Jumpoff Ridge (West Gunn Peak) - 6218' Miles: 10.5 Gain: 2600' GT Monte Cristo #143
• home •| • about • CascadeDreams
 March 27, 2010
Neil's email invitation to try Jumpoff Ridge this weekend said that he remembered it to be a beautiful peak, and as usual he was right.  It was 20 years ago at about the same time of year that he last visited the area and from what he told us, it was something of an epic.  Snow and cold, stuck in a gully that required climbing a waterfall to exit, getting soaked, parts of the stove left at home...

Anne and I met Neil at the Index Cafe on Hwy 2 around 10:00am.  With something like 5 miles and 3500' to our planned camp at a lake at 4540', we felt like we had enough time to get there even with the late start.  In fact Anne and I even joined Neil for a little breakfast before driving 4 miles up the North Fork Road to the gated road and the start of the day.

The route follows this abandoned road for about 2.5 miles and at a switchback just after crossing Bitter Creek at about 2300' enters the Bitter Creek Valley. There are three or maybe four washed out spots on this lower part of the road but none are any trouble to cross. From the switchback we followed a more overgrown road bed for a 1/3 mile or so to it's end. From there we intended to stay above the creek and traverse SE to a point at 3000' near the head of the valley before turning W up slope to the lake.

From the road end we did fine in fairly dense forest for 1/4 mile until we ran out of trees and the slide alder took over in a series of avalanche chutes cleaving the valley wall.  Each chute seemed more difficult to get through than it's predecessor and at some point we finally gave up and dropped down into the rocky valley bottom where the brush looked more manageable.  To a limited extent that proved to be the case, but it was still hard going.

At around 2800' we hit the snow which proved to be solid enough to still pin some of the branches under it to the ground but thin and soft enough that we punched through about every third step.  Of course those branches then grabbed your foot

and it took a pretty good pull to get it free.  We all brought snowshoes, but the brush that was above the snow was dense enough that they would have been as much hindrance as blessing.  So we trudged along as best we could.

Neil's recollection was that he had entered the creek gully coming from the outlet of the lake and was forced at one point to climb up a waterfall, getting soaked in the process. He figured that the slope west of the outlet gully should be the way to go and we found it without problem. Up we went and as we climbed the terrain became more difficult. Not technically difficult but hard hard going. Wet mossy rocks and slippery slabs now poked through the soft snow so the options became slick rock or hope not to punch through the snow surrounding them. Do I sound BITTER as we climbed out of the BITTER Creek valley?

After about 300' of this we dead ended in a slabby cascade and had to traverse west.  It wasn't long after that we were confronted with 30' of cliff face that  seemed continuous from gully to gully in front of us.  Neil scouted around to see if there was a feasible way through the cliffs but decided that the one path he found was at best marginal and with overnight packs probably not a good idea.  We continued poking around back further to the west, but to no avail.

We were still 1000' below the lake, it was 5:30pm and the closest spot even remotely flat enough to consider camp was quite a ways down and back into the valley bottom. With a little discussion we elected to just hike out. The weather was supposed to be wet and snowy overnight and since we weren't going to be able to finish the scramble anyway why camp here and have to pack up and hike out in the rain the next morning?   So that was it.  It really is a very pretty ridge though and had this been a more normal snow year all that alder and devils club would have still been buried as would all those slick rocks and slabs.  We would have had a better chance of making it up to the lake and the scramble from there looked pretty spectacular.  Maybe next winter.

Drive US Hwy 2 east to the turn off for the Town of Index (North Fork Road - Rd 63) follow for about 4 miles to an unmarked gated gravel road on the right just south of Bitter Creek.
 12  images in this album.
SimpleViewer requires JavaScript and the Flash Player. Get Flash.
All original content ©CascadeDreams - All rights reserved.Last Revision: 29 March 2010