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PHOTO BY LEE JUILLERAT

Glass Mountain is viewed from Lyons Peak.

A successful return to Glass Mountain

In June we drove to Glass Mountain in Northern California, and an unexpected snowstorm mostly obliterated our hiking views, so we made plans to return, which we did recently.

This time around, sunny skies allowed our small hiking group to wander about the trails on Glass Mountain and see things we’d missed the first time, such as exposed slabs of obsidian, some black slabs seemingly shimmering, others textured with soft tones of red and brown.

Best of all, a short hike up the road from the main parking area led to an obscure trail that meandered through more obsidian flows until — Wow! — a massive, deep, black obsidian outcropping appeared. Bedazzled, we climbed up and around, lured by its magnetic appeal.

We had talked earlier about climbing Lyons Peak, one of the mountains that reaches above Glass Mountain’s lower reaches and lava fields. There’s no designated trail, and Lyon’s steep slopes looked daunting.

Urged on by Hans Kuhr, who after checking his topo map determined the climb would be less than a mile but with an elevation gain of about 800 feet, we began winding relentlessly uphill, said by some to be a 40-plus-degree grade. We followed our individual do-it-ourselves paths, making repeated switchbacks.

During one of our several pauses, Hans announced the distance to the top was a quarter-mile. After another several grunting minutes, he declared it was less than a quarter-mile. And after yet another uphill assault, we saw a narrow ridge of blue sky. Tantalized and invigorated, we pushed on.

But the ridgeline wasn’t Lyons’ top. Ahead was an exposed, two-steps forward, one-sliding-step-back, pumice slippery slope, one more challenge before reaching Lyons 7,900-foot summit.

The grunts and grumbles crumbled at the top.

The 360-degree panorama was eye-popping. Looking west, views of snow-covered Mount Shasta seemed to erupt between trees lining Lyons’ summit. Visible, too, was nearby Mount Hoffman. With a summit elevation of 7,864 feet, it’s nearly Lyons twin — some maps mark Lyon’s peak elevation as 7,867 feet. But best of all was looking down on Glass Mountain and its massively sprawling, obsidian-strewn lava fields.

Lyons Peak was named to honor, or lionize, George Washington Lyons, a former Modoc National Forest supervisor who died at age 49 in 1929 during an on-the-job accident. Just as there is no dedicated trail up the peak, there are no interpretative signs honoring Lyons or providing details of his death.

The uphill climb had been challenging, and we worried the downhill retreat might be more knee-buckling because of the steepness and the unstable surface. Those fears quickly evaporated. While descending the ridge, instead of mimicking our uphill route we followed a faint trail among and alongside chainsaw-fallen trees. The footing was firmer and the grade less steep. Even better, it ended immediately above our parked cars.

Lyons is officially called a peak, but it is a mountain, a mountain that’s little known and seldom climbed. And that’s why those of us who climbed it consider ourselves Mountain Lyons.

To get there from Klamath Falls, go south on Highway 39-139 (the highway changes from 39 to 139 at the Oregon-California state line) for about 48 miles to the Tionesta turnoff. From there drive 19 miles on Forest Road 97 to a well-signed turnoff for Glass Mountain and Medicine Lake, then continue three miles to an obvious trailhead.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

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