about 25ft to the snow, then some steep traversing and weaving through rocks on soft snow. At the top of a sufficiently steep section with a good runout, she got some quick instruction on glissading before taking her first run down. She enjoyed it so much that she climbed back up the slope to take a second run. Afterwards we marched back across the snow to the road and back to the parking lot. It was a great success.

Turner Mountain

After driving out through the south entrance of the park (and a brief stop to visit the Sulphur Works), we headed west on SR36 towards Red Bluff and home. I had one more stop, a drive-up P1K with a lookout tower. It's a longish drive out of the town of Mineral, more than 15mi each way, most of it on unpaved forest roads. Luckily, most of the roads were in excellent condition, though the last few miles were probably not suitable for low-clearance vehicles. The summit is large and flattish with not particularly great views. There is an observation cab about 60-70ft up a tower, an unmanned living quarters next door, and an array of telecom antennae scattered about the place. The first six stairs of the observation tower were removed, but that didn't stop Jackie and I from visiting the cab on top. The wooden steps were very old an no longer maintained, several of them missing as one goes up. It seemed prudent to step on the edges of each step, avoiding the center where it seems the wood could break on any random step. It was a bit eerie in the cab with similarly suspect wooden floorboards. We spent maybe ten minutes exploring the summit before getting back in the Jeep to head for home. This one wasn't expected to be all that great and it didn't disappoint in that respect. Jackie was quite accomodating to put up with such quirks of mine. Even before we had gotten back to the highway she had made herself comfortable by reclining the seatback and settling into a long nap. It had been a good trip...

Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

For more information see these SummitPost pages: Lassen Peak - Mt. Helen

This page last updated: Mon Jul 25 09:47:31 2022
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: