Ascent of Jack Mountain on 2018-06-02

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Saturday, June 2, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Jack Mountain
    Elevation:9066 ft / 2763 m

Ascent Trip Report

The standard route in the guidebook for Jack Mountain is the south side route, which is long, involves loose 4th class rock, and is generally done later in the summer when all the snow has melted out. I was surprised this spring, though, to see multiple groups climbing Jack Mountain from the north side, the Nohokomeen Glacier headwall route. This route isn’t even in the Beckey guidebooks, but from the groups trip reports it looked much easier and safer than the south route. It’s basically a steep snow climb, so no loose exposed rock to worry about.

Jake Robinson sent gave me some awesome beta on the route, and Birkan was interested in joining for the weekend. Our weather window was only Saturday, with storms coming in Sunday, so we needed to have a slightly compressed schedule.

June 1
We braved the Friday evening rush hour traffic and made it to the East Bank trailhead by 8:30pm. From there we quickly packed up and started hiking. The East Bank trail is mostly flat, so it was easy to put on 8 miles in the dark to May Creek. By 11:30pm we had hiked a bit into the woods up May Creek and set up camp.
Because of the short weather window, our plan was to hike up with light packs the next day, summit, and come all the way back to camp that night. Other groups have camped up on the glacier, and that would indeed be a very amazing place to camp. However, it sounded less amazing to be stuck on the glacier in a rain storm, and camping up there would require lugging up heavier packs.

June 2
We left camp at 6:30am and followed Jake’s gps track straight up the hillside, just south of May Creek. The route was steep, but the forest was open and the bushwhacking mercifully easy. Eventually we reached a small cliff band and followed game/climber trails to make it through to more forest above.

Snow line started around 5,000ft as the terrain leveled on a small shoulder. Here we got views across Ross Lake, and a brief glimpse at the summit headwall. The summit was socked in with clouds, but I took a picture of the headwall and zoomed way in. My big concern was that the bergschrund would be impassable, but it looked like there might be one snow bridge hanging on. It was to tough to tell, though, so we’d have to just go check it out ourselves.

We traversed from the shoulder and eventually reached open terrain below the Nohokomeen Glacier. We ascended gradual snow slopes on the left side, then roped up as we gained the glacier. I picked up a faint boot track, likely from a group that came in there the previous weekend on a big loop trip up and over Jack Mountain.
By 1pm we reached a small tent site at the top of the glacier with our first clear view of the headwall. The bergschrund was completely opened up except for one small bridge on the left side. It looked like if we could cross that bridge, the rest of the route was doable, though would require traversing some melted out rock bands to gain the top of the ridge.

We got to the bergschrund, and Birkan belayed me across the narrow bridge. It looked like it would maybe last another week, but after that crossing the schrund will require lowering down into the moat and ice climbing out the other side.

The snow on the headwall was excellent conditions – soft enough to kick in good steps but solid enough to hold the shaft of an ice axe. Still, it was kind of exposed. So we stayed roped up and simulclimbed up the ridge in three big pitches. I would lead out to the end of the rope, put in a picket with a micro traxion device, then we would climb another rope length. The micro traxion is a one-way pulley device so that if the second climber falls, the weight pulls on the anchor, and not on the lead climber.

After the second rope length I would build a picket-ice ax anchor or sling a rock horn, belay Birkan up, and we’d repeat. After three long pitches we climbed steeply up to the ridge, to the right of some big cornices. The ridge was half melted out and half snow. We our rope and extra ice tools on the ridge and easily scrambled up to the summit.
It was 5pm by this time, and the clouds had finally cleared as expected. We had amazing view of the pickets, Slesse, the Pasayten, and tons of other cool mountain areas. Ross Lake wound up through the mountains into British Columbia to the north.

By 5:30pm we decided we ought to start heading down. We downclimbed to the gear at the ridge and started strategizing our descent. Our plan was I would lower Birkan down a rope length, with him placing a picket in the middle. Then I would down climb to him, and we would repeat. This was actually pretty efficient, since we had good steps kicked in, and we were soon back at the base of the headwall.

At that point I really wished we had a tent waiting for us on the glacier. The sunset over Ross Lake 7,000ft below was amazing, and we were both ready to go to sleep. But alas, our tent was not on the glacier, and we were not prepared to bivy. We quickly descended the glacier before the snow crusted over, and followed our tracks down into the forest.

By the time we entered the woods it was dark enough to need headlamps. I led the way retracing our route in the dark to the shoulder at 5,000ft, then I whipped out the GPS to make sure we stayed on route. I knew we needed to be careful to hit the exact place where we’d scrambled through the cliffs in the morning, and that would be difficult in the dark.

With only a few wrong turns, I managed to navigate us through the cliffs, and back through the woods to camp, arriving at 12:45am. It had been a long day – 18 hours since we left, and Birkan immediately went to sleep. I stayed up to cook some dinner, and crawled into my sleeping bag soon after.

June 3
We got up early Sunday morning and hiked back to the car by 11am, just about when the rain was predicted to start. Indeed, it started raining hard within the hour, but by then we were on our way back to Seattle.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
Summary Total Data
Ascent Statistics
    Route:Nohokomeen Glacier Headwall
Descent Statistics

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