Mt Jefferson Climb (whitewater glacier route).
1999 July 12 to July 14
In this trip we didn’t make it to the summit,
however it was still a very enjoyable and educational trip.
And in that respect I liked it a lot. I always learn something new with Doug trips(TM).
I got up at 5:30AM and I was out of the house by 6:30AM. Our
meeting point was Heather’s house on Monday morning. I was excited
about this adventure, not knowing what it would bring us.
Soon after I got there, I met John and Mark, the other two members
of the team. We were a total of four people, and our
guide Doug. Mark drove his own car because he wanted to hurry
back because of his other commitments.
We took three vehicles. Doug and John drove in John’s van, I and
Heather drove in Heather’s car. In the last moment, I left a few
things like mosquito repellent back in my car to reduce weight
in my backpack.
The trip to the trail-head was enjoyable, learned more about
Heather’s background and vice versa. We missed the exit from I-5
to highway 22 and had to turn around. This would be “uninteresting”
except the fact that only about a month earlier I had missed the exact same
exit and had made the exact same U-turn while I was driving to Breitenbush
Mark, Doug resting
Off we start! We each had a 40 pound or more to carry for the base
camp. We started at about 11AM and continued our hike until about
5PM. Parts of the trail was covered with snow-packs, trees, and the
trail was not visible for long stretches at a time at higher
altitudes. Few steep sections took a while to cross, up and down.
The weather was warm without any clouds, the view of the mountain
was fantastic. Took a few pictures, talked to Mark on the way about
his background. He was well conditioned. He explained that he did lot
of backpacking when he was younger, and he was used to hiking like
this. However, I had concerns about John, because he needed to
take many brakes and we had to wait for him. Towards the end of the
hike, we were all very tired. I mentioned to Heather that if John
climbed, our chances of making it to the summit would be pretty slim.
We were trying to camp as high as possible, however at that
altitude the ground was covered with snow everywhere. There wasn’t
any good place to pitch our tents. So, Doug scouted around
to find a suitable place to camp while we waited. He found
a small patch of ground under the trees without any snow, and
also water was flowing from under the snow just 10 feet from it.
The ground was not flat, however under the circumstances you couldn’t
After the two tents were pitched, we were around the stove
watching the dinner cook. Then we heard the cellular phone ring,
and it was unmistakable. We looked at each other asking, “who
brought the phone here?”. Well, it was a “cellular phone bird” chirping.
Every so often we would hear this bird “ring”, and it was weird.
After dinner it was getting dark and we went to sleep at about 8:30PM.
I slept outside in my new sleeping bag. I could feel the breeze on
my face, but I was pretty warm. Because we were very tired, it
didn’t matter much either.
Setting up Tents
At one o’clock we all got up. It took about an hour to get ready
for the climb. With the headlamps on, we took off. The snow was
hard, and it was a difficult but comfortable climb. At about 4:30AM
the sky was getting lighter, and I turned off my head-lamp. We also
put on the crampons here, at the first rest stop.
Soon after that, we crossed an area covered with bare rocks, perhaps
half a mile. Of course we had to remove the crampons before we
got on the rocks, and didn’t bother putting them on until the
next stop since the terrain was not too steep.
Mark, early morning
We lost over an hour in the next rest stop to rope up. We also
left some of the items here to reduce our weights. The idea was
to pick them up on the way back. At this point Doug explained
that we should yell “zero” (meaning that zero length rope was left
to the next person). We roped up like this: Doug, me, John, Mark,
At this point Doug reminded us that we should keep a steady pace
instead of stopping and starting. Crossing a few of the cravesses
took a while since you have to keep a tight rope between each member.
At about 9AM, Doug said “we need to talk”. By this time the sun
was up, and the snow was getting really soft. This was a danger
sign, and we were not even close. So after considering a few
alternatives, we decided to return. I was disappointed for
the fact that we didn’t summit. But that’s the way it goes sometimes,
blindly pushing for the summit without listening to danger signs
would be stupid.
What did I learn from this attempt? Mt Jefferson is one of the
more difficult mountains, and you can not waste time. Every minute
counts, and you have to push very hard. The safe route to the
summit is not direct, you have to climb all around the mountain
always gaining altitude. By the time you get to the summit, you
have almost made a full circle around the mountain. So you have to be
conditioned well before the attempt.
John, Mark, Heather
John, Mark, Heather
Other peaks in the background
John, by a crevass
The return trip to the base camp was much faster, about a total of four hours. We
glisaded steeper sections, and it was great. However it was
getting really hot. The sun reflects from the snow and it
creates a hot furnace especially in the valleys. It took a
while to find our camp site, but when we did, I immediately
went to the water stream and washed my face with ice-cold
water to cool down.
The biggest problem now was what to do. We had about 8 hours
to kill and there was absolutely nothing to do. I had nothing
to read, or write with.
We all took an afternoon nap, but when I was awake it was hard just waiting
for time to pass by. I forgot to mention that I had forgotten
my watch at home, and couldn’t even watch the time pass by. Heather
had a watch, but her watch quit working soon after we started hiking.
At about 2PM Mark left to go back.
John, by the stream
Before the dinner, we got a quick lesson on cravesse rescue and
the use of prosics. The prosics are short thin (3-4mm) ropes
that can be used to climb up a rope. There are two types of
knots to remember to be able to create a prosic. (I already
forgot their names). Prosics are simpler then a mechanical devices called “jumar” which
essentially does the same thing.
The dinner was great. Both nights Heather used a home-made
sauce of some sort that tasted pretty good.
Since I used a single cup for everything,
my tea tasted like pasta, and my pasta tasted like coffee. great!
John told number of funny family stories after dinner, and it
was a wonderful entertainment.
I slept outside again. The second night was cooler, and the
wind was stronger. I was worried at some point that branches
would fall down from the tree. I also figured out an interesting
feature of the new sleeping bag. I could keep only my mouth and
nose open to air. It works!
Packing to leave
We got up pretty early, about 5:30AM, and was ready for the return
trip at about 6:30AM. There were some icy areas but overall the
return trip was uneventful, and easier. (no elevation gain).
We were back at the parking lot at about noon.
On the way back we stopped by a restaurant and John treated us
to some fries and milk shake. The coffee tasted much better
after two days of mountains.
Here is one Doug joke:
If you want to improve your mountaineering skills quickly and
painlessly, speak with a french accent!