Mt. Jefferson scouting hike, Pamelia Lake approach

On Thursday June 7th, 2018 I snagged a Pamelia Lake limited entry permit (available for 10 dollars online, or at the Detroit ranger station, first come first served) intending to go scope out the approach to Mt. Jefferson's South or Southwest Rib routes. I have found that it usually takes me several trips to a mountain before I have the confidence and proper beta to attempt the summit as a day tour. Most trips to Jefferson are over several days, but I had read that the south side routes pose no glacier or crevasse hazard and can be day-tripped from the limited entry area near Pamelia Lake. 


Pamelia Lake

Near Mt. Jefferson, Oregon

Leaving Bend at 4:30am, I was hiking by 6, skis on back, through old growth forest along a beautiful stream. What an environmental difference from the east side of the Cascade range! Making good time to Pamelia Lake, I took my first break, had a snack and contoured west and north around the lake to link up with the PCT. There was a thick fog layer around 5,000 feet and the summit of Jefferson was barely visible at the PCT junction, looking up Milk Creek.


Looking up Milk creek , summit block barley visible

Mt. Jefferson, Oregon


I headed south on the PCT, not really sure what I was looking for. Pre-trip sleuthing indicated a faint climbers trail may or may not materialize and that some degree of off-trail bushwhacking would be required. Long story short I never found the climber's trail, and turns out I may not have gone far enough south on the PCT to find it. Instead I attempted to walk directly up an obvious ridge line, barley making it 400 meters before getting turned around by thick underbrush. I tried for an hour to find passage, thinking it would get better, but after getting covered in pollen, banging my skis all over trees and rocks, I tucked my tail between my legs and headed down the steep hillside back to the PCT. 

I wish I could say I had energy to explore the area further, but I was already 5 miles into my day, all in ski boots, and was feeling the 3:30am alarm in my body. Putting my head down and hiking all downhill, I made it back to Karen by 11am, and got a few funny looks and questions from hikers about my carrying skis. I assured them I had done absolutely no skiing and the trails were fully free of snow. 

Later in the evening I took another look at my route and decided if I go for this peak again this season or next I will take 2 days and 1 night to give myself the best chance at success. I think a campsite at or around snowline would be perfect and give enough margin to complete the south to north traverse around the summit block while temperatures are cold enough to ensure solid snow and limited rockfall. 

All in all it was nice to take my skis out for a walk and learn something about this peak. Definitely not a failure!

Have Fun and Stay Safe, 


Andrew Kersh