Washington and Oregon July 2006 Trip Report
© August 2006 Adam Helman
(Click on any image for enlargement.)


The chief goals of this trip are to climb Glacier Peak and Mount Jefferson - major Cascade Range stratovolcanoes with large prominence.

I travel with Edward Earl in his pickup truck from San Diego, and, after flying home from Portland, Edward continues for another 1 1/2 weeks with additional large prominence summits as goal.

When Edward scales Glacier Peak, his list of prominent mountains climbed is then unbroken from number 1 to number 30 in the lower, forty-eight United States.

When I climb Mount Jefferson, a long-awaited Oregon county highpoint state completion is realized.

Other summits fill-in the time as either good efforts in their own right (BM Gray Wolf, the Clallam County, Washington highpoint); or as a means of using "rest days" (Mount Constitution, the San Juan County, Washington highpoint).

Duane Gilliland joins Edward and myself for BM Gray Wolf; Greg Slayden joins us for the long and arduous Glacier Peak climb. Six people participate in the ascent of Mount Jefferson - including Richard Carey of San Diego, Greg Slayden, Duane Gilliland, and Don Nelsen of Vancouver, Washington.

Trip Details

Thursday, July 20

Our journey begins badly. Just south of downtown Los Angeles, alongside Interstate-5, Edward's automobile alternator "dies" while filling at a service station around 9 p.m. In a three-way conversation between station manager, an off-site mechanic (his friend), and myself, Edward's vehicle is first re-charged, driven to the mechanic's home, and repaired to good working order by just past 11. Spanish throughout - making this perhaps the most unusual event of our entire trip.

We sleep at 1 a.m. at a turnoff with parked cars and trucks north of Magic Mountain Theme Park. The alternator sets Edward back some $180, and the labor itself is $90 - not bad for two hours work these days. I enjoy my Spanish conversation with the mechanic - and he is delighted to find a "gringo" who can do it.

Friday, July 21

Long driving day north into Oregon. Around Sacramento Edward naps while I visit a foreign foods market with Indian emphasis. The kilogram can of soft cottage cheese pastry in heavy sugar syrup is flavored with cardamom, rose water, and other exotic spices. I intend to share it with climbers after a successful ascent of Mount Jefferson upon return to the trailhead.

As it transpires, half the 'Jefferson team returns the previous evening. Instead, I enjoy an (unhealthy) portion of the Indian dessert with baklava (a combination "made in heaven") at Rhonda and Bob Bolton's home the day of my homebound flight. The Bolton's keep the balance - and I hope they will eventually enjoy my treats even though Bob professes to have largely sworn-off sugary foods in the interest of health.

Edward and I are disappointed to find Mount Shasta's cloak of snow severely depleted on the north slopes of this giant landmark. I suspect this is yet another example of global warming taking its toll on glaciers and snowfields - the canaries of our planet.

We camp in southern Oregon in the national forest - away from both noisy people and the ridiculous overnight charges of organized campgrounds.

Saturday, July 22

Driving day into Washington. We stop at Don Nelsen's home in Vancouver to retrieve an annual Northwest Forest Pass left under the mat. It is not!

Heading back into Portland, Edward drives west for Long Mountain - the Columbia County, Oregon highpoint. I enjoy cashew butter atop crackers and in cereal with milk while Edward hikes the highpoint - with a navigational booboo that transforms it into an eighty minute affair instead of under one hour.

We enter Washington at Longview, continue north on Interstate-5, then US Highway 101, to the Sequim Bay State Park entrance and a meeting with Duane Gilliland. We caravan to the trailhead for Gray Wolf; eat supper; and sleep by nightfall.

Sunday, July 23

We arise at 5 and set off for Gray Wolf, the Clallam County highpoint, at 5:47 a.m. Edward's pace is quite slow up the steep ridge - yet I understand this is intentional as a means of pacing ourselves for the entire effort - one with 5,800 feet of total elevation gain.

One passes over three subpeaks, including Baldy (6,827 feet) with about 600 feet of prominence - a true summit in its own right. Descent of Baldy's far side, enroute to BM Gray Wolf, entails about 400 vertical feet of very loose scree and talus. Try to remain with the rocks for as much of the route as possible.

