August 8-9, 1997
Mt. Jefferson may be the most challenging mountain in Oregon. No matter which route you take, it is a long approach and a long, difficult ascent over mixed rock and snow. Even in the best conditions, the exposure can be terrifying, the rocks loose, and the weather a factor. It is just not an easy mountain. This year, six Obsidians made the attempt via the South Ridge. Two summited. We started at Pamelia Lake trailhead, where we met a group of Mazamas also headed for Shale Lake. But they told us they heard the route was in good shape, so we were in high spirits heading for the high camp. Our camp site was tremendous, with a view of Mud Hole Lake and Mt. Jefferson right in front of us.
At 3:30 a.m. we were on our way, intersecting the South Ridge somewhere north of Goat Peak. Once on the ridge, the wind began to howl and we were all forced to put on more clothes. It was extremely tiring climbing over rocks and up horrible scree. I made a mental note never to do this route again. But the sky remained absolutely clear and the weather promised to be excellent. Near the Red Saddle we were forced to drop briefly off the ridge onto deep snow. Two in the party, exhausted by the effort and not liking the looks of the snow, decided not to go on from that point. The Mazamas also caught up to us at that point and decided to turn around. The conditions were actually not all that bad. The snow, while softening, was still firm. The traverse, a steep 50 to 55-degree snow slope around to the summit pinnacle, had a trail of steps already kicked in. I set a fixed line of two and a half ropes across the traverse. We were joined by two climbers who came up from the Whitewater Glacier route, and in return for the use of the fixed line, offered us their rope for the summit pinnacle. Doug Nelson and Karl Kriegh, both good rock climbers, followed the other party up easy scrambling to the summit unroped. By that time, the afternoon was slipping away and in the warm weather I was concerned about the deteriorating snow conditions. We turned around, satisfied with the effort and happy to have two in our party summit this magnificent mountain.
Meanwhile, below us on the mountain, a different adventure was unfolding. The Mazama leader threw out his back and hip on the descent. Brian Hoyland, a ham operator and member of Eugene Mountain Rescue, luckily came to their aid. He called the county sheriff who assembled a rescue team from Eugene and Corvallis. Brian and the Mazamas were able to assist him down the mountain and eventually got him back to camp where large doses of ibuprofen brought him around. He decided he could walk out the next day and the rescue was called off. They were very grateful to Brian for his help and expertise.
Climbers were Brian Hoyland, Deb Carver, Doug Nelson, Truman Grandy, Karl Kriegh and John Pegg (leader).