Jack Mountain - South FaceDate:
Although prominent, the long approach and descriptions of the loose nature of the easiest route probably make Jack Mt. one of the least climbed of the 9000ers in Washington. When my dad and I arrived at the trailhead, we were surprised to find another party of two gearing up for the South Face. We had been debating whether to take the East Ridge with a South Face descent or just take the South Face. Ultimately we decided on taking the South Face route because we were pushing for a 2 day and it seemed faster. It did not sound like there were many snow difficulties, so to save weight we left crampons and boots and only took light hiking shoes and ice cleats. We started up the trail at about 11am. After crossing two bridges we passed the other party of two which ended up being the last time we saw them (on the way out we saw their tracks and camp). The mosquitoes kept us moving past the scenic Crater Lake and up the Crater Mt. trail. We were at the 7100ft Jerry Glacier Pass by 4pm. From here we got our first intimidating view of the 1500ft South Face of Jack.
We donned glacier gear, rope, and harnesses and made a slightly descending traverse to 7000ft to a ramp shortcut described in the Cascade Alpine guide. The ramp was not exactly easy to spot, but it looked like it would go. We made an exposed step across the randkluft and onto the rock. The ramp climbs left to right for about 100-150ft and involves some exposed, awkward (but easy) moves right below the top.
(My dad emerging from the crawling underneath the bulge)
From the top of the ramp we ascended scree and snow a short distance to the top of the ridge. We then traversed above the steep slopes at about 7200ft on the west side of large hump. Below here we descended along the heathery ridge with Jerry lakes to our right and the depths of the Crater Creek basin to our left.
At the 6600ft gap above Jerry Lakes we descended to the snow basin below the water fall at 5800ft. We then climbed up through a series of heathery steps to about 6000ft and made camp next to a small stream at 6:30pm.
From camp the snow fields looked impossibly steep for our shoes and ice cleats. We set two alarms for 5am and went to sleep with apprehension about the following day. With ear plugs in we slept through both alarms and didnít wake till about 5:40am. After a quick breakfast we started up the alp slope to 7100ft on the SE shoulder.
We traversed the scree to the snow field at the base of the South Face. We used the small moat to avoid the hard snow field.
As has been described in other TRís, we traversed under the face until we were more or less directly above the 7200ft rocky knob. From the snowís edge we climbed a short blocky stretch to gain a steep ramp ascending left to right.
After 400-500ft of steep scrambling the grade eased off. We made our way up and to the left to cross a small water course then ascended directly up essentially paralleling the South East Ridge to the upper snowfield at 8500ft.
The snow was hard and steep and we were unable to kick steps so we tediously chopped steps to climb and traverse the snow field west to a rock rib.
We then crossed another small snowfield (again west) to the moat below the steep walls of the summit pyramid. To avoid the steep snow, we continued climbing in the moat under and around the base of the summit pyramid and up to a steep rock gully that continued off to right (NE) of a rap sling on a horn.
A few minutes more of steep scrambling brought us to the summit.
(From the summit looking east. NE glacier on left.)
(From the summit looking west. Nohokomeen glacier on right.)
After signing the register and calling home to update our arrival time, we started the long arduous descent.
We tried to keep rock fall to a minimum but it was nearly impossible. The entire upper third of the face is shattered and loose. In 2 hours we were off the face. We were back to the truck by 8pm.
All in all this was an enjoyable climb. The approach was long, but most of it was scenic. It also involved substantial sections of cross country travel without a trail, however there was no bushwhacking- a rarity in the cascades. The face itself was not technically difficult but required some route finding and efficiency to complete in a reasonable amount of time. The loose rock didn't hinder us much on the ascent but it was a problem on the descent.
-The Jerry Glacier seemed pretty benign with the exception of one large crack across the breadth of the glacier where the surface angle changes. We brought glacier gear but we probably would have been pretty comfortable without it considering the conditions.
-Taking the ramp from the Jerry glacier to the ridge is a way to save some elevation loss/gain but after calculating it out, it probably amounts to less than 500ft. The ramp is also more severe in terms of exposure and difficulty than anything we encountered on the South Face of Jack. Some of the moves at the top were awkward to do with big packs on. Coming down those moves was worse. We were also surprised at how much had melted in just 24 hours. On Friday we just stepped across the randkluft but Saturday it was a jump. Later season it may become impassable. If I were to do it again, I would consider the Jerry lakes route to save the hassle, especially on the way out. We didn't see anything obvious to rap from at the top and we only had a 30m rope. Perhaps a couple pins and a longer rope could solve the problem.
-We brought a 30m 8mm rope and slings but would've traded them for crampons. With some creativity, a person could find some places for pro but we were pretty comfortable without the rope. The exposure was pretty minimal in most places.
-Doing Jack in two days was a little rough but doable.
-Historical note: Apparently the small guard station cabin you pass before the second bridge was built by 3 Seattle shipwrights turned prospectors in 1902. The larger structure across the creek (1/8mi SW of the bridge) was a barn built in the 30's. Both structures were later used by the Forest Service.
11am depart car
4pm Jerry Glacier Pass
6:30pm camp ~5960ft
6:15am depart camp
7am SE Shoulder of Jack
12:30pm SE shoulder
2:45pm ridge above Jerry lakes
3:30pm top of ramp to Jerry Glacier
5:15pm Jerry Glacier Pass (lost an hour fishing my pack out after dropping it in the randkluft).
6:15pm Crater Mt. Trail