Climbing a 10,000 ft volcano barefoot

Discussion in 'Outings, Trips & Expeditions' started by Bitterroot Native, Jul 11, 2019.

  1. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    Hello BCUSA! Yesterday I embarked on an epic journey to the top of my AO in Southern Oregon. Mt. Mcloughlin is a volcanic peak in the Southern Cascades of Southern Oregon. It sits right around 10,000 feet (a little less if I recall) and is the highest point in the county (Mt. Shasta to the south is taller but in California). This mountain has been looming over me for years and ever since I first laid eyes on it, I have told myself I was going to climb it "this summer". Many summers later "this summer" finally came and I decided to have a go at it.

    I desperately needed the exercise as I have become out of shape. I also wanted to scout for hunting grounds and have a look around at what kind of rocks were in the area for making stone tools. Needing to toughen up my feet a bit for this hunting season I decided to go barefoot for the entire hike in, roughly 5.5 miles. The length of this hike totaled 11 miles the first half of which were all uphill progressively getting steeper and steeper as the hike went on.

    Mt. Mcloughlin in the distance (pic was taken previous to this trip)
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    I arrived at the trailhead around 7am, it was a good time to start as I knew it was going to be a long hike and a possibly hot day. The first portion of the trail wound through massive douglas fir forests and it was easy to cover ground quickly. I looked for some edibles to forage along the way but didn't see anything that caught my eye.

    Starting to gain in elevation, the terrain becomes more rocky and the trees smaller
    20190710_091417.jpg

    After covering a couple miles I reached the base of the mountain, the terrain became progressively more steep and rocky. I kept an eye out for game animals but only seen a scant few small birds and squirrels. The only tracks I seen were a single small deer track here and there which isn't surprising considering the altitude.

    The area would be an ideal place to make some primitive traps, either figure 4 deadfall traps or a koolyamka set. A lot of flat rocks with an abundant rodent population. Looking back at it I should have made a couple for practice and for fun but I was pretty focused on getting to the treeline.

    Rocky area good for trapping
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    I was making great progress and covering a lot of ground until the trail started to deteriorate and become more rock/talus than anything else. Still barefoot I proceeded with great caution and took my time picking my way further and further up the mountain. The large douglas firs that dominated the landscape beneath me started to give way to whitebark pine, a species of high altitude pine found throughout Western North America. This high elevation landscape is one I haven't explored much in this area.

    The "trail" is becoming less visible and less trail like
    20190710_100009.jpg

    The trail was getting very steep and much less defined in a lot of places. It was marked with a cairn here and there to help guide the way. I lost the trail many times and I relied on footprints of previous hikers more than anything else to point me in the right direction. This trail is definitely not for someone unfamiliar with the woods.

    I was starting to feel a bit fatigued at this point, a result of my terrible physical conditioning at the moment. I took a long rest and hunkered down behind a log to watch a long open rock field for any signs of animals. Nothing managed to show itself.

    After climbing even higher I was rewarded with views of nearby four mile lake and Klamath lake in the distance
    20190710_112123.jpg

    The view was spectacular! A sea of green in all directions was sprawled out before me. I could see nearly all the areas lakes and mountains despite the haze. I have so many memories here and it was cool to see all the places that I hunt, fish, trap, and craft bush. On a clear day the pacific ocean can be seen from the mountain. Mount Shasta was visible also but didn't show up in any of the pics. I don't have the best camera on my phone either.

    Climbing even higher the trees became even smaller, looking gnarled and scraggly shaped by the winds and heavy snows. The climb was becoming incredibly steep and slow going. The trail was difficult to follow and only occasionally marked with rock cairns. The ground was becoming somewhat sandy and the rocks were more volcanic in nature. I was approaching the treeline and getting ever closer to the top.

    I crossed over several left over patches of snow from last winter, the snow was a welcome sight in july. I even dug into some and ate a handful or two. I was becoming quite fatigued and welcomed the cool respite. After what seemed like an eternity of climbing I finally broke out of the treeline and onto the steep sided ridge leading to the summit. The view hit me out of nowhere, the drastic change in scenery was stunning and sudden. Cliffs and rock spires jutted out in the distance.

    20190710_113052.jpg

    I sat on the crest of the ridge for awhile taking in the scenery and enjoying the view. After covering that much ground barefoot my feet felt surprisingly good suffering no injuries. I was getting into some harsh territory though, the volcanic sand and rock was sharp and unpleasant to walk on.

    I thought that after I broke through the treeline it would be a quick jaunt to the top, I was terribly mistaken. The "trail" had faded into nothing more than a scattered rock cairn here and there with no real apparent or easy path upwards. This was becoming less of a hike and more of a climb as I needed to use my arms a great deal, often crawling on all 4's. I picked what I assumed to be the easiest route up and slowly and carefully continued my ascent.

