Ascent of Mount Jefferson on 2016-07-16

Climber: Dave Covill

Date:Saturday, July 16, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Jefferson
    Elevation:10497 ft / 3199 m

Ascent Trip Report

Douglas & Klamath OR
Mt Jefferson – 10,497’
Dave Covill
With Rachel Miedema, Mindy Decker, Joe Burke, Rob Venema, Dave Hart

This group of students, ranging from about 25 – 48, were in a recent Colo Mtn Club High Altitude Mountaineering School (HAMS) class. About half had already climbed Rainier, some just a couple weeks prior. Part of a larger group, we had just attempted Mt Shasta six days prior, and had climbed Mt Thielsen four days prior, and South Sister the day before.

After staying at a relatively nice All Seasons Motel in Detroit OR, we set out for the TH. Dave Hart from Anchorage AK joined us Thursday evening. Dave is a very experienced alpinist friend, with many ascents in Alaska and all over the world to his name, but he lacked several Cascade Volcanoes and wanted to make a dent in that list.

Friday we began the long hike in to a high camp. I made the decision to approach via the Whitewater Glacier on the East side of Jefferson. We could not get a permit to approach via Pamelia Lakes drainage, and the other alternatives involved ugly steep scrambles, or a very long drive to the East side. Since this was a HAMS class hike, we needed to maximize the time spent on glaciers, not minimize it via ridge talus & scree scrambles.

We made good time on an excellent trail to the PCT, then took it northward to Jefferson Park, a flat area of many ponds (with accompanying skeeters). From here we bushwhacked steeply up on a faint use trail to a flat area at 7,000’ in the center of section 14. We encountered COHPer Lou Hibbard and his friend Scott camped there. I had been briefed by HAMS Instructor Dan Feighery, who had led a group there three weeks prior and had come within 250’ of the summit on our exact same route, that he had had a 17 hour summit day from there, and that we should camp higher if possible. Being only 3PM, we bid goodbye, and made our way to a thin rock rib between snow tongues, at 8,000’, just above a glacial pond at 7,800’. It took us about 6 hours to make it there.

We started at 4:30AM, with Mindy leading the first rope of 3 the entire length of the Whitewater Glacier traverse, perhaps 2 miles and up to about 9,000’. From there we un-roped, and scrambled up 1,000’ of boulder, talus, and scree terrain on the SE ridge of Jefferson. Once at the top of this, at the Red Saddle, Dave Hart led the other 3 man rope team across the famous steep snow slopes. We were quite surprised to see that there was way more snow and ice present on the upper mtn than on any photos we had previously seen. Dave placed 5 pickets as he wrapped around the mtn from the NW corner to the SE corner, at a level elevation. Once we came to the end of the traverse, we were faced with a very steep snow and ice climb up perhaps 80’ to more level ground near the summit rocks. Dave led up this once the first team was at the end of the traverse. He placed pickets, ice screws, and cams, then belayed all climbers up. From there we established a fixed line to clip to for the airy but easy (Class 3) scamper on dry rocks to high ground. The team was able to all assemble for the summit photo and enjoy lunch.

On the descent we rapped down, then reversed the travers back to the Red Saddle. From there it was an ugly descent down the ridge, then roping back up we proceeded to return to high camp. Dave H went on ahead solo, grabbed his gear, and walked down at 4PM, taking a few heavy items which he stashed in Rob’s truck for us, and then he drove to Bend for the night. The next day he solo’d South Sister in about 4 hours+, then for good measure climbed Mt Bachelor in a couple of hours, then drove to Portland for his evening flight to Anchorage. Yikes! I would say he got his moneys worth out of that plane ticket…..

The group encountered Lou & Scott at the Traverse, and another team of 4 near the Red Saddle, who had come all the way up from Jefferson Park. We later saw these people near our camp headed down about 5PM, so they did not summit. Lou & Scott did, passing by us at 9PM, making for a very long day similar to that which Dan Feighery et al had experienced. They did summit. No other climbers on the mtn above Jefferson Park level. Fabulous views again, this time to Shasta to the South, but I could distinguish Glacier Peak between MSH and Rainier to the far North. Again, amazing to be up there. I have not climbed all the Cascade Volcanoes of course, but so far, I have to concur that Jefferson is the Alpha-Beast of the lot. Summit day was a little over 11 hours camp to camp. Descent day was about 4 hours, employing a snow gully near the 7,200’ lake which was sweet but short-lived, followed by an ugly ravine descent of over 700’ down to Jefferson park level and the PCT trail.
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