Ascent of Jack Mountain on 2019-07-21
|Others in Party:||Adam Walker (Stayed behind)|
----Only Party on Mountain
|Date:||Sunday, July 21, 2019|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Elevation:||9066 ft / 2763 m|
Ascent Trip ReportTL;DR - I haven't climbed the Southwest Route, but I did get a decent look at the upper reaches of it from the summit ridge. While the full North Ridge is aesthetically pleasing, I suspect that the safest route up Jack is the glacier variation of the North Ridge as described in Beckey. There are several points to transition to the ridge from the glacier even in mid-July. Such a route has the benefit of avoiding a little bit of class 4 and lots of loose scrambling down lower. Both routes, however, still have the crux of the exposed snow traverse/summit rock climb. Overall, it is likely that the exposure there is less than what is sustained on the Southwest Route.
Jack is a beast of a mountain that dominates the skyline on the southeast side of Ross Lake. It's not quite a choss pile, but the rock is never "good". Unfortunately, there is no easy way up this thing, as all routes inevitably take on significant amounts of exposure. Adam had expressed interest in climbing it and had beta on what he believed to be an easier less climbed route, namely the North Ridge. Jack is a peak that I had been eyeing, so we made a plan to attack it from the north.
After some debate, we ultimately decided to take the water taxi from Ross Lake Resort to Devil's Junction to start our climb. This saved 11 miles of what would be easy hiking, but the concern was that we'd be more tired by the time we started bushwhacking. Anything to increase our chances of success seemed worthwhile. So, we started at the Ross Dam trailhead and quickly made our way down to the dock to catch our 8am water taxi. There was another party heading out further up the lake, so the resort let us split the fare, which was nice of them.
By 9 we were on the lakeshore and began the easy two-mile hike to the Devil's Creek bridge. Lake access there was the last water source on our route prior to reaching the tarn at 5,700'. With that in mind, we filled up, and then took the obvious game trail uphill just a few hundred feet south of the bridge. Thankfully, the terrain was mostly open and a fairly mellow bushwhack by WA standards. There were steep hillsides punctuated by cliffs and mossy scramble problems. Oddly, all of the rocks were covered in a thick layer of moss that was easy to grab, but occasionally sheared right off.
We sighted numerous bear droppings and actually startled a black bear near the top of the ridge. Starting from about 4,200' the ridge mellows out but is also brushier. We were a little concerned that we might actually have trouble finding the critical tarn, but it would be hard to miss. There are actually two, but the lower tarn is more of a puddle. (It's also worth noting that Peak 6486' actually had a pool on top of it that I'd have been ok will filtering water from. It might not last too much later in the season, though.)
We still had many hours of daylight left, but we weren't going to go any further. Instead, we enjoyed spectacular views of the Nohokomeen Headwall, the Pickets, and Hozomeen as well as the company of thousands of mosquitoes.
My biggest concern was what would the condition of the glacier on the NE side of Jack be. From camp, we could see snow high on the North Ridge, and if that snow were crusty it could pose real problems. We settled on leaving camp around 6 am, which we thought would put us below the summit block around 11. The hope was that the snow would have softened plenty in the morning sun.
From camp, there was a sustained climb up Peak 6486' followed by a descent that gave up most of the gain. Steep cliffs on the south side prevent any meaningful traverse around it. From the top, we could finally see the full ridge and the first obstacle described by Beckey, the subsidiary point of the black pinnacle 6937'. It looked aggressive from a distance, but once we were upon it, it turned out to be a straightforward class 3 scramble.
Once on top, though, we looked at each other in askance questioning where to go next. Beckey describes a 200' downclimb before going up talus ledges. Everything looked exposed. I took the most obvious line, which was a slightly exposed class 3 downclimb with maybe one or two class 4 moves. Overall, the rock was decent but nowhere near bomber. Rocks would wiggle and shift. Adam started down, but didn't feel comfortable with the rock. We tried a couple of different things before discussing pulling out a rope for a rappel. The concern was that this downclimb wasn't noted as being bad and the "ledges" just ahead looked much worse. If we needed the rope for these obstacles, would we move fast enough or even stand a chance against the crux. Ultimately, the decision was to stop our climb there, and I'd continue on just to see how far I could get solo.
