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Mount Jefferson Reconnaissance

Always having climbed Mount Jefferson from the east side, Judith Havas, Doug Adair and I checked out two west side routes Sunday. The first snow of the season from the day before was down to below timberline, so we settled for checking out the lower end of a couple of climbers' trails that take off from the PCT.

The first trail is - whatever else you want to say about it - the shortest way up and down the mountain. I'll call it the Rhododendron Route as you have to fight your way through Rhododendrons while trying not to slip on the steep trail (we recorded one fall). The foliage was wet from rain and perhaps dew. After fifteen minutes we were soaked enough to call a halt to the exercise and went back down to the PCT. There is a reliable report of a high camp large enough for several tents on the route at 7,800', a big plus for this otherwise miserable route. The climbers' trail takes off up a gully from the PCT. The junction is marked by a 3' tall rock on the inside of the turn where the PCT makes a sharp bend out to the next ridge. The junction at 4,700' is marked on map below.

The second trail is the commonly-used dog route up from Mud Hole Lake and Shale Lake. Compared to the Rhododendron Route, the dog route appears flat. Also no vegetation threatens to poke an eye out and provide a good soaking. The second trail is only a hour and a half further down the PCT from the Rhododendron Route, time not entirely wasted as the trail gains 1,100' of elevation along that stretch. For these reasons the dog route would be my preference. However, I have never heard of a high camp on the route and will make another trip to scout for one.

Going with the dog route for the preferred west route, how does one get there? Here are the mileages and vertical feet gained to get to 6,000' from trailheads on the west and east sides. The order in the table is north to south.

In the table the vertical feet in the Woodpecker Ridge route is adjusted up. The trail gains some elevation and then loses that elevation. The wasted gain is counted twice, once for the trip in and once for the trip out. Even with the adjustment, the Woodpecker Ridge and Pamelia Lake routes are about even as the preferred routes. Given Pamelia Lake is now a limited-access area (even for groups just traveling through!!!), the Woodpecker Ridge route wins out because you can write your own permit and because group size is not limited to seven people, the group-size limit for Pamelia. Except for Brush Creek, the figures in the table for east side routes assume meeting up with the climbers' trail above The Table.

More scouting is called for. I was hoping to find a quick route for solo trips to Red Saddle to inspect the traverse before asking a group to pack their overnight packs. A day trip to Red Saddle could be done by the dog route, but it would be a long day.

Craig Faiman


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