Jefferson Park Glacier
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This is one of the most scenic routes in the book, if not on the entire Pacific Crest. Don’t have your sights set on the summit unless you are an expert mountaineer and rock climber; the headwall, knife-edge ridge, and summit pinnacle are technical glacier and rock climbing. For the best combination of good turns but easy approach, go in summer when the snow is melted from the approach trail and Jefferson Park area.
Because of the long approach and the long, steady climb up the glacier, this is best done as an overnight. You can sleep at the trailhead and make it halfway up the snowfield and back in a day—but it’s a long trip. The descent will likely be in afternoon slush, and you will miss the beauty of camping at Jefferson Park. Better to plan two days, and camp at Jefferson Park. You can ski all three routes included here (Routes 32–34) in a long weekend and explore the area.
Start Point: Whitewater creek trailhead, 4100 feet
High Point: Jefferson Park glacier, 9000 feet
Trail Distance: 14 miles
Trail time: 10 hours
Skill Level: Advanced
Best Season: Summer
(Trail description courtesy of Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes: Oregon by Christopher Van Tilburg)
Directions: GETTING THERE. From Salem, drive east on OR-22 (North Santiam Highway) for 55 miles to Idanha. About 6 miles past Idanha, turn left on Whitewater Road (Forest Road 2243). Follow FR 2243 about 8 miles to its terminus at the Whitewater Creek trailhead. THE ROUTE. Follow Whitewater Creek Trail 3429. At 1.5 miles, continue right after the junction with Triangulation Peak Trail 3373. In 4 miles the trail crosses Whitewater Creek, then in another half mile meets Pacific Crest Trail 2000. From this junction, follow the Pacific Crest Trail north about a mile to the Jefferson Park area. Find a suitable campsite near Scout Lake if you are planning a multiday trip. You will need to purify water or maybe even melt snow, if early in the season. The climber’s trail heads due south from Jefferson Park, directly up the snowfields below the glacier and the east moraine, staying on climber’s left of the snowfields. After about a mile, you will reach the glacier, around 7500 feet. If you are inexperienced in glacier travel, spin around here. With basic mountaineering equipment, you can continue higher: stay on the climber’s left, near the east moraine, to avoid crevasses. You can climb up to about 9000 feet before you hit the technical section of climbing. The descent goes directly down the way you came up. Watch for crevasses if you hiked high on the glacier. Once you pack up your camp at Jefferson Park, you’ll most likely be hiking, not skiing, back down the Whitewater Creek Trail if you’ve planned a midsummer trip.
Seasonal Access: Summer
Facility Type: Trail
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