Ascent of Mount Jefferson-North Ridge on 2019-08-03

Climber: Daniel Mick

Date:Saturday, August 3, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Jefferson-North Ridge
    Elevation:9000 ft / 2743 m

Ascent Trip Report

Google takes you to Cultus Creek CG. TH is on South side - drive around almost whole CG loop and turn South into signed TH.

EXPERIENCE (combined TR with Jefferson-North Ridge CoHP)
What a trip! With good weather, Jefferson was tame (though slightly technical) compared to all the stories I'd heard. But we still had several thrills.

Announcement made the day before that the Whitewater Creek TH was opening that weekend! Been closed since 2017 because of burn damage. Revised our starting TH from Woodpecker Ridge. I drove up late Fri night. Road is freshly graded and any car doable.

Rest of the team arrived sometime during the night, 6 total. Departed TH at 06:00. The burn makes for great views but would be miserably hot and dusty during the heat of the day. Easy creek crossing into Jefferson Park. Departed the trail shortly after to follow ridge up. Sparse trees if you stay on the ridge. Quickly gains in steepness but has plenty of rocks and veggies to zigzag amongst or use as belays. Several possible variations of minor ribs that all converge on same major NW rib. Flattens out at 7400 and well-established boot track weaves amongst boulders on the ridge. Make a minor choice at 7900 whether to take Right (South) or Left (North) rib to obtain upper ridge - South (the way we took up) is less steep but has a large boulder field at the top to scramble through; North (the way we took down) is steeper and has significant coarse sandy scree. Gain the ridge and choose a campsite in the 8283 flat area. Interesting geologic formation of rocky "ripples" and lower protected sandy flats between. We had plenty of running water from snowmelt and a mini pond to our North for sponge baths. No reason to use 8022 benchmark though it has some cool features and large boulders for protection.

After dropping camp, 4 of us pursued the CoHP. See my notes for more info, especially the (what I feel is now definitive) description of the topo discrepancy. In summary, the "old" one lower on the ridge is correct.

We ascended the snowfield directly South of camp until gaining the snow-free ridge. Easy 2c scramble to the liner. Cairn marks the CoHP. We continued on to the "new" CoHP since I was still unsure about it and didn't want to have to return for completeness. Right at 9200 a blocky prow rises out of the ridge. First: it's not worth the effort for the new point. If you don't heed that advice, do heed: DO NOT TRAVERSE AROUND. Take the nose and stay on the ridge. It should be 3/4 class. Of the traverses, we took the much "safer" West side. Because of layering uplift it quickly turned into crumbling almost-dirt red tuff and scoria which got progressively more committing. Pumice embedded in compacted mud composed most of the "handholds". Staying as high as possible is the only option. We eventually delicately picked our way to the saddle. Short 4c downclimb from the blocky prow under a 30 foot tower. We foolishly took the East side back hoping it would be better. I have done a lot of scrambling; I have never been more scared than descending the 300 feet of this section. Crumbling dirt and ball-bearings avalanched under our feet at the slightest touch and cascaded off the cliffs below us. It was actually slightly safer to stay a little bit in the scree rather than hugging the wall. A terror-stricken hour later we reached the snowfield below and returned to camp for dinner and relaxation.

Departed camp at 05:00. No need for crampons - lots of exposed rock on NE rib until the reservation line on the topo map crosses your path. You'll either be taking them off and on again, or dulling them. Crampons and ropes on the glacier as the sun was coming up. Bluebird day. A few small crevasses but nothing to avoid until where you can see our route diverge. Easily avoidable when we were there. Higher is better. Crevasse patterns are clearly visible on satellite. Two small ribs to cross along the way. We still had small bergschrunds enough to step over to scramble over ribs. Crossed final section of glacier to SE ridge. Then 1000 feet of large blocky 2/3c scrambling. Quite fun! Lots of cairns but just go up if it's ever unclear. Only one steep section to negotiate but either side works and is should never exceed 3c.

Took a break at the Red Saddle while I and assistant set line. Still lots of snow on the traverse. We had two 60m 8mm ropes. Looped one around the biggest boulder I could find 20 feet down from Red Saddle. No boot track existed yet so I aimed for the exposed rocks in the middle to ensure we had enough rope (there's a higher boot track option in the satellite view). A couple pickets for the first section. Placed a ton of gear in fractured rock for the section rope anchor, a couple more pickets in the second section, then again found the biggest boulder I could on the West ridge. Everyone else prussiked across. Left second rope. Ascend ridge to rock where an obvious series of ledges/platforms curl clockwise to North side with clear boot track. Ascend to the summit block. A counter-clockwise path looks like it doesn't send but apparently wraps right between the summit pillars and is only 3c. We took the clockwise which turns into fun but exposed 3c with one or two 4c moves. Series of exposed but bomber ledges to summit. Summit at 12:00. TONS of butterflies, a special mountaineering joy!

