John Guilford's Hikes
Three Fingers on 1989-09-23
People: (including myself): Gene Obie
I made it to the top this time!!! It took longer than expected, however,
as we ended up getting out to the trail head about 45 minutes after dark.
(I wished I had brought a flashlight this time as it had just got dark
enough that I would have wanted to use a flashlight instead of seeing by
star light (the moon didn't rise until late that night), when we got out).
I thought the top wasn't very far beyond Tin Can Gap, whereas it really is
quite a ways further. We should have left earlier (but we didn't - Oh
well). We didn't leave my place until 8:45, so we didn't start hiking
until almost 10. The hike up past Saddle Lake
to Goat flats was unremarkable (although Gene's knee started hurting
(mildly) almost from the start). At the top of Goat Flats, we cross over
to the "far" side of the mountain range and make a long traverse northward
(the little pass at the top of the Goat Flats isn't Tin Can Gap, like I
used to think it was). At the end of this long traverse (which gains some
amount of altitude), we switchback up to a gap and cross over to the "near"
side. This is as far as Lynn went last time. We then cross the first snow
field and get to Tin Can Gap. This is where I gave up last time. It is a
good thing I gave up then, not because of the exposure, but since the
summit was so far away, I would have left Lynn stranded for a long time,
and (probably) still not got to the summit. The glacier under Tin Can Gap
has some pretty good exposure. If you started sliding, and couldn't stop
yourself, you'd go quite a ways before some crevasses stopped you.
However, unlike my conclusion the last time I was here, you didn't really
NEED an ice axe (although it was nice to have - I'm glad I brought mine).
It turns out that you don't have to go very far across the gap (last time I
thought you'd have to go a considerable distance across the glacier, all
the time being exposed). At the gap itself, instead of the snow being
corniced (as I imagined it might be), there is solid ground (and even the
trail!) on the other side. You have to go maybe 20 feet over the top of
the glacier, then you hop over the top onto the ground and continue along a
trail on the "far side". If you want, you can circle around the "near"
side on the glacier. We then followed along the ridge line sometimes on
the "near" side, and sometimes on the "far" side, and occasionally
traversing snow (though none with appreciable exposure). This continues
until you get to the main peak where you ascend around to the right side.
Near the top we had a stretch where we had to go up several hundred feet of
30 degree sloped glacier. This wasn't bad, and made coming down easier. By
this time I felt like my legs were getting pretty beat. I stopped for a
bit at the bottom of this glacier to snack a bit (and rest). (BTW, I also
stopped in Goat Flats for the first half of lunch (I was getting pretty
hungry by then)). At the top of the glacier we had to do some rock
scrambling to get to the top (the lookout was in easy view by this point).
At this point, the ice-axes weren't at all useful and a pain to carry (you
wanted both hands free to grab rock). In hind sight, we should have just
left them there, and picked them up on the way down; instead we fastened
them onto the back of the day-packs. That worked out okay for me, though
Gene had a harder time attaching it to his pack and neither of us had a
real good way to do it. We got to the top about three. The view was
excellent. It was a really clear day and you could see forever. We had
views from Mt. Baker (and beyond) down to (faintly) Mt. Rainier, and from
Glacier Peak to the sound. On the north face of Three Fingers, it drops
about 2000 ft straight down. I had a hard time going up to that edge.
There is somewhat of a ledge about 20 feet down. Legend has it, that the
lookout observer used to tie a big rope to himself, and go down there for
his latrine. I'd hate to do that (especially at night)! We finished lunch
on top and putzed around until about 3:45 before starting down (I thought
that might make it late going out, but the view from the top was worth it).
I wished I could have stayed up there longer. I could have stayed all
evening (if it weren't for getting out during daylight). A number of
people were planning on spending the night up in the lookout. It seems
that you should count on getting there early if you want to spend the
night; you should also count on having company. We finally decided that we
really had to get going and left. Some one wanted a picture of the rock
that you had to climb to get to the summit (they had just arrived), so they
took our picture as we were leaving. Somewhere, is some photo book, Gene
and I are immortalized. In the clear air and sun, the views of the
glaciers and snow fields were great (as good as the views of the other
peaks). We even located where we had been on Whitehorse. Coming back down
the glacier was fun. It was my first try at glissading. At the slope we
were at, a standing glissade wasn't that hard. Gene tried a self arrest by
starting a slide and digging in his ice axe. It stopped his real good, but
he said it really puts a good yank on your arms. It is hard to keep a good
grip. The way down was uneventful except that it took us until 7:45 to get
out. Putting some ice-cold pop in a cooler in the truck was a GOOD thing.
We weren't nearly as dehydrated as we were after Whitehorse, but it sure
tasted good. Amazingly enough, we actually learned things from the
previous hike, as Gene and I both, independently, decided to bring a cooler
with pop in it this time.
Gene near Tin Can Gap. Glaciers visible as is lookout just left of
Another view of glacier and lookout.
Gene coming down snow field. Sometimes the snow field makes a good
route, but if its icier, then one has to climb down the moat adjacent to
the snow field.
View back down the ridge. The path from the previous picture is
visible at the far left edge of the top snow field.
View of Mt. Baker and the south side of Whitehorse from the lookout.
View towards the east from the lookout. Glacier peak visible on the
View from lookout.
Another view across glacier towards the lookout.
Sun peeking through the trees on the traverse from Goat Flats to Tin
East side of Three Fingers as seen from Mt. Dickerman (photo taken a
week after climb). Lookout is on the left of the three fingers.
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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015