The summit siesta features flawless weather. Duane takes several photographs - and I remark later than he and Bob Bolton must be in competition for who more completely documents the hiking and climbing experience.

We greet our cars around 3:20 p.m. after 9 1/2 hours elapsed. Our goal is the 5 p.m. ferry from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island. Unfortunately this is Sunday afternoon, and we wait a full two hours at the dock for boarding. It is a distasteful experience that would not be repeated on our journey.

Duane drives home while Edward and I stay at an organized campground on Whidbey Island, paying $16 for the privilege. It is already 9 p.m. and, owing to the island's small size, we doubt that simply bushcamping is an option. We do, however, fill all of our water jugs and bottles to recoup part of the expense.

Monday, July 24

Edward and I take the 7:40 a.m. ferry from Anacortes (on Fidalgo Island) to Orcas Island. Mount Constitution is the island and San Juan County, Washington highpoint (2,407 feet).

The seven mile hike begins at a lake and entails 1,500 feet of elevation gain. On top the tourists are dense indeed, having taken the paved summit road for beautiful maritime views of the region. Mounts Baker, Rainier, and even Glacier Peak are visible.

We miss the 2 p.m. ferry to Anacortes, and must wait until 4:20 p.m. for the next one. I use the time quite effectively by stationing myself in a food market which features both standard fare and gourmet items like Godiva cappuccino truffle heart ice cream; English Shropshire cheese (a combination of Stilton and Cheddar); and homemade hazelnut toffee enrobed in dark chocolate.

After suitably filling myself in preparation for Glacier Peak, we board the ferry and reach Anacortes on the mainland. Three hours later finds us at the trailhead for Glacier Peak.

I sleep outdoors on my groundpad under old-growth timber. After hearing branches fall in the night, I move to the gravel carpark and sleep more soundly now that I won't get killed by an errant tree branch.

Tuesday, July 25

The ascent of Glacier Peak is most arduous. Greg Slayden appears around 6:30 a.m. and, in an obviously joking mood, pretends to be a drunken stranger who inquires, "Where's the county highpoint?".

We do not find rest until 7:30 p.m. that evening, having gained about 5,000 vertical feet with full packs and positioned some five miles south of Glacier Peak in a beautiful basin replete with melting snowfields, boulders, and much stream runoff.

The effort was excessive for a single day. My right upper thigh was painful from either cramping or the sheer amount of physical labor - equivalent, by my calculation, to running a marathon.

Wednesday, July 26

Our summit day for Glacier Peak. A route description by Greg Slayden is available.

My preference is for remaining on rock as much as possible because I slip and skid on even mildly gentle snow slopes while Greg and Edward have no trouble. Examination of my boot tread reveals the likely culprit - they are worn down and provide little friction. Upon return to San Diego I purchase a new boot pair at REI for $100.

As we do not have a rope, the Cool Glacier is not a safe option. We climb the rock ridge directly over Disappointment Peak - with steep Class 3 sections for the last 300 vertical feet, and a Class 4 move just before topping out. We descend 150 feet to the col and climb the scree path to the summit of Glacier Peak. Some snow travel is unavoidable a few hundred feet below the summit.

We return to camp around 8:30 p.m. with the setting sun - a 13 1/2 hour day. We should have started earlier than 7 a.m. Better still, taking four days to climb would have made our days tolerably shorter and more enjoyable.

Edward has now climbed the top thirty peaks ranked by prominence in the lower forty-eight United States - and both Greg and myself succeed on a vendetta peak - one that we failed to climb previously.

Thursday, July 27

Greg departs early so as to be home with his wife. Edward and I arise at 7 a.m. and depart at 8:48 a.m., and reach his auto at 4:24 p.m. some 7 1/2 hours later.

Edward drives south on Interstate-5 to Everett and a $50 room that, unfortunately, houses unsavory characters that you don't want to meet by dark. I thought that $50 would buy a decent place!

