Volcanoes and History
Cascade Range Volcanoes - "Volcanoes and History"

First Ascent of Mount Jefferson, Oregon
August 12, 1888

Excerpts from: Mazamas, 1907, "The First Ascent of Mount Jefferson": Mazama: A Record of Mountaineering in the Pacific Northwest, Vol.3, No.1, March 1907, p.67-69.

The first climbers who succeeded in scaling the pinnacle that crowns the summit of Mt. Jefferson were Ray L. Farmer and E.C. Cross, both of Salem, Oregon. This ascent was made August 12, 1888. Mr. George J. Pearce accompanied them to the base of the pinnacle. Mr. Farmer in a letter of February 4, 1907, to the editor of this Bulletin, says:

"We had nothing to leave on the summit except a cartridge, which we shoved in the crack of a large rock, and this cartridge I understand was found a few years ago on this rock by Mr. Lem Gates. This last information was given me by Mr. Barnham.

"I have always contended that we had one of the most favorable seasons, and that there are seasons when it would be impossible to make the ascent. To prove this, a party consisting of Mr. Edward Weller, Mr. Harvey Jordan, Mr. Eugene Willis and the writer, were on this same trip the year before, 1887, and that year (1887), in order to reach the camp at the foot of the mountain we walked over acres of snow that was all the way from three to twenty feet deep. The next year, 1888, there was not a bit of snow where the year before there had been so much of it.

"You will note that Mr. Burnett says (Oregon Daily Statesman, Aug. 8, 1897) that we are no doubt entitled to the honor of having made the first ascent of the pinnacle, although not reaching the highest peak. This may be a little misleading, as after having reached the top of the pinnacle it was just as easy to step to the top of one peak as to the other, and we certainly weould not let an opportunity like that pass by without taking in all there was to it.

"You will note also that it was nine years after we made the ascent before it was made again, and during that time our statements were, to be plain, rather disbelieved, but now all are willing to admit it."

This first ascent was made by way of the south slope. They estimated the distance from camp at the base of the mountian to the foot of the pinnacle as about three mies, and it required five hours' steady work to reach that point. A bottle was found there containing the names of sundry climbers who had reached the base of the pinnacle without being able to scale it, ...    

After a short rest the three climbers crossed the short ridge that leads to the immediate base of the pinnacle. "Mr. Farmer and Mr. Cross skirted the pinnacle (the snow-line being unusually low) along the brink that pitches down to the frightful steep of the great ravine that leads down the southwest side of the mountain, and disappeared from view," said George J. Pearce. "I think it was more than an hour before I knew the whereabouts of my companions, when they shouted, and looking up I saw them leaning over the crags far above me and near the southeast or lower summit of the pinnacle. They warned me not to attempt to come up there, but I had no intention of doing so, and I remained at the base awaiting their return. From the point where they shouted to me there was no difficulty in reaching the summits of the pinnacle and the connecting ridge, and they were in all probability the first to stand on those sublime heights 'in space eternal.'

"After a considerable time I saw them returning, and for a time at one point the descent was extremely dangerous, as I could easily see, and I was very glad when they safely rejoined me after an absence of nearly three hours. ..."    

The most reliable account of ths ascent will be found in the Oregonian, August 24, 1900, over the signature of Mr. Pearce. Another but less accurate description of it appeared in the Daily Statesman, Salem, August 17, 1888.

List of Climbers Who Have Scaled the Pinnacle of Mount Jefferson:

  • First Ascent, August 12, 1888, by Ray L. Farmer and Ed. C. Cross, of Salem, Oregon (south side).

  • Second Ascent (south side), July 14, 1897, by Lem Gates, Major Charles E. Roblin, Miss Musa Geer, of Salem; Mr. Pearl Blackerby, Miss Helen Hibbard, of Silverton. Mr. Gates, the guide, a cool and daring climber who knows the south side of the mountain well, anchored a rope at the top of the pinnacle. He also carried the Mazama Box to the summit from "Kirby's Landing", a heap of rocks just south of the base of the pinnacle where it had been left a few years before by Mr. Kirby and his party of Mazamas.

  • Third Ascent (south side), August 5, 1897, by Lem Gates (guide), Major C.E. Roblin (his second ascent), Judge George H. Burnett, J.H. Collins, E.C. Neal. Just as they reached the top of the pinnacle a thunder storm burst upon them and several electric shocks were felt by members of the party. A very interesting account of ths ascent, written by Judge Burnett, of the circuit court, will be found in the Oregon Daily Statesman of Salem, August 8, 1897.

  • Fourth ascent, September 24, 1901, Mr. Sherman Barnham (reported to the editor of this Bulletin by Mr. Ray Farmer).

  • Fifth ascent (north side), August, 1903, by Mr. S.S. Mohler, of Oregon City, alone. This was the first ascent from the north.

  • Sixth ascent (north side), early in august, 1906, by L.J. Hicks and S.S. Mohler.


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