Mount Jefferson - Milk Creek West Ridge, June 2008
Mount Jefferson as seen from Detroit Lake. Southwest Ridge on right skyline with Milk Creek West Ridge at center-right.

Aaron and I paired-up for another go at an Oregon Volcano, this time Mt. Jefferson. I had wanted to revisit the Jefferson Park Glacier route, but given that Tom and I had essentially climbed the headwall above the glacier to the saddle on a previous attempt, I had a hankering to explore a different side of the peak and so we somehow convinced ourselves to give the Milk Creek West Ridge route a try instead.

It's a moderately interesting route...when covered in snow (I can’t imagine what a horror show it must be when devoid of snow). Probably the most direct route to summit, the West Ridge has some of the character of a mini-Liberty Ridge climb - for the portion below Thumb Rock anyway. Unfortunately, the snow was warm, wet and very sloppy and only got worse the higher we got. It was 100+ degrees at the Detroit Ranger station the Saturday before the climb and it continued to remain uncomfortably warm at our 7000-ft camp that night. This did not bode well for the finish on the rimed-up summit pinnacle. (Photos: SV)

Click thumbnails below to enlarge...
Forest along on Pamelia Lake Trail
Aaron hiking through forest on the Pamelia Lake Trail.
Hiking along Milk Creek
Following the dusty trail that parallels Milk Creek. West Face of Jefferson in background.
Basin below Milk Creek Glacier
Pausing for a photo in basin below the South Lobe of Milk Creek Glacier (looks like it'd be a nice line to ski!). The West Ridge route follows the obvious ridge at left.
View back down approach route
View down from below toe of West Ridge. The abundance of snow made the approach a breeze.
Camp low on West Ridge
Looking up the route from our 7000-ft camp.
The sun also sets
The sun sets, but it stays warm overnight.

The thunderstorms and lightning show over the Sisters was an entertaining pre-bedtime distraction, which come 2:30am decided to pay us a visit with a brief dousing shortly before our wake-up call. We eventually got moving around 3:30am, finding the snow no firmer than what we experienced the previous afternoon.
Up and at 'em at the crack
Up and at 'em around 4:00am.

We paired-up with Mike and Chance of Eugene the day of the approach, and so each did our part kicking steps up towards the summit the following morning. It was mostly just step kicking in heavy snow for the 3000+ feet up from camp.
Mike boots up a steep slope on West Ridge
Mike follows our boot track up a steep snow slope on the West Ridge. There were short bits at 50-degrees or so, but we were usually up to our knees in mush at these spots. The route would have been much more interesting in firmer conditions, but it was what it was...
Seven Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington and the Sisters
Another day dawns on Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington and The Sisters.
Mike and Chance on lower-angled snow beneath summit pinnacle
Mike and Chance breathe easy now that the steep snow is behind them. Note the summit shadow in background.
North Ridge with Mount Hood in distance
North Ridge with Mount Hood in distance. The Jefferson Park Glacier route follows this ridge crest.
Boot track to summit pinnacle
Final slog to summit pinnacle.

We reached the base of the summit pinnacle in good time and worked our way to the north side to gain the standard ramp that leads to the summit. We were prepared for ice and had some rock pro, but the summit pinnacle was still totally plastered in wet 'rime' that barely adhered to the rock. Forget the rope and gear – just suck it up and go for it Aaron! Ha!
View looking south
It’s still your standard Oregon views from Jefferson – perhaps better than any other volcano in the state given the proximity to the Sisters and Three Fingered Jack.
Traverse to Red Saddle
Returning from the north side, we followed a steeper-than-expected and exposed boot track that traversed the west side of the pinnacle to Red Saddle. The variation that gains the notch above this traverse might have gone with some mixed rock and slop as well, but the run-out here was somewhat unnerving. To quote Jeff Smoot, “…the summit pinnacle still repels its share, mostly in disgust or fear.” I’d say that’s probably a fair characterization.
Summit pinnacle and traverse slope
View from Red Saddle at summit and traverse slope.
Whitewater Glacier panorama from Red Saddle
Whitewater Glacier panorama - looking to the southeast.
View down Southwest Ridge
Looking down Southwest Ridge.

We rested at Red Saddle for a while, taking photos and such before the embarking on the Southwest Ridge descent. With some relatively solid scrambling near the top and mostly snow-covered slopes below, this route becomes an infernal scree slog later in the summer.
Traverse back to camp
Finding a good line back across the choss and snow beneath Milk Creek Glacier’s South Lobe, we traversed back to our camp low on the West Ridge. As forecasted, afternoon thunderclouds were building overhead and so we wasted little time packing up camp and heading back down.

We wished our ‘clients’ well as they stopped to filter water somewhere low in Milk Creek Canyon, and continued down into the forest, following the Pamelia Lake Trail back to the car. Dining at Cedars in downtown Detroit late that afternoon, Aaron and I agreed to give Three Fingered Jack a miss the following day. We were exhausted and it was just too damn hot to climb. We parted ways after ‘linner’, and boy was I jealous of Aaron’s one-hour drive back to Bend. I would come to regret the beer I drank as well, as staying awake on the stretch between Detroit and Madras was easily the crux of the trip!
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