A gourmet Italian restaurant is the highlight of my day. Located at 5030 Evergreen Way, Edward enjoys meat lasagna. I start with a classic antipasto served with bread to be dipped in olive oil infused with anchovy paste. My entreé is veal scallopini topped with ham and drenched in a pine nut cream sauce. Unique and delectable. I return to the room with a takeout order of mango-orange cheesecake and finish it while dozing into oblivion...

Friday, July 28

At the REI in Tigard, Oregon (a Portland suburb) we purchase sunscreen (Edward) and more snack food (Adam). The Glacier Peak effort had used nearly all of my granola bars owing to its unanticipated physicality - some 11,200 feet of elevation gain.

I enjoy a pint of Ben & Jerry's "Vermonty Python" ice cream - coffee liqueur (imperceptible?) with a chocolate cookie crumb swirl and fudge cows.

We get a flat tire, right rear, as Edward drives the approach road for Washington County, Oregon's Saddle Mountain highpoint. Around 3:15 p.m. He repairs it very quickly lest we return to the nearest community and find stores are closed for the weekend at 5 on Friday.

After visiting two other tire stores we find the needed replacement tires at a Les Schwab dealership. Edward has a hard-to-find tire size. To fix, he decides to replace both tires on the real axle in an effort to equalize the available tire sizes. The repair commences just after 5 p.m. and we are driving by 6 p.m. - having avoided wasting a day of the trip by a hair's breadth.

We car camp along Highway 22 west of Detroit at a county park intended for day-use by fishermen. As no sign prohibits overnight camping we were "in" for the night.

Saturday, July 29

The crux event of our trip - from my perspective - ascent of Mount Jefferson - as it leads to an Oregon county highpoint state completion.

After Glacier Peak, the approach hike to a high camp is considerably easier because it is both shorter and entails less elevation gain. 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

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 short 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.

**** Mount Jefferson Climb Photographs (by Don Nelsen) ****

**** Mount Jefferson Summit Videotape (by Don Nelsen) ****

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

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.

I contact Bob Bolton while along Highway 22 with an invitation to treat both Rhonda and Bob to dinner. He accepts, and with that the implicit agreement that Edward and I can sleep at their Vancouver home that evening.

We eat dinner at Olive Garden - the Italianesque restaurant chain. I secretly invited Don Nelsen to attend - and the surprise on Bob and Rhonda's faces made the ruse worthwhile.

We begin with various drinks - mine being rum and tangerine liqueurs with vanilla ice cream in a tall glass topped with whipped cream. We all enjoy a mixed salad from a communal bowl, served with soft breaksticks. My entreé is steak gorgonzola alfredo - a plate of fettuccini Alfredo with gorgonzola cheese and four steak medallions infused with balsamic vinegar. Quite tasty it is - but the blue cheese flavor was too slight.

All but Rhonda meet at Don Nelsen's home for a slide and movie presentation of the Mount Jefferson climb. Don's home theater is enviable in its level of sophistication and overall ambience. I particularly enjoy Don's narrative for one summit video,

"The route is Class 4, meaning that if you fall you DIE -"
"But you don't necessArily need a rope."

I am quite pleased with every Mount Jefferson participant as we all had something unique to offer. Edward and I organized the climb; Greg and Edward fixed the ropes on the key, treacherous traverse; and Don Nelsen's navigation was impeccable.

The evening is spent with Bob Bolton's computer, striking photographs from his outdoor sojourns being a main draw. I discover Google Earth - a software application that I simply MUST acquire for myself.

Tuesday, August 1

Edward drives north while I spend the day at the Bolton's home; alternately grazing on mountain-oriented books and various edibles. Rhonda's spaghetti pie is particularly interesting: a vegetarian pasta dish with noodles in a pesto sauce, topped with spaghetti sauce and cheddar cheese - then baked to perfection. Added pecans bring texture and even more taste.

Bob drives me to Portland International Airport. My flight on Alaska Airlines is uneventful apart from left-side views of Mount Jefferson at sundown. The slant range is only about five miles, and so I can identify the Red Saddle, the snowfield traversed, and the summit pinnacle.


Apart from the flat tire which prevented Edward's claim to Tillamook County, my 1 1/2 week portion of the trip was entirely successful. My county highpoints completion map demonstrates how nice it is to have the Beaver State turn GREEN.