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John Guilford's Hikes

Three Fingers on 1998-08-26

Date: 1998-08-26

Location: Three Fingers

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 forecast. 

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. 

[ PIX3 ][ PIX2 ]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. 

[ PIX1 ]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. 


[ PIX3 ] Gene, Joe, John, and Glenn on summit. 

[ PIX2 ] Glenn taking it easy on the summit. 

[ PIX1 ] Descending ladders from Three Finger's lookout. 

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