Jefferson County Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Jefferson by the South Ridge and Red Saddle Traverse (10,497 feet)

Dates: July 29-31, 2006
Author: Adam Helman

participants: Don Nelsen, Richard Carey, Duane Gilliland, Greg Slayden, Edward Earl, Adam Helman

Summit Videotape (12 Mbytes)

GPS-derived track (map 1)
GPS-derived track (map 2)

This effort was part of a larger journey climbing large prominence mountains in late July 2006.

With Mount Jefferson, my long-sought Oregon state completion is realized.

Don Nelsen provides photographs, the summit video (one of several), and the GPS-derived tracks.

Saturday, July 29 - Approach to High Camp

We collectively agree that camping at Shale Lake (5,900 feet) is too low as it makes for a 4,600 foot gain on summit day. Sights set on a snowy bowl at 7,100 feet, we find adequate campsites at 6,900 feet just under and south of an east-west ridge.

Sunday, July 30 - Summit Day

We arise at 5 a.m. to find poor weather. No trend is observed while we stand and wait until 6:30 a.m. We agree to sleep for an hour and then re-assess the weather. Upon arising, again, at 7:42 a.m. we find clearing conditions near and at our camp. We set off, summitbound, and yet I am quite unsatisfied with the weather prospects.

There is wind - a cold, biting chill that would make waiting for a belay both unwelcome and possibly dangerous.

There is rime ice - the west and north faces of boulders are covered in the most intriguing and almost fantastical patterns from the passing storm system. Rime ice on the summit block would demolish our chances.

These twin obstacles vanished under clearing skies, the cloud layer lifting gradually as we climbed to the Red Saddle at 10,200 feet. Eventually we were above the cloud layer, musing that climbers at Shale Lake have **no idea** that today is a summitable day.

For my sake the most arduous and demanding section of the route is from 8,000 to 9,500 feet on the south ridge. Here, annoyingly loose scree combined with the heavy weights of our packs (ice axes, crampons, sit harnesses, snow pickets, rock pro, TWO ropes) to make uphill travel an exercise in stamina and willpower.

We depart camp at 8:05 a.m. and reach the Red Saddle at 12:30 p.m. I leave my overnight pack there because it poses a serious impediment to my climbing ability once on Class 3 or Class 4 rock owing to its volume.

Edward and Greg Slayden create a static line across the infamous, steep traverse of the western face - and use both rope lengths to achieve the far slope. We gingerly cross, using webbing and a pair of 'biners for attachment of harness to the ropes.

We walk clockwise around to the northeast side of the summit block, and, willy-nilly, individually make attempts at the northern, highest pinnacle. It is Class 2 until about 75 vertical feet of the summit. I head left (southeast?), following Don Nelsen up a line that we later estimate as high Class 4. At one point I crawl - and these moves would have been physically impossible wearing my overnight pack.

I attain the summit right after Edward - he apparently had turned right (northwest?) and climbed steep Class 4 rock some 30 feet. Later we agree this route is easier and preferred for descent.

With great ardor, photographs, and even videotaping from Don Nelsen, I ceremoniously touch the highest pinnacle - so completing the Oregon county highpoints.

Salmon candy is my summit treat - specially sweetened dried salmon that is a Northwest speciality - and eaten with a dinner roll from Greg Slayden. Duane shares a big apple with me - refreshing!

Richard Carey is last to arrive. His variation of Edward's climbing route proves most favorable for descent - and both Edward and Richard take that line. Duane Gilliland and I descend the route Edward originally climbed - again, steep Class 4 but with very solid hand and footholds that you'd never expect to find on a Cascade volcano. Nobody descends the route climbed by Don Nelsen and myself.

We return to the Red Saddle at 4:30 p.m. - four hours after having arrived. Descent to camp is rapid, the scree now used to advantage. All but Edward and myself arrive about 6:10 p.m.; we come about 6:20 p.m.

We re-organize group gear (as some are departing), and I share with Edward a supper of mashed potatoes and gravy with diced turkey, topped with cheddar cheese. Richard Carey stays for the night as well, while Duane, Greg, and Don pack their gear and head down that very evening.

At the trailhead I offered a two-pound chocolate babka as my contribution to "group gear" - which makes sense given that nearly everyone would be enjoying this rich, coffee cake confection. Carrying it to high camp proved worthwhile when it was nearly finished by climbers anxious for energy and yet without the time to cook a proper meal prior to their evening descent.

I sleep quite well - yet arise around midnight for a snack of salmon candy; Duane's leftover cream cheese and chives; and bread dried by Rhonda, Bob Bolton's wife, for saving weight on trips.

Monday, July 31 - Hike Out

Richard Carey, Edward, and I hike out over some four hours, arriving at the Pamelia Lake Trailhead around 1:15 p.m. The pint of ice cream from Detroit is well-earned.

A celebratory dinner is enjoyed at Olive Garden in Vancouver with the Boltons and Don Nelsen that evening. Don then treats us to a slide presentation at his home.