Marion County Highpoint Trip Report

two unnamed points on the north ridge of Mount Jefferson (9,000+ and 9,450+ ft)

Date: June 26, 2004
Authors: Peter and Mary Green

Getting to the highpoint of Marion County is an adventure and getting to what may be the true highpoint of the county is extraordinarily dangerous.

We set out for central Oregon one Friday night in June. We had with us maps printed from the Topozone web site, as well as the instructions from other highpointers' reports. While in Bend, we innocently picked up the recent (1997) USGS 7.5 minute quad to help us with our hike in. Imagine our surprise when we noticed that the highpoint of Marion County was shown to be in two distinctly different locations on the two maps! The Topozone chart has it at about 9000 feet on the north ridge of Mt. Jefferson. The USGS quad has the county line well to the south, making the high point at over 9,400 on the same ridge. There was nothing to do but go for both high points.

We took helmets, ropes, and harnesses with us. We were alone on the Whitewater trail as we made the five mile hike up toward Jefferson Park. We left the trail, now obscured by snow, a short distance after its junction with the Pacific Crest Trail and headed south through the trees and eventually onto the steep snow fields that lead up to the Jeff Park Glacier. We were able to board the north ridge without too much difficulty. The hike up to the first high point was not difficult, though a bit exposed in places. Once there, we took some photos and as the day was still young we decided to push our luck and head for the second high point.

From here on the ridge narrows and becomes loose and treacherous. We climbed very carefully, as everything was loose, and either the fall to the left onto the Whitewater Glacier or to the right onto the Jeff Park Glacier would have been fatal. At perhaps 9300 feet we could go no farther as the rock became very unstable and the ridge dropped maybe 30 feet in elevation. We thought about giving up but instead climbed back down the ridge a few hundred feet to a point where we could scramble easily down to the Whitewater Glacier. We traversed the steep glacier along its crest heading south to a place where we could regain the ridge south of where we had been stopped an hour earlier.

Once back on the ridge we continued up (south) on increasingly frightening rock to a point where our GPS indicated we had reached the county line, admittedly by our best estimate.

Our descent was punctuated by the near slaughter of one member of the party when several tons of rock broke loose and cascaded down from above less than 6 feet away from where we were climbing. It took some time for us to recover our senses. The remainder of the descent went without difficulty.

We would note that the true north ridge of Mt. Jefferson is no place for climbers. The rock is unstable beyond comprehension.

As a follow-up to the discrepancy with the actual high point for Marion County, Oregon, we checked with which provided one of the maps. They told me to check the map information on the web page. The map information indicates the map is current as of 1991. I have attached the information below. The USGS quad is current as of 1997. This suggests to me that the actual highpoint for Marion County is about 400 feet higher on the north ridge than the posted trip reports indicate.

from Topozone:

State(s): OR
Map Type: Topographic (feet)
Scale: 1:24000
Currentness Year: 1991
ISBN Number: 0607457066
USGS Order ID: TOR2067
USGS Entity ID: MPTOR2067PP01
Area Covered: 7.5 minute
Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic