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[TR] Mount Jefferson - Jefferson Park Glacier 07/05/2019


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Trip: Mount Jefferson - Jefferson Park Glacier

Trip Date: 07/05/2019

Trip Report:

Jefferson Park Glacier was in our sights, but warm weather in the forecast made us a bit wary.  The freezing level was around 13k with overnight temps on the summit in the low 40s.  Glacier Peak was also on our list, so we opted to play it safe and plan for that instead.  However, as the weekend approached the weather forecast was improving slightly for Jefferson and turning poor for Glacier Peak.  Jefferson it is!  I was excited since this would be my first climb in Oregon.

On Friday afternoon, five of us met up at the Woodpecker Ridge trailhead.  On the drive in we took note of conditions on the north ridge and the summit block.  The ridge looked completely covered and the northwest face of the summit pyramid was a mix of snow and rock.   Now the question was what the Jeff Park Glacier looked like and what we would find on the narrow ridge connecting the top of Jeff Park Glacier and the north ridge.  At around 14:45 we took off on the trail in the direction of Jefferson Park.  We considered camping at Jefferson Park, but discussed knocking off another 1000' and camping higher on the ridge so we could get a better look at the glacier in daylight.  The skies were clear with the occasional cloud and the absence of trees on the trail made for a warm approach.

Shortly after reaching the Whitewater Trail junction, we turned uphill for the ridge that sits east of Russell Creek and leads up to the toe of Jefferson Park Glacier.  It seemed like 6800' was a common area to camp so that's what we aimed for, though there were also accounts of camping at 7400'.  At this point we were still unsure of our descent route (Russell or Whitewater), so we planned to camp lower to avoid any unnecessary climbing back up to camp if we returned too low on the ridge.  There was the occasional patch of snow on the way up the ridge and eventually we found a good spot around 6900'.  It seemed like we were the only group up on the ridge.

The lower shrund was long and extended well east under the active rockfall area, but looked easily passable.  It was hard to tell what the upper shrund looked like so we would have to until morning to find out.  With warm weather still in the forecast, we planned for a 0200 departure time so we could start getting some daylight as we approached the cracks on the glacier.  The forecast also called for some breezy conditions the next day which we were beginning to experience at camp.  After melting some snow we retreated to our tents with alarms set for 0100.

It was 50°F when we woke up with clear skies and a light breeze.  We gathered our gear and at 0200 were off, heading up the ridge.  Shortly after, we passed a small bivy site at 7400' and then were standing on the glacier where we geared up as a team of 2 and 3.  Still all by ourselves, we picked a direction and started uphill in the dark.  Not too long after, we saw headlamps appear on the ridge to our left.  A team of 5 was moving along the ridge and I thought they were heading up the north ridge route, but eventually they descended and joined us on the glacier at nearly the same elevation.  We found out later they were camping in Jeff Park.  They were moving pretty quick and passed by.

The snow was in great shape, not too soft and not too hard which made for easy steps and good purchase with the crampons.  There was a thick enough crust that you wouldn't punch through but it was still possible to drive your axe shaft all the way in to self belay as the grade steepened.  As the other group reached the crevassed area below the shrund with a hint of daylight, they roped up and began placing pickets and simul climbing.  This slowed their progress a little bit and we climbed to their left to avoid any ice debris from them, but unfortunately we didn't give them a wide enough berth.  A large dinner plate sized chunk of crust released from their party and started falling between the two groups.  We tracked it in the low light and at first it looked like it would miss us like some smaller ice pieces that fell before, but this chunk moved differently.  The piece whizzed by me (2nd to last) less than 10' away and struck the last person in our party.  He saw it coming and was able to somewhat shield himself where it hit his chest and arm, but it still took him off his feet and knocked the wind out of him.  After a short rest and assessment, he just had a sore arm and ribs and nothing appeared to be broken.  It could have been a lot worse...

We continued towards the lower shrund, moving a bit further climber's left to avoid another incident while keeping an eye out for rocks above.  The grade steepened to about 35° as we skirted around the lower shrund, but with the great snow conditions we felt very comfortable.  The 2nd tools remained stowed and we didn't place any pro.  Once we were above the lower shrund and traversed under Mohler Tooth we finally got a good look at the upper shrund to find a small crack that was easy to cross.  Here we took a break while we waited for the other party to climb this section since it would have been a little crowded.  After the other group was clear, we crossed the shrund and cruised up to the saddle between Smith Rock and Mohler Tooth.  It was around 0700 at this point.

The ridge looked to be snow free, so we stowed our crampons and waited for the group to get out in front of us so we weren't right on their heels.  The ridge climbed nicely.  Our lead did place a few cams and slung a few rocks along the way since we brought them, but it really didn't feel entirely necessary if you're comfortable with scrambling.  I feel like I've climbed more exposed terrain that was classified as 4th class.  The last part of the ridge before joining the north ridge was still covered in snow/ice, so maybe that portion is the low 5th class climbing I read about once it melts out.  We put our crampons back on and finished the ridge to reach the north ridge.  The group in front of us decided to descend down a snow gully to the glacier instead of finishing the snowy part of ridge, so we were finally able to get past.

Now on the north ridge, we started the trek south to the summit pyramid.  The snow was still firm and there was an old boot pack, so we made quick work of the ridge.  The summit pyramid was a mix of snow, ice, and rock like we saw the previous day from the drive and it looked like the route to the summit was all snow/ice.  At this point we grabbed our 2nd tools and the group of 3 lead the way.  The first portion was a fairly steep (~60°?) mix of snow and ice, but we were able to make good purchase with the tools and crampons.  A couple cams were placed and there was good ice for a screw.  This first portion topped out at a rappel station at the base of the large snow patch, about a third of the way up the summit block.  This was probably the toughest section to climb, but looking back at the pictures we likely could have made things easier by traversing a short ways under the summit block before heading up.  But it was still fun climbing nonetheless!

