Mount Jefferson - Milk Creek West Ridge, June 2008
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.
The thunderstorms and lightning show over the Sisters that evening 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. 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. 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... (more...)
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