This past week I was looking for a good mountain to solo in the Portland area. I eventually decided upon Mt. Jefferson. I was considering doing either the South Ridge or the Southwest Ridge, but both routes seemed a little uninteresting and the usual way of access is through the Pamelia Lakes Limited Entry Area which requires an entry fee. I decided upon the Jefferson Park Glacier since it seemed to be the most challenging and interesting of the routes on the mountain while still being easy to solo.
After picking up some groceries and things at REI I arrived at the parking lot a little before sunset on Sunday Night. I slept in my car in the parking lot and woke up around 5:00 am and started up the trail at 6:09 am. The trail started off through a typical PNW coniferous forest. Around 5400′ I had to walk across my first patch of snow. A little while later you come out onto the South side of a ridge where you have a fantastic view of the Northwest side of the mountain and the route of the Jefferson Park Glacier.
The park was mostly covered in snow with occasional wet marshy areas. From here I continued up the rest of the way on snow. I made my way up a drainage toward a small ridge and the Jefferson Park Glacier on the other side. Once on the Glacier I stayed to the left hand side that was crevasse free. There were a few exposed crevasses on the right hand side that were fairly large and exposed. As I continued upward I was trying to notice where I would be able to cross the bergschrund to the snow slope and ridge above the Jefferson Park Glacier. I decided to go up to the bergschrund and see if I could climb up it. The ice on the bottom half climbed well, but about 15 feet up the ice/snow was so soft that my tools just pulled through it when I weighted them. I then backtracked to the eastern side of the glacier where there were a few smaller crevasses. I climbed up and around them onto a snow slope and then traversed around a small peak and then onto the ridgeline going to the summit.
The whole time walking the ridge to the summit I was wondering where the rock was! The descriptions I read online implied that there was easy rock climbing to the summit. I did not see it. I was quite glad I wasn’t going to have to solo some poor quality rock. Instead, the rock was covered in a strange, wind affected ice that was some times difficult to climb with my whippet and super light mountaineering axe along with my non ridged aluminum crampons. Short parts of the ice section were vertical. Once I got near the summit I was able to get onto some rock on the east side of the mountain that was free of ice and snow. I walked this for 50 feet to the summit. I sat on the summit for a while, took in the sights and lathered up with sunscreen.
I was a little nervous about down climbing the ice section since I usually find it a little more difficult to climb down and that I found it a little challenging with the lightweight equipment that I had. Fortunately the ice and snow had warmed up a little bit and the down climb wasn’t bad at all. I reversed my route except for a small section where I went straight down to the Jefferson Park Glacier instead of following my way up from the bergschrund. The way out was quite uneventful. I did stop and chat with one skier and two parties that were headed to Jefferson Park for some camping. Once I hit the hiking trails I was ready to be done. The foot pounding paths on the way out were not the most enjoyable part of the day.
For the last two miles I ended up running. I was so ready to be done. I just wanted to be laying in my bed in the car eating food. There were some really nice shady spots in the parking lot, so I moved the car into one of them and relaxed for the next couple hours.
Climbing Mt. Jefferson was one of the most enjoyable days I have had in the mountains in a long time. It was really fun to do my first real glacier travel trip solo, have everything work well and realize that I can move fast, and even faster if I wanted to.
My times were 5:16’48 to the summit and 8:29’04 for 14.7 miles and a vertical gain of 6768 feet. I am not sure if there is a speed record, but if someone wanted to do the Jefferson Park Glacier for speed, I wouldn’t be surprised if they could get a summit time of less than 4:30 and a round trip time of 7:00 or less.
While I wasn’t going for a speed ascent, I really enjoyed being able to do the route in one day with a pack under 10lbs. For me it was much more enjoyable than hauling in overnight gear. I missed out on some experiences that can only be had with an overnight ascent, but every style has its pros and cons.
My GPS track can be found here: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move163660369