Sunday, July 18, 2010

Three Fingered Jack Successful Summit

Today Evan joined me on my 2nd attempt at Three Fingered Jack
in a year. This time I was going to get the summit because Evan is a pro at ropes and rock climbing. I knew that with him it would be easy and safe. What I didn’t know was how freakin’ in shape he is and how fast he moves! ha! Fortunately, I was able to keep up with him pretty well, although my legs would pay for it later. We got a late start around 9:30 and the number of cars in the trailhead parking lot had a me a little worried. Evan assumed that they were probably PCT hikers or people shuttling supplies for thru-hikers but I was worried that they may be climbers on TFJ which we would have to wait for.... Unfortunately I was right.
We made it over the 5-6 miles through burnt forest to the ridge in just about 3 hours. It was near 1pm when we reached “The Crawl” where Emily and I
had turned around last fall. We were surprised on the route to find a lot of snow still left over from the amazing
spring snow season. We were both in sneakers so were glad that it hadn’t melted too much in
the morning. We scrambled up the steep scree slope to the ridge in what felt like 15 minutes (damn he is fast!). We moved quickly down the ridge and upon reaching the crawl realized that there were at least 6-8 climbers in front of us roped up on the final ascent. It is common climbing etiquette to wait-your-turn so we decided to sit down on the rocks in the beautiful sun and relax while some of the climbers descended down to us. We also took that time to go over the rope system we would use and my rusty belaying/rapelling skills. It was like riding a bike and it all came back to me very quickly.
When the four
climbers reached us they thanked us for waiting and letting them take their time. We had been there for over an hour and a half. Evan set up the anchor quickly and I set up my belay and off he went leading the way around the “crawl”. He only found one pin nailed into the rock that he was able to clip into but set up a couple others using a few nuts and webbing that he had. The 9.1mm rope we were using was 70 meters long so he was able to get pretty far up the ridge before setting up to belay me. It was a blast being on a rope again I was hoping that the
helmet cam mounted to my rock helmet would get some cool video of the crazy exposure where we were. We quickly made it along the ridge and instead of belaying up the middle part of it we just scrambled along to set up our 2nd pitch. Again we found ourselves waiting for a team of climbers descending from the summit. Once up the 2nd pitch we found ourselves directly beneath the summit pinnacle, a 40 foot high wall of crumbly rock. Above us was a father/daughter team. We learned it was the girls first technical climb and her fathers first time leading. For an older father and a daughter about half my age we both found them picking this mountain to start on was pretty dumb but the father seemed to really be taking his time and assuring his daughter was clipped in to anchors. Even so, it took them nearly two hours to go the 40 feet to the summit and back at the top of the crumbly rock wall. Before they set themselves up to rappel down the father asked if we wanted to come up and pass them. We had been sitting in a funnel of wind for nearly two hours and I was shaking violently so we both nodded yes very quickly. While we had been sitting there we had scrambled over to the edge of a cliff to try to get out the wind. From there we had a great view of the true
summit and north towards snow-capped Jefferson. 3,000 feet directly below us was a cool moraine lake from a long-since vanished glacier (now just a snow field I presume). Colored volcanic rock was exposed and rippled all over the flanks of the extinct volcano (it’s so crumbly because it consists of the innards of the massive volcano it used to be. In fact TFJ is one of the oldest in the Cascade Range.
It took us about 25 minutes to get up the final pitch to the summit and rappel down. The top was amazing. The actual summit was at the end of a very narrow spine about a food wide with massive exposure on either side. I stayed roped up as I made my way over to the true summit. It was one of the most exhilarating summits I’ve ever been up. We snapped a
few photos at the top of each other and then Evan set up to rappel down. We made it down very quickly and then jogged down the ridge to pass the father/daughter before the ‘crawl”. We tried to call the girls on the ridge but didn’t have reception so we decided to haul ass down the face of the mountain, skiing on our boots over the small snow fields. When we got back to the PCT we still had 5 miles left and it was nearing 7pm. We pretty much jogged out the rest of the way snapping a few pics of the sun setting on Mt. Washington above the bright white bear grass we jogged by. We made it to the car by 8:30 and thankfully had reception to call Emily who was pretty worried by that point.

It was a great hike and I’m really glad we stuck it out waiting to bag the summit. Total time for the hike was 11 hours but we waited at various points for a total of almost 5 hours so in reality we actually did the hike very quickly. I definitely hope to climb with Evan again soon. The maps below are based on a previous attempt with Emily last fall but on this hike the gps tracking accidentally got turned off.

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