Last weekend we climbed Mt. Jefferson. Saying that we climbed it is a special thing for me but more on that later. The two routes we have taken on Mt. Jefferson have displayed two very different sides of the mountain. Our first attempt of Jeff was back in April of 2015 with our good friends Rich and Robbie when we took the Whitewater Glacier route. Last weekend, due to time limitations and the size of our team, Andy and I chose to take the SW Ridge. Let me just tell you, the routes area about as exciting as the names that describe them.
While Whitewater Glacier route is a much longer route, it is incredibly beautiful and rewarding. After hiking a few miles through the forest you are greeted with your first view of the mountain. As you get into Jefferson Park you are greeted with alpine meadows and beautiful lakes and as you move up the mountain you finally arrive on the glacier; raw, and powerful and full of crevasses. As you come across fresh avalanche fields, you realize you are on a mountain that demands an awe-full respect.
In contrast, the SW ridge is a route that requires bush-whacking through a thick, tangled forest followed by a long slog through scree. If you are not familiar with scree, imagine a hillside made out of sand covered in a thin layer of various sizes of gravel. Throw in a few loose bowling-ball sized boulders and you get the general idea. Once you get above the tree-line there is a nice view of the surrounding area but the mountain itself looks akin to a pile of gravel.
Both routes bring you to the summit pinnacle which is both the literal apex of the mountain as well as the height of its beauty and technical challenges. It is here that you must first traverse across a steep snow field and then climb up either the rock or ice. It is here that things can become a bit dramatic.
It was here our first trip came to a screeching halt. After making good time crossing the glacier we faced an ice wall. Robbie took the first go at hacking away at it, making good time before handing over the lead position to Andy. By the time Andy was able to establish a safe and anchored path to the summit, the sun came out on the snow traverse, causing the snow to deteriorate. We felt our best option was a quick retreat.
That’s why the summit last weekend was so sweet. After a year of saying that I’ve climbed most of Jefferson, I can now happily say I’ve summitted. This year the summit pinnacle was nice to us and we both made it to the summit with no drama. After spending a relaxed few minutes at the summit we made our way down the scree and bushwhacked back to camp.
Special thanks go to Andy, who came on this trip with the sole intent of helping me get to the summit. I could not have done it without his expert navigation skills. Once again he showed that we are a team.