I began planning a trip for a ski ascent up the Milk Creek Glacier from the parking lot or hwy 22 for some time. One month earlier, I sent out an e-mail to large group of friends who I felt would be great to have on this winter ascent on skis. As the snow continued to elude the mountain, we tentatively switch our plans to Mt Rainier- Ingraham Direct for a full ski ascent or Mt Hood- Sandy Headwall. A week before the trip we decided to climb our original goal of Mt. Jefferson but via a route that did have snow. Mt. Jefferson looked to be our best destination due to the consolidated snow and the best weather forecast of the three choices. After nearly 70 e-mails back and forth, we decided to climb the Jefferson Park Glacier Route. It was described as the quintessential alpine climb of the Oregon Cascades and were excited to get out on the mountain with such amazing weather, conditions and a sweet route lined up. I know, right, how could we have missed this route in the past. We were meant to stumble across this route while reading about alternative options to take due to the low snow year.
Adrian Pruncut, Nathan Fletcher, Peter Urban, Chris Talcott and Mike Wilson had a beautiful day hiking into our base camp on Mt Jefferson Friday, March 27th. We used the White Water Trail then heading east on the PCT for a short distance before heading off trail. It was about a 6 ½ mile hike to our base camp at 6,300’. We camped right on the tree line since the forecast for 8200' called for 1.8" of snow and 35 mph W winds.
Two climbers were coming down the Jefferson Park Glacier route and we were able to talk with them at our tent site. It is always so great to pick up some good recent route beta.
We had our tent platforms dug, tents up and ate by 7:00pm. Minutes after crawling into the tents the rain began and soon turned to hail and finally to snow. From an error in judgment before leaving we brought two 3 season tents with the justification that we were camping in the trees and they are 1/2 the weight. This turned out to be a very poor decision. Adrian slept on the windward side in our tent and was cupped by the tent most of the night. Several times the gusts were strong enough to literally push the peak of the tent down so it tapped on Peter and I. Sleeping was mostly out, so we had a good time chatting through most of the night.
Our alarm went off at 4:00 am. We all decided to stay put as the winds were very strong and we had accumulated several inches of new snow. Right… Mountain Forecast predicted less than a couple inches of new snow almost 2,000’ higher. We discussed that night how we should write a letter to Mountain Forecast about this line on their web site, “This table gives the weather forecast for Mount Jefferson (Oregon) at the specific elevation of 2500 m. Our advanced weather models allow us to provide distinct weather forecasts for several elevations of Mount Jefferson”. Clearly they missed this boat.
We “Slept” for a few more hours and the weather kept pounding us. We decided to pack up and retreat. The mountain had a bunch of new wet snow that made very nice pinwheels. Yes, pinwheels are fun to race down the slope with your buddies but the snow slope loaded with these conditions is not ideal for climbing.
On our way out we took the most clear line down a ridge and over another ridge. This included a fun glissade and cut about ¾ of a mile off our original approach. This ridge let us out onto the PCT on the west side of the Whitewater Trail intersection by a few hundred yards.
We were near 5,000’ by the time the snow was not covering every surface. Note that this all fell the night before. In the Spirit of a SAC outing, we all had refreshment at the trailhead and headed to for home.
Trips like this make me grateful for the nice climbing days and thankful to have such a great group of friends. We were back home around 7:00pm Saturday, March 28th.