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John Guilford's Hikes

Goat Flats on 1989-09-04

Date: 1989-09-04

Location: Goat Flats

People: (including myself): Lynn

We went up with the goal of reaching the top of Three Fingers (or at least to see how difficult it would be).  We took one wrong turn on the forest service road on the way in (a short distance later, we stopped, check the NFS map, and corrected ourselves); you stay low on the main road almost all the way in (crossing two rivers); just at the end (within 1/2 mile) you turn right and go up to Tupso Pass.  The way in was relatively flat and we made good time (initially, I accused Lynn of trying to leave me in the dust), though the way was pretty muddy (being the third day of a 3-day weekend - a lot of boots stomped it up before us).  We had a momentary confusion at Saddle Lake trying to find the trail, before we went up to the edge of the lake and turned left.  There were a fair number of people there, and we kept a decent pace to avoid being caught in a group.  Unfortunately, today wasn't as good as yesterday (weather wise) and the clouds started coming in when we got to goat flats.  After crossing over to the back side (over what I thought was Tin Can Gap - but which turns out not to be), we saw some nice views (it being our first time over there), but they didn't photograph very well.  We made a long traverse towards what is (in reality) Tin Can Gap.  On the way, we passed some Mountaineer's types whom we overheard saying things about they wouldn't go to the top without ice axes.  In addition, everyone we saw up there had axes (besides ourselves who didn't).  This didn't bode well for our summit expedition.  At the end of the traverse we switched back up to a gap and crossed over the ridge line again.  There we beheld glaciers.  At this point Lynn decided she'd had enough and was going to eat lunch (it was pretty cool and cloudy at this point).  Believing that I was near the top, I wanted to push on.  I decided to go along the gap between the top of the glacier and the rocks.  I went along here for a bit (it was hard going) and wished I'd brought gloves.  I decided that that wasn't going to work and headed back.  I looked at the top of the glacier, and even though it was relatively steep, there was a well worn boot track across the top, and there wasn't much exposure (you'd only slide maybe 100' before you hit rocks and would stop).  I followed the boot track across the glacier a couple hundred feet and descended back to a dirt trail.  This continued a bit further until I came to the real Tin Can Gap.  Here I was stymied.  Visibility was poor (a couple hundred yards), but I could see that the glacier here went quite a ways down into crevasses.  The glacier rose higher than I did, and looked like it might have had a cornice over the gap, although there may have been space to go between rocks and the glacier and cross the gap that way.  Worse, it looked like the beaten track crossed the gap and then veered to the left across the glacier. This track faded into the clouds.  Thus, I had a problem.  Even if I could cross the gap on the rocks, the rocks went right, and the track went left.  Did they come together further on? I definitely didn't want to cross the track there without an ice-axe, since there was quite a bit of exposure (although I'd say the odds against slipping were really good, the consequences were really bad).  This, coupled with the fact that Lynn was waiting for me and that I wouldn't have been able to see anything anyway, led me to turn around.  The trip back down was uneventful.  We discovered that there is a pit toilet up on goat flats (BYOTP).  (Later note: on a subsequent trip I found out how far it was from the gap to the summit.  It was a good thing I turned back when I did.  If I had gone on (which I could have done without an ice axe - as it turns out), I would have either had to turn back before the summit anyway, or leave Lynn sitting in the cold for several hours). 

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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015