August 31-September 3, 2001
I read with some amusement Doug Nelson’s Mt. Jefferson report in the last Obsidian Bulletin. His stories of wind and sand at “the Beach” could easily have been written about our Jefferson climb a month later. I’m sure my compadres on the Jefferson climb would agree. Our Labor Day climb was advertised as a “Gentleman’s climb” in the old Obsidian tradition — we took four days to do a climb that is normally done in two or three.
On Friday, August 31 we hiked in to Jefferson Park and camped at Scout Lake. Despite heavy packs, this took a relatively short time, so we were rewarded with a leisurely afternoon in Jeff Park in glorious weather. Diner was a leisurely affair, with much lively banter and some impressive demonstrations of back country cooking skills (Sherrill made pizza from scratch, much to the group’s awe).
On Saturday, we moved up to “the Beach” at 8200 ft., to be in good position to head to the summit on Sunday. We arrived by early afternoon, which gave people time to get plenty of rest for summit day. Rest, however, was fitful that night . . . the constant flapping of tents and blowing sand that sifted through tent netting made things less than idyllic.
We arose at 4:00 a.m. and were underway by 5:20, getting on to the glacier at first light. Good thing that we didn’t try to cross the Whitewater in the dark . . . in nearly 20 years of climbing Mt. Jefferson, I have never seen the Whitewater as broken up with crevasses as it is this year. Route finding was not easy. There were spectacular 30-ft. seracs and narrow bridges to maneuver through. It was slow going, but persistence paid off and we eventually reached the Southeast Ridge. After the scree scramble to the Red Saddle, it was gratifying to find the traverse in good shape. All eight members of the group made it across and up to the summit. For several in the group, it was their first glacier climb — quite an accomplishment! But, the climb was only half over; now we had to get down. We summited at 3:00 p.m., and finally made it back to camp in increasing winds at 9:00. By the time we got off the glacier, the winds were strong enough that it was difficult to stand. We reached camp in the dark, only to discover that two tents had collapsed in the wind. We ate leftover lunch food rather than try to cook in the blowing sand, and four people were left to spend the night in an open bivouac. Luckily, no rain accompanied the wind.
In the morning, we took a little time in packing up our sandy gear and heading for the shelter of the trees near Scout Lake for a more pleasant place to eat breakfast before the hike back to the cars. Successful summiters were John Mowat, Kim Sawyer, Virgil Lamb, Sherrill Blodget, Bob Smythe, Tom Harrison, Miles Hollander and Sue Sullivan, leader.