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John Guilford's Hikes

Three Fingers on 1989-09-23


Date: 1989-09-23

Location: Three Fingers

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. 


Pictures:


[ PIX1 ] Gene near Tin Can Gap.  Glaciers visible as is lookout just left of center. 

[ PIX2 ] Another view of glacier and lookout. 

[ PIX3 ] 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. 

[ PIX4 ] View back down the ridge.  The path from the previous picture is visible at the far left edge of the top snow field. 

[ PIX5 ] View of Mt. Baker and the south side of Whitehorse from the lookout. 

[ PIX6 ] View towards the east from the lookout.  Glacier peak visible on the left. 

[ PIX7 ] View from lookout. 

[ PIX8 ] Another view across glacier towards the lookout. 

[ PIX9 ] Sun peeking through the trees on the traverse from Goat Flats to Tin Can Gap. 

[ PIXa ] Misc. view. 

[ PIXb ] 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