I discovered that from the saddle, the route descends a further 100' before doing a brief traverse across loose terrain and ascending the first gulley. Everything is loose, and I set off multiple avalanches of rocks. With a partner, this definitely would have been terrain to spread out on. Route descriptions mention a natural arch, and I was looking for it to help guide me. Incidentally, the arch couldn't be seen until I was above it, but it did signify that I was in the right spot. Once back on the ridge, the going was relatively easy until the next obstacle, the fractured notch.
From the route, the notch can't be seen until you're basically on it. I descended slightly early, but the terrain was easier, mostly loose talus. Unfortunately, there wasn't really any snow to help me, and instead, the bypass was a loose talus traverse, which ended at the first point that the glacier intersects the ridge. Back on the ridge, the rock becomes looser and the route ascends more steeply requiring the occasional rock move. The last several hundred vertical feet of the ridge are more exposed and icy patches of snow complicated progress, but the rock was also better.
A few hundred feet below the summit, the crux of the route came into view. There was a lot more snow than I was hoping for with much of the access to the east ridge blocked by a sizeable cornice. The glacier had an hourglass shape punctuated by rocks and terminated in a cliff. A fall on it could easily take a turn for the catastrophic. I momentarily debated downclimbing to the bottom of the pocket glacier and traversing it where it had a more moderate angle. However, exiting this route to the east ridge required crossing loose and exposed rock with a lot of unknowns. Ultimately, I decided to traverse the snow-covered glacier for as far as I felt comfortable using the moat to my advantage.
The route went about as easily as I could have hoped. The exposure was real, but the snow was also perfect for kicking steps. I actually didn't trust the snow plug in the moat very much, because it collapsed on me in two places. The exit to the east ridge was quite steep, maybe 60-degree snow. It felt like going up a ladder, but I had one hand using the rock and the other with my ice axe. Overall, with a couple pickets and the conditions I found it in, the traverse could be done with minimal risk. With small nuts or cams, it might even be possible to protect it using the rock wall, but it didn't have enough features to make me think that is for sure the way to go.
Once on the east ridge, the remainder of the climb was entirely on rock. I started up the broken crest (in mountaineering boots), and the crux was encountered almost immediately. It's about thirty feet of Beckey class 4 (low 5th) on good rock for the mountain. It may have been possible to take the crest all the way to the top, but I saw a nice exit into the gulley on climber's left, which I took to the ridge.
The summit is spectacular, but it was hard to really enjoy it knowing that I still had technical down-climbing ahead of me. With only a 30m rope, I didn't think the established rappel station was going to work for me. Instead, I downclimbed the gulley with a minor mishap when a microwave sized rock came loose and smacked my arm. Above the 5th class crux, I really had to hunt to find a suitable anchor for a rappel. Most of the rocks moved when weighted. Two rappels brought me down past most of the steepest snow and in position to traverse back to the north ridge.
Relieved to finally be done with the most exposed terrain, I took the ridge all the way back to camp. If I weren't alone, I almost certainly would have rappeled from the ridge to the glacier and bypassed most of the loosest sections of the ridge. I thought it was harder to descend, because face out my hands weren't useful for catching myself when rocks unexpectedly shifted. Adam was waiting at camp, and rather than get caught in a bushwhack at night, we enjoyed the spectacular evening views of Hozemeen along with the thousands of mosquitoes.
Adam woke up early and immediately discovered that the mosquitoes were still active. Apparently, it hadn't gotten cold enough overnight to force them into hibernation. Concerned that it would get worse, we got up early and began the descent to Ross Lake. Without a GPS device route-finding would have been noticeably more difficult, because the natural grade of the ridge eagerly wanted to lead us toward May or Devil's Creek.
In a few short hours, we reached the trail, took a quick coffee break, and made contact with Ross Lake Resort to get picked up earlier. Within an hour of reaching Devil's Junction we were on a boat headed back to our car. The last obstacle was only the 500' climb back to the car.
|Summary Total Data|
| Grade/Class:||Class 5|
| Route Conditions:||Maintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb|
| Gear Used:||Ice Axe, Rope, Ski Poles, Tent Camp|
| Weather:||Hot, Calm, Clear|
| Route:||North Ridge|
| Start Trailhead:||Ross Lake Dam TH |
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