Jack Mountain, WA's Hardest Non-Volcanic 9er!

Where: North Cascades, Washington
When: July 2007
Partners: Pat Gallagher & Kevin from Seattle
Route: South Face (5.2)
Mileage/Gain: 22/11,000
Topo: Jack Mountain

Jack Mountain and Crater Mountain (right) from Highway 20

On my first trip to the North Cascades in summer 2001, I made the long and grinding hike up Desolation Peak. From the summit, standing in the Forest Service lookout tower, I was transfixed by the two stunning peaks on either side of me - Hozomeen Mountain to the north, and Jack Mountain to the south. And I never forgot them...

Although you've never heard of it, Jack Mountain is the 8th highest non-volcanic mountain in the state of Washington. Not far from Highway 20, which splits North Cascades National Park, the seldom-seen giant is hidden behind another big, but much smaller, peak called Crater Mountain.

In summer 2007, I hooked up with Pat Gallagher and Kevin from WA for an attempt of Jack Mountain. Kevin, as I remember it, had never heard of Jack, but Pat had attempted it (and failed) several years earlier. Jack was unfinished business for him.

Gathering at Kevin's house north of Seattle, we collectively headed north to the park, soon reaching the trailhead, where we finished sorting out our gear. Before long, we started up the steep trail that heads up the southern slopes of Crater Mountain. Eventually reaching a stunning lake, we continued up the trail until we hit snow. There, we carefully crossed steep slopes only a few hundred feet below the precipitous south face of Crater Mountain.

Crossing a saddle on the east face of Crater, we got onto the glacier on her backside and made the long drop down to Jerry Lakes, a stunning collection of alpine lakes in a glaciated cirque - fabulous!

Rising the next morning, we encountered questionable weather conditions but made the decision to at least start the hike toward Jack Mountain, still a long way off, and see what transpired.

Fortunately, the weather cooperated and we were able to climb up and out of the bowl, drop about 1,000 feet on the backside, and finally face our objective - Jack Mountain. Crossing steep snow slopes across the south face of the mountain, I dropped my cumbersome plastic boots, donned by tennis shoes, and we climbed the single short technical pitch that's required to gain the bottom of the massive south face. Above that, a thousand feet of class 3-4 scrambling on loose rock...but that's the stuff I'm used to, and good at!

I made quick time up the mountain, crossing a steep snow arete just below the final ridge traverse that would take me to the top. I surprised my much faster and fitter partners with my speed on this kind of terrain, beating them both to the highpoint...just as clouds began to roll in.
CP and Pat (right) on the summit

Snapping a couple of pictures and signing the register, it was time to start down. Again making good time on the descent, we rappelled through the 5th class step low on the face and prepared to cross the steep snow slope back to firm ground on the other side...and that's when the pitifully small amount of food I'd packed for the three day trip caught up to me. I had barely brought any food for the climb, mistakenly figuring that the bad weather we'd seen that morning would have precluded a summit climb. Now feeling weak and unsteady, I was practically crawling across the steep snow slope. Seeing my plight, Pat, who'd already made it across safely with Kevin, came back across the slope and short-roped me back.

A long break on the rocks, assisted with cheese and salami from Pat, and I was feeling fine. Relishing in our success on this big mountain, we enjoyably hiked back to our camp by Jerry Lakes in the rain, where we joked, I enjoyed more of Pat's food, and we eventually settled in to an early bed for the next morning's hike out.

-Pat's CascadeClimbers trip report

Bottom photo by Kevin from WA