We then hiked up the snow and began a traverse south, underneath and to the west of the summit.  The route would continue south and eventually turn east to wrap around the south side of the summit.  This was the second portion of steep climbing, albeit easier than the first.  Once again we protected this with a couple cams and a screw before reaching the plethora of slings at the summit.  We made it!  The summit was just big enough for the five of us to hang out and take in the views.  From here we contemplated our descent route.  The Whitewater Glacier was our default and there looked to be a nice rappel off the south of the summit down to snow which could then be easily downclimbed to the Whitewater (compared to making the traverse underneath and to the west of the summit pyramid to Red Saddle).  The Russell Glacier was also an option, and with the still firm snow conditions and a good bootpack heading down the Mill Creek Glacier, we decided to give that option a go.

We rapped off the west side of the summit, down to the snowy traverse section, and then downclimbed to the rappel station we first encountered on our way up.  At this point the other party was beginning their climb up the summit pyramid.  Another rappel and we were off the summit pyramid and heading down the Mill Creek Glacier.  We followed the tracks and had a rough idea where we were heading based on views from the summit and a GPS route, but soon the tracks disappeared and we were left just making the steep snow traverse toward the Russell.  We took the path of least resistance and soon found ourselves crossing a scree field before eventually reaching the Russell at 8600'.  I think we took a pretty good route to the Russell.  Perhaps earlier in the season with more snow one could traverse higher and enter the glacier at a higher point, but with the current conditions we found ourselves at a good spot on the Russell.  Higher up there was a lot of exposed scree and the rockfall was very active.

The next challenge was to descend the Russell and find a good traverse back to camp to avoid hitting the ridge too low and having to climb back up.  Scree was the theme of this portion.  We descended the Russell on snow, but soon had to start traversing which led to plenty of scree fields separated by snow patches.  Again, we took the path of least resistance while aiming high.  Eventually we found ourselves to the west of our ridge with only about a 300' climb back up to camp.  Not ideal, but I think we took the best route we could all things considered.  If we did it over again this time of year, I think we would opt for the Whitewater descent.  I think the Russell earlier in the season with more snow coverage would be a good option, but once the scree starts to show it makes it a bit of a pain especially since most of it is a traverse.

After a rest at camp, we packed up and headed down the ridge and out to the trailhead.  It was a long day but a great day!  A good mix of glacier, rock, and ice.  Excellent weather and stellar conditions.  I'm happy to put down Jefferson as my first Oregon volcano!

Time Stats:

DAY 1:

(time, duration, split time, elev, total gain, leg gain)
14:45,  00:00, 00:00, 4500',        +0',        +0', Woodpecker TH Start
18:10,  03:25, 03:25, 6900', +2400', +2400', Arrive Camp

Day 1 Splits:

03:25, TH to Camp

Day 1 Total:



DAY 2:

02:00,  00:00, 00:00,   6900', +2400',       +0', Leave Camp
02:30,  00:30, 00:30,   7450', +2950',  +550', Start Jeff Park Glacier
06:50,  04:50, 04:20,   9950', +5450', +2500', Top of Jeff Park Glacier
09:05,  07:05, 02:15, 10180', +5680',  +230', Gained North Ridge
11:00,  09:00, 01:55, 10495', +5995',  +315', Summit
14:50,  12:50, 03:50,   8580', +4080', -1915', Gained Russell Glacier
17:00,  15:00, 02:10,   6900', +2400', -1680', Arrive Camp
21:00,  19:00, 04:00,   4500', +0000', -2400', Woodpecker TH End

Day 2 Splits:

09:00, Camp to Summit
06:00, Summit to Camp
04:00, Camp to TH

Day 2 Total:


Day 2 Splits (excluding major breaks/waits)

06:20, Camp to Summit
05:00, Summit to Camp
03:00, Camp to TH


GPS Route/Track:

Our route can be seen and exported from here: https://caltopo.com/m/GB6S



Woodpecker trail approach:




Jeff Park Glacier:



View from camp:




Other party ascending Jeff Park Glacier (below lower shrund):




Skirting lower shrund (Mohler Tooth to the right):




Upper shrund (Smith Rock to the right):



Smith Rock:



North ridge and summit:




Summit pyramid:



Looking back (north) at the north ridge:



First pitch on the summit pyramid:



View from summit:



First rappel:



Traverse to Russell:



Heading down the Russell:





Gear Notes:
Glacier gear, 2nd tool, light rock rack and a few screws. We had one 60m rope and one 30m rope. The 60m was nice to have for the rappels.

Approach Notes:
Woodpecker Ridge Trail
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It was an awesome climb and I'm surprised too that it isn't busier.  Definitely one that I would do again. I'm curious how the permitting system work when it is implemented next year...

@ScaredSilly, that is interesting.  I took a look at the snowpack data for Mt. Hood (closest station to Jeff) and it may explain things a little bit.  This year the snowpack was average or slightly above earlier in the year then tapered off in the spring.  The year you climbed it, 2014, the snowpack was well below average early in the year but then picked up quite a bit in the spring, which may explain the wide open shrund (lack of winter snowfall) and more snow on the summit ridge (more spring snow).  


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11 hours ago, ScaredSilly said:

Nice sleuthing and good conclusion to the snow pack.

I've found the historical snowpack data to be useful when planning trips, particularly spring ski tours when there is a question of road/trail access and if a route is in or not.  After reading a trip report I'll just compare that year's snowpack data to the current year.  If anyone else runs across this thread the snowpack data can be found here: https://climate.washington.edu/snowdepth/

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