By: Jess McMillan

Written on May 7, 2012

Add it to your list – Mt. McLoughlin is a must-ski! It’s my favorite volcano we have skied so far on the Volcano Tour.  I began with low expectations for multiple reasons: the lack of beta about the peak, the road closure, and the exhaustion I felt from skiing Mount Shasta the day before were definitely on the list. But I had – we had – an amazing day. The adventure, the perfect snow, the competition-worthy terrain … it all came together for us on Day 3 of the Volcano Tour. 


“Mount McLoughlin is the highest peak in southern Oregon, a beautiful near-symmetrical volcanic cone. Despite being the highest point in a 200-mile stretch of the Cascade Range between the Three Sisters and Mount Shasta, McLoughlin is relatively unknown and often overlooked. The Northeast Bowls of Mount McLoughlin are easily the finest ski descent in Southern Oregon, with a sustained 45-degree pitch in the upper sections and nice open cruising below.”

McLoughlin was the first volcano to test the team logistically.  Doubt was creeping in through the windows of the Land Yacht.  Dav, feeling deflated due to the lack of beta said, “We need to be prepared for the possibility that we don’t ski all of the volcanoes.  I thought weather would be are biggest hurdle, but logistically McLoughlin might not work out.  Maybe we should just head to Theilson?”   Luckily, Daron had spent the previous three hours on his GPS and felt confident that he could navigate the forest.  The only other deterrent was that the road to the trail head might still be covered in snow.  There was only one way to find out!

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I went to bed feeling exhausted from Shasta and a little wary about the next day’s adventure.  The road to the trail head was covered in snow, which meant we would have o hike in an additional three miles before we even began the ascent.  And we weren’t totally sure we had the correct road to the trail head.  Daron had plotted a route on his GPS, but the road we planned to follow didn’t match the road on the GPS.  It was going to be an adventure.

 Dav’s alarm went off at 5:30 am which is a later start than we had wanted – we decided that trying to navigate the thick forest in the dark would be futile, but we hoped the sunlight would give us a little advantage. A quick breakfast was in order due to our late start. We whipped up some Hulk Smoothies which are quickly becoming a favorite breakfast item for the team.

 Whole Foods Hulk Smoothie Recipe:

  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 tbsp flax seed
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tbsp Maca Powder (a.k.a. the secret weapon)

At 7:00 am, we headed up the forest service road, not sure if we would find the trailhead.  The morning was gorgeous; even if we were on the wrong road and didn’t find the peak, it was worth the walk.

 Three miles up the forest service road we came to a small, non-discript sign.  We were all hoping the sign would say “Mount McLoughlin this way,” but we weren’t so lucky.  Daron to the rescue!

Luckily, we found the trail head.  But we still needed to find the peak. We quickly changed out of our shoes into our boots.  Next step, navigate the forest.  The trees were huge and the only thing we could see was blue sky.  Suffice to say, without Daron and his GPS, we may not have skied McLoughlin today.

After an hour of skinning through the trees, we caught our first glimpse of Mount McLoughlin.  We were stoked to say the least.  After all, it looked like we were going to ski McLoughlin today.  I knew Dav was excited because he doubled his skinning speed, and we were off.  Around 8,000 ft., we skinned above treeline and saw our first view of the area. 

 The view was spectacular.  We could see Shasta to the south and Theilson to the north.  It is very unique to be able to see where you’ve been and where you are going from where you are presently – that’s something we’ve all enjoyed on this trip. From the summit of of McLoughlin, I could see Shasta to the south and Theilson to the north.  How great would it be to have that clear perspective on life?

Not only was the view fantastic, but the terrain of the East Face looked sick! 

Once we cleared treeline, the rest of the approach was a breeze.  There was a perfect ridge to skin all the way to the summit.  There is something rewarding about skinning to the summit. 

The skiing was as good as it looked!

McLoughlin should be at the top of your list of ski mountaineering destinations. I would go right now. The snow is awesome.  It is warming up, so plan to ski early. It took us five hours to reach the summit. I wouldn’t call it a slog, but I would bring a friend who knows the way of a GPS to help navigate the forest. And I would highly recommend a “quick” dip in the Lake of Woods to cool off after your ski.  The water is a refreshing 32 degrees!