    I reached a small plateau of sorts and stopped for a rest at what I would guess was around 9,000 ft elevation. The ground was a gnarled mass of sand and pumice stone. Sands of drastically different colors were everywhere ranging from black to a red rusty color and everything in between. It was almost like a completely different world from the forest below. Studying the ground something caught my eye

    Small obsidian flake I found on the surface
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    Obsidian! I couldn't believe my eyes. I have researched online looking for local obsidian deposits and everything I read said there were none, I have proven this wrong. I searched extensively for a larger chunk that this could have came off of but I turned up nothing. This was the only flake I could find. I considered digging for some but thought better of it. This piece could have been a fluke, a shard pushed up from an eruption long ago. It was too small to really make anything from but I still kept it as a momento of the trip and a trophy of sorts as the first obsidian I've ever found in the wild.

    At this point I was pretty tired and wore out. I haven't been out much this year and I was feeling the results of that. I wasn't as sure footed as I had been earlier and didn't have that pep in my step that I had in the beginning. The terrain was getting sandy again and even steeper, my feet were starting to slide in the sand and sharp rocks. It was at this point I decided to put shoes on.

    Time to call it quits and put on shoes
    20190710_123443.jpg

    As much as I would have liked to have continued barefoot it just wasn't safe. A cut out here would be bad news. I was miles out in a wilderness area and didn't want to risk it. I threw on my shoes and climbed a little bit higher when the weather started to turn. The wind picked up significantly and the temp started to drop quite a bit. Clouds started to move in and completely blocked the view on the north side of the mountain.

    20190710_131946.jpg

    Only a 100 yards or so from where I put on shoes I decided to turn around. The wind almost knocked me off balance a few times and my legs were pretty fatigued and less steady than usual. This is a bad combo in this environment. I was a stones throw from the summit and turning around was hard to stomach but I think I ultimately made the right choice. I explored enough of the volcanic summit to satisfy my curiosity.

    I cautiously picked my way down the steep talus face of the mountain and plotted my own route back down to the actual trail. The hike back was much hotter than the walk in but was pretty uneventful. The climb down the mountain was somewhat slow but once I got off the rocks and into the treeline it was much easier walking. I took my time walking out keeping an eye out for small game and other signs of wildlife.

    I emerged at my truck some 9 hours after I started my trek. I was wore out but felt accomplished and happy that I completed the journey.


    Overall it was an awesome day in the wilderness! I regret not taking the time to practice some of the more hands on skills of bushcraft while I was there but I'm glad I got to explore an environment that I hadn't experienced in this area. I felt like a kid in a candy store looking at all the new sights, plants, and animals. The landscape was absolutely stunning and deceptively dangerous in nature. This trip wore me out but was worth every bit of the effort and then some! I learned a lot about the area and got some exercise in the process.

    I view going barefoot as a skill like any other that should be practiced and honed over time. Learning how to move and where to put your feet, what plants hurt to step on, which are poisonous, ect takes time and practice in the field before one becomes proficient. Not to mention the physical aspect of conditioning the soles of the feet and related musculature of the ankle/lower leg.
    I suffered not one injury, scratch, scrape, or cut on my feet after 5 and a half miles of steep, rocky, and volcanic mountain/alpine terrain.

    Thanks for reading along and checking out my trip report! :dblthumb:
    20190710_124344.jpg
     
  2. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    I took a GoPro camera up with me and recorded much of the journey. I'm working on putting together a video, I should have it up soon :D

    Pic of the summit before the clouds came in
    20190710_124946.jpg

    Stretch of rock/talus I watched over looking for animals
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    Snow field
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    Not bad considering the distance and terrain. The dark spots are where I stepped in sap.
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    Can't for the life of me figure out what this sign used to say
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    More above treeline action
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    High altitude manzanita. This was a prominent shrub in the high country, the flowers and berries (no berries at the moment) are edible.
    20190710_135738.jpg

    This was posted at the trailhead. Good info to know!
    20190710_160701.jpg

    Only flowers I seen the whole trip. A hardy species no doubt, gotta be tough to live in the mountains!
    20190710_104536.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
  3. atlastrekker

    atlastrekker Guide Bushclass III Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    Even though you didn't make the summit it was still a pretty epic journey! Thank you for posting your trip!
     
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  4. John from Alberta

    John from Alberta Supporter Supporter

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    Great trip report! Thanks for sharing.
     
  5. VtBlackDog

    VtBlackDog Guide Bushclass I

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    Thats some wild landscape out there
     
  6. IzaWildman

    IzaWildman Grey Owl Supporter

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    Great trip and report! Following you up the mountain was almost like being there.
     
  7. Beach Hiker

    Beach Hiker LB 42 Supporter

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    Interesting point!
     
