Posted by Chris Erikson on Oct 6, 2005
Intrepid Washington and Oregon slope explorer Chris Erikson has another one for us. Jumpoff Mountaion about 24 miles west of Yakima. The west face of this place looks killer!
Jumpoff Mtn, WA
Copyright Chris Erikson 2005
Location: 26 miles W of Yakima, WA
Coordinates: (NAD83 / WGS84 datum)
Wind: E, SE, S, SW, W, NW
Access: Dirt Road, medium clearance, final ¼ mile is steep with large rocks if you ascend the east side of the summit region.
Season: June to mid October, limited by snowpack
Vertical Relief: 3000’+ on west face, 2000’+ on east and south faces
Skill level: Expert (W wind sites), Beginner (S and E wind sites)
Background: Jumpoff Mtn is located about 4 miles east of the north end of Rimrock lake, in the Naches region of the central Washington Cascades. The NW corner of the mountain has a summit elevation of 5670′ at the site of the still present, but unmanned fire lookout. This summit comprises the northern terminus of a much larger ridge system known as Divide Ridge.
The mountain is ideally located for incredible regional views of the central Cascades as well as Rimrock Lake and Mt Rainier to the W. The W slopes are mostly cliffs, with one flyable bowl and another riskier one, while the S and E faces are moderately steep and open, with alpine turf and few rocks. One look at much of the west face and you’ll see why Jumpoff is a name with no shortage of irony.
The summit region is a plateau of about ¼ square mile. Spring comes to Jumpoff Mtn sometime in June, with wonderful flowery meadows above the S and E faces.
This mountain is one of the few drivable Cascade peaks in Washington with solid flying opportunities for almost any wind. You need not fear the high pressure systems which hover over the state during hot weather and usually result in unflyable days on other peaks, as the resulting east winds are great for flying the delightful E (and S) slopes this mountain offers. These slopes offer some of the best of a handful of truly soft landing zones lacking at nearly all other Cascade alpine slopes.
The approach road is a bit of a drive, but worth it due to the number of flyable faces for coverage of most wind conditions.
Please respect the “no drive” zone shown on the summit map, as it consists of fragile alpine turf torn up and badly eroded by irresponsible 4×4 use. No matter how dry it is, PLEASE stay off this stretch in your vehicle. Violating these rules in this era of increased land use scrutiny and management could result in closure of the mountain.
Weather: Due to it’s location east of the Cascade crest, the weather is much drier and warmer than the west side of the state. Just a few miles farther east, tree cover is nearly absent from the surrounding mountains.
Lightning storms are common during the summer months here, but the Cascades do stop most of the moisture from all but major frontal systems.
Frontal systems moving across the state invariably result in good flying in a brisk to howling west wind, also possible as well during afternoons on light days. Stalled high pressure systems and hot weather results in easterlies for flying the E and S faces.
West Face: Large cliffs predominate on this face, with one flyable bowl near it’s southern end, and another steeper one which may be flyable, approximately in the center of the west face. Small rocks on top, big rocks below. See map for more detail.
South and East Face: Moderately sloped grass and alpine flowers, calf-high.
West Face: Due to effects of White Pass at the W at the head of the large drainage containing Rimrock lake, this face is literally subject to a wind tunnel effect at any time when weather drives the prevailing winds from the W. Lift can be enormous here, but the cliffs make flying risky at all but the southern bowl on the west face previously mentioned.
S and E faces: Wide open and safe flying. Ideal in E wind conditions during stalled high pressure systems accompanying dry, hot weather. Good lift with little turbulence.
Landing zone: On the West face, landing zone has somewhat rocky soil but few large boulders… unless you wind up down the hill. On the East and South slopes, it’s wide open meadow with few if any rocks.
Walk of Shame:
West slope: Problematic and dangerous at all but the W flying bowl, even there it’s loose talus at high angle. However, you can probably retrieve planes lost over the surrounding cliffs by descending the bowl(s) and then traversing under the cliffs on either side. It’s not quite as bad as it looks from the top, but your descent routes are limited to the two bowls.
East and South slopes: Totally open, moderate steepness, mostly small sage, alpine grasses and flowers.
Camping: Campsites numerous and obvious, beginning at bottom of hill and continuing all the way up. Sites are unimproved, pay attention to fire conditions as this area is extremely dry. Please clean up after yourself.
Getting There: From Yakima, head NW on Hwy 12 through Naches, then at 4.5 miles after Naches, take the turnoff where Hwy 12 turns left and continue on it SW towards White Pass and Rimrock Lake.
Follow Hwy 12 for about 8 miles from the highway junction, keeping a sharp eye out for the Windy Point campground on the left side of the road. Proceed an additional ¼ miles W past the Windy Point campground to where Hwy 12 crosses the Tieton river, immediately after the bridge turn left onto the obvious dirt road. This is the main road to the summit.
Stay left ignoring the right turn back down towards the river in a few tenths of a mile. The road will head back N while climbing along the side of the hill, reaching the ridgeline at about 2.5 miles from Hwy 12.
From here, continue on the main road along the ridge top, ignoring all spur roads. The safest bet at intersections is to continue straight or bear right, if the road begins to drop down either side of the hill you’ve made a wrong turn. The main road stays on top of the ridge the entire remaining 10 or so miles to the summit. At one point about halfway there, you’ll cross under some small power lines and circle around a small north facing basin, then continue S again on the ridge top.
In the final ½ mile, the main road will cross the top of a nice East facing bowl and you’ll know you’re almost there.
To get to the top and the S face, E face, and SW corner of the W face, look for the rocky jeep track ascending the shoulder of the ridge immediately before you re-enter the trees at the S end of the bowl already mentioned. This track is obvious, as are the E and S face sites along it. If you go up here, again, please do not drive past the stand of trees on the west end of the summit, where this road loops out into the chewed up alpine turf of the summit and back down to the main road. The jeep track up from the bowl and main road is rocky and hardened until then, but shortly beyond these trees it turns into soft soils which can be torn up even in dry conditions.
For immediate gratification, and your first “holy crap” view of the W face, stay on the main road and keep going. This takes you to the northern half of the west face, near the old lookout. It’s only 1 minute back to the jeep track to get on top anyway. A small knob right on the face provides an ideal, but creepy parking spot to assess the hill, as well as the perfect place for a spectacular, Jeep commercial grade shot of your slope sled right on the edge of a giant wall with Rainier and Rimrock lake in the distance. Or just park on the road and call it good.
Note the large ruts in the road, evidence of people driving up too early and damaging the road bed. As you reach the cliffs, you will see yet another heavily rutted dirt road on the left climbing the meadow. While this is the other end of the summit plateau loop road, PLEASE do not use this end of it for access, due to the reasons described previously. And often.
See the details on the summit map. Please do not abuse our access by driving on the sensitive areas anyway, and have us locked out from this fine site. The Forest Service DOES pay attention, and due to intense and constant pressure from environmental groups, not without reason as you can see from the road and meadow damage, we must be on our best behavior and police ourselves.