We reversed route and rappelled off the North side. Tons of tatter and rings to loop into. Rope reached perfectly to boo tpath. Slow rappelling, but it always is. Returned same way. Unfortunately one member slipped on the snow right after unroping and scrambling up to the Red Saddle and got a nasty gash on their index finger from their axe pick serration. Got overcast and windy at the saddle. Then things got worse. Here's the "near-miss" report I submitted as a Mazama climb leader since I don't want to retype details:

NOAA forecast assessed <12 hours prior to trip departure indicated clear and sunny skies for the duration of the trip. Clear skies in morning then partly cloudy on Day 01 (approach) in early afternoon but cleared up by evening. Clear skies in morning then partly cloudy on Day 02 (summit) in early afternoon. Summitted at 12:00 while partly cloudy. Clouds turned gray and ominous ~140:0. Had enough reception to check forecast and NOAA indicated 20% chance of sprinkles and thunderstorms to clear by 20:00. While descending SE ridge, team could see localized clouds raining in distance (Sisters to 3FJ) and moving towards Mt. Jefferson. Multiple climbers including myself noticed buzzing of ice axes and poles at ~9800 feet. Completely exposed boulder ridge with no alternates so I encouraged team to continue descending as quickly but safely as possible. Sound of rain in the distance was oddly "roaring"...:

Sudden appearance of occasional marble-size hail. Continued descending but hail quickly increased to almost golf ball-size and suddenly increased in amount. Commanded everyone to take cover next to closest rock and use packs as cover (all still had helmets on). Waited out hail storm for 20-30 minutes. Every member was struck by hail and had minor injuries of varying degrees (nothing more than bruises). Once clear, continued to descend carefully.

I was concerned about how moisture would affect the rocks and we witnessed an entire house-sized column of basalt split off East face, fracture and fall down Whitewater Glacier across our intended glacier travel path on the Southern most section of the glacier. Assistant and I discussed options before getting onto glacier. For the first section, where the rock had fallen, we decided to travel unroped with a dozen feet between each climber so that if there was further rockfall each climber could react without being restrained by rope. No crevasses had been encountered on this section on the initial crossing and none had been seen above so we thought this was the best bet. We crossed as rapidly and as safely possible without incident. For the remainder of the glacier we roped up but had climbers only attach with a single unlocked carabiner in case any needed to quickly detach to escape. No major rockfall was noted on this route but we wanted to account for it while still offering crevasse protection since several small width crevasses were skirted on this section. We crossed without incident.

The upside of the hail storm is incredible video and pictures I have. Fascinating phenomenon on the glacier as well of all the snow being pockmarked and all the sun cups filled with hailstones that slid and collected. Also, double rainbow!

Camp at 19:30 for 14.5 hours total, including breaks, summit, first aid, and hail storm. Camp was wet but undamaged by hail. We all slept well.

Left camp at 07:15. Arrived in parking lot at 10:15. Followed almost exactly same route back. Nothing else to report except a glint of glass in the dirt next to the trail along the way back which turned out to be a one-hitter glass pipe. Some poor stoner forgot their piece! But maybe they just wanted someone else to enjoy the same stellar smoke spot gazing up at Jefferson. Peace.

1/1 ACCESS - Google
2/2 REMOTENESS (Popularity, Sight/Sound) - only encountered a day hiker on his way up on the NW ridge on our way out
1/1 CONDITION - maintained trail and clear boot paths
3/3 VARIETY (Flora and Fauna, Geological, Terrain) - a little bit of everything!
3/3 VIEWS - awesome views of all the cascades
TOTAL 10/10
(does not include difficulty since hikers may prefer opposite extremes)

ALWAYS looking for partners -- don't hesitate to contact me!

Washington Ultimate CoHP/CoPP/Top100e/Top100p/Bulger

Oregon Ultimate CoHP/CoPP/Top100e/Top100p

US Ultimate WEST HP/PP/Iso/2ndLap/4kP/Top100e (doesn't include East of the plains, and WA, OR, CO, AK, HI)

US Ultimate EAST HP/PP/Iso/2ndLap/4kP/Top100e (doesn't include West of the plains)
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5500 ft / 1676 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14 mi / 22.5 km
    Route:N Ridge
    Trailhead:Whitewater Creek TH  3500 ft / 1066 m
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:8 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Daniel Mick
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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