  8. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    You're welcome! Glad you enjoyed it. I was close enough to the summit for my tastes. The clouds obstructing the view really put a damper on my bid for the summit. I wouldn't have been able to see anything but clouds from the top.

    Thanks! It was a fun trip and fun to relive it while writing the trip report :)

    It really is! Once I got above the treeline it was an almost alien like world of volcanic rock and ice. Very different from where I usually hang my hat in the wilds.

    Good to see you enjoyed it! I shot my first gopro footage on this trip and recorded almost the whole expedition. I'll post the vid as soon as I get the editing done :dblthumb:

    For most people shoes are the one piece of gear that is relied on 100% for their ability to move through the environment. A man without shoes is effectively incapacitated and rendered immobile. I don't want to rely on ANY piece of gear that much. I've had boots and shoes literally fall apart beyond repair on trips before. I like to know if push comes to shove I can make it without any prosthetics on my feet :D
     
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  9. Smokey Radley

    Smokey Radley Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Thank you for sharing, that was a good read and the pictures are great. It seems you struck a good balance between pushing yourself and knowing when to call it. (shoes and summting.) good on you!
     
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  10. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    Glad you enjoyed the read and pics! Knowing when to hold em and when to fold em is really important in almost any wilderness situation. I definitely wanted to push myself and REALLY wanted to make the summit but if there is one thing nature has taught me it is to be humble :dblthumb:
     
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  11. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Yikes! Great photos. :) A very rewarding day for you. It's a good idea to push yourself like that sometimes. It's nice to see you back and posting reports again. :)
     
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  12. mtwarden

    mtwarden roaming the Big Sky Supporter

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    great area!

    holy $hit- your feet must be tough, I tiptoe around my backyard barefoot like a sissy! :D
     
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  13. Bobsdock

    Bobsdock So long, and thanks for all the fish Supporter

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    Outstanding trip and report brother.
    5 plus miles barefooted you sir are a beast. That would have tore my feet to shreds. Thanks for sharing.
     
  14. Seahunter

    Seahunter Supporter Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    That was a great trip report.
     
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  15. RavenLoon

    RavenLoon axology student Supporter

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    Nice report. That obsidian flake could have been left by an ancient hunter touching up his tool or weapon.
     
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  16. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    Thanks! Good to be back, I really enjoy posting trip reports of my adventures.

    Tiptoeing around the backyard is the first step to getting your feet toughened up!

    Haha thanks man, I try to go beast mode from time to time :D.

    Thanks brother!

    Thanks! You know I never even thought of that but that is a possibility for sure. The flake had conchoidial fracture marks as if it had been struck by a billet or stone.
     
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  17. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead LB#42 Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    Wow, how cool is that!?!
    Thanks for a very interesting trip report!
     
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  18. Hoof

    Hoof Former Genius Bushcraft Friend

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    Haha, people are going to spot your footprints up there and wonder "WTH?!?"
     
  19. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    You're welcome! It was an interesting journey for sure haha. It's nice to do something a little different from time to time.

    Lol! So true! When I came across mud and snow I made sure to step heavy to ensure I left my mark :D. People are going to swear up and down they seen bigfoot tracks haha.

    I ran into a few people on the mountain who gave me the "WTH!?" look
     
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  20. Primordial

    Primordial MOA #40 Supporter

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    A great and epic hike! Do you think you will ever attempt a summit again?

    I enjoyed the photos and the great write up. It felt like I was there sucking in that thin air with you.

    Thanks for sharing your adventure.
     
  21. badglide9705

    badglide9705 Hobbyist Hobbyist Supporter

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    I think the sign used to say "Put your shoes on!" :rolleyes:
     
  22. CowboyJesus

    CowboyJesus Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    that's hard core man! especially barefoot. i used to be barefoot all the time, and that was when i tried knapping-so i can feel ya with obsidian in the foot! definitely a good time to pull out the footware!
     
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  23. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    You're welcome! Thanks for checking it out and reading along. I might attempt the summit again, my dad really wanted to go with me but couldn't at the time so I think he's going to want to have a go at it, I'll tag along with him. I'm sure he'll be wearing shoes though :cool:.

    Lol hippies must have chipped away at the sign until it was illegible :18:

    I think I recall seeing a post or two of yours where you were barefoot! Do you still hit the woods barefoot?
     
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  24. CowboyJesus

    CowboyJesus Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    not as much as i used to. it was more common when i barefooted all the time AND lived near more easily accessible woods. i have occasionally instead of having to dry my shoes out later....but i do miss it! i slowed down and was more aware of things when i went barefoot in the woods. for example, as a barefooter, i was more aware of where i was stepping, plus aware of where plantain and jewelsweed are! i am missing it, the more i think about it right now.i guess i'll need to do my yard work barefoot today to try to make up for it!
     
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