John Guilford's Hikes
Three Fingers on 1998-08-26
People: (including myself): Gene Obie, Joe Tarantino, Glenn Engel
My Alt. Real Alt.
Mtn Loop Hwy: 8:30 1080
Start: 9:20 3020 3020
Saddle Lake: 10:30 3740 3800 2.5 Miles
Start Meadows: 10:55 4200
Goat Flats: 12:00 4920 ~5000 5 Miles
Tin Can Gap: 1:00 5660 5740
Lookout: 2:25 6720 6850
Leave: 3:50 6700
Tin Can Gap: 4:45 5640
Goat Flats: 5:50 4900
Bottom Meadows: 6:00 4400
Saddle Lake: 6:40 3740
Out-Tupso Pass: 7:55 3020
Mtn Loop Hwy: 8:50
Granite Falls: 9:00
It had been 9 years since my last climb of Three Fingers. Some things had
changed while some things were the same.
The weather was okay but not great. It was solid clouds when we started
out. The forecast called for the clouds to burn off by the afternoon.
Maybe they did in Seattle, but the clouds hung around most of the time
around Three Fingers.
The drive in from the Mountain Loop Highway to Tupso pass (and the trail
head) is long but straight forward, taking between 45 minutes to an hour.
The road was pot holed and wash board in places, but Gene's 4wd Subaru
handled it well.
For the first two miles the trail is somewhat rough. This is a popular
trail and gets a fair amount of traffic. This has worn down the trail to
where one has to step over/around rocks and roots. The trail passes along
the north side of Meadow Mountain, a relatively low (4780') hill. The
trail initially gains altitude and then loses some altitude, before gaining
some more altitude to reach Saddle Lake (located in the saddle between
Three Fingers and Meadow Mtn).
Continuing from Saddle Lake the trail ascends a broad, flat topped ridge
leading towards Three Fingers. Soon one enters a series of meadows filled
with grasses, wild flowers, and blueberry bushes. Climbing up through the
meadows, one passes to the north of Columbine Lake and Noble Lake before
arriving at the final and largest meadow, Goat Flats.
Up till here we had been hiking in cloudy weather with light fog blowing
through the landscape. My fleece jacket was too warm to hike in, but my
short sleeve shirt was a bit on the cool side, particularly when stopped
for a break. Occasional holes would come in the clouds and we could see
the summit, but we were still waiting for the clouds to break as they
The trail crosses over the ridge line and does a climbing traverse up the
south side of the ridge. Along here we heard and saw about a dozen
marmots. About a half mile further the trail switchbacks up to Tin Can
Gap. From there the trail essentially follows the narrow ridge line above
the Queest-Alb glacier, sometimes on one side of the ridge and sometimes on
the other. The route through this part varies with the time of year and
condition of the snow. Nine years ago we had to do a couple long stretches
on the upper snow fields. This year almost all of it was off the snow (due
to the snow being more melted out this year).
Past the ridge the way becomes steeper as you approach the summit proper.
Just below the summit one has to climb a steep snow field. At the top of
the snow field, bear to the left around the corner. There one finds the
first of three ladders leading to the summit lookout.
By the time we reached the lookout, a hole had developed in the clouds and
the lookout was in the sun (which felt good). Despite our waiting for
almost an hour and a half, the only view we got from the summit was down
into the Squire Creek drainage (four thousand feet below the east side of
Three Fingers). We spent some time scraping paint on the lookout (they
were preparing it to get it repainted before winter set in) and some time
just hanging out. There was only one person we met during the hike.
She was at the lookout when we got there and left before we did, though we
later passed her down in the meadows picking blueberries.
Interestingly, at the lookout we found an old iron, as in the kind one uses
to iron clothes with. On it was painted the message, "Please unplug after
using." We find it rather humorous that someone would carry one up there.
Climbing down the ladders from the lookout is a bit trickier than climbing
up them, particularly while wearing a pack. This was more than made up for
by the ease of glissading (standing) down the snowfield a bit further down.
The mud, rocks, and roots towards the bottom of the trail was a bit of a
nuisance, but we arrived back at the trailhead in plenty of light (though
it was dark before we got back to the Mountain Loop Highway). Driving back
down from the trailhead we spotted numerous rabbits along the side of the
road. Apparently they came out due to the dusk.
The lack of (the usually stupendous) views at the summit was a bit
disappointing, but was still a good hike.
Gene, Joe, John, and Glenn on summit.
Glenn taking it easy on the summit.
Descending ladders from Three Finger's lookout.
Please send comments or corrections to
Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015