Forum Index > Trip Reports > Three Fingers South & almost Middle Peaks, Feb 6-7
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Jim Dockery
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Joined: 12 Sep 2007
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Location: Lake Stevens
Jim Dockery
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 12:36 pm 
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When Jeff called Wednesday I was instantly psyched. The beautiful south face of Three Fingers has been looming across from us for years on our after work climbs of Mt. Pilchuck. We've dreamed and schemed about skiing it, but the road normally doesn't melt out until summer, so it was always put on the back burner until last week after we read that it was clear to the trail head.
Three Fingers
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Three Fingers

Jeff picked me up in Lake Stevens at 5 a.m. and we drove up in the dark. As the miles went by we reminisced about our death march down the closed road last summer when we bailed off an overly ambitious traverse. We were happy to find an empty trail head and started hiking as the first light of dawn lit the sky.

It amazed me how easy the crappy trail felt with the anticipation of beautiful skiing above. We could see bright red sunrise clouds through the trees, but didn't get our first view of the mountain until it was over.
Three Fingers Sunrise
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Three Fingers Sunrise

Hiking shoes got us half a mile past the lake then the snow was continuous enough to put on skis. Our hike down last summer was still fresh in our minds so route finding was easy.
Log Crossing of Death
Log Crossing of Death
Across Goat Flats
Across Goat Flats
Looking at nice ski slopes above Goat Flats
Looking at nice ski slopes above Goat Flats

We maintained an easy pace across the long traverse to Camp Saddle.

We were almost giddy looking at line after line of beautiful snow waiting to be cut the next day.
Three Fingers from Camp Saddle
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Three Fingers from Camp Saddle

We'd hoped that the snow would be good (it was ok) in the shade off the saddle so we dropped the fall line to the glacier.
Skiing from Camp Saddle
Skiing from Camp Saddle
Jeff on Three Fingers Glacier
Jeff on Three Fingers Glacier

We skinned easily up the glacier to the saddle where the trail crosses over to the south face. Jeff committed himself to an icy direct route at the head of the glacier which required crampons while I booted over to the low point and put my skis back on to traverse down and across the south side below the next rocks.
Skinning Three Fingers Glacier
Skinning Three Fingers Glacier

We managed to skin to within a couple hundred feet of the summit, reveling in the amazing views opening up around us.
The Thumb
The Thumb
Climbing the South Face of Three Fingers
Climbing the South Face of Three Fingers

We'd been worried about climbing the ladders so we brought some cord, slings, and bieners but the summit blocks were filled in with ice and snow so it was an easy climb across the south west side, but it was nice to have crampons and axes.
Climb to hut
Climb to hut

We'd tried to keep a positive attitude about getting into the hut on the climb up, but it was weighing on both our minds. Snow caving it was our other option, so we had to make a decision quickly or we'd waste a lot of time and energy for nothing. When we first tried chipping at the rime covering the door we found two feet of ice that looked like it would take hours of hard work with axes to clear. Jeff started in on it while I very carefully climbed over the top to look on the other side. The snow there was softer, but the smooth steep slope falling away to the east face is one of the more exposed spots in the Cascades, so I came back to get some gear to tie myself in. I returned and made much easier headway than Jeff, but when I finally got the shutter up I found that the window only opened from the inside. It was very frustrating seeing the latch inches away! I climbed back and found that Jeff had managed to dig a deep hole in the snow and chip away a slot at the bottom of the door. After about an hour and a half he finally pulled on the latch cord and we were in! This was for sure the crux of the weekend!

After a little rest Jeff talked me into a run down the South Face. I was pooped, and the sun was sinking low, but we figured the snow would be icy in the morning, so we had to make some turns. In my dreams I wanted to drop down as far as possible, but the snow was already icing up, and we wanted to get back to the hut before dark, so we only went down as far as our skin track.
Climbing down from lookout
Climbing down from lookout
Skiing the south face of Three Fingers
Skiing the south face of Three Fingers
Jumpin' Jeff does his thing
Jumpin' Jeff does his thing

Watching the sun set behind the clouds I was very glad Jeff talked me into it.
Climbing back to the top
Climbing back to the top
A happy boy
A happy boy

We were happily cooking dinner when we were amazed to hear voices outside an hour after dark. I went over to the door and opened it up for the Hummel twins who had followed our skin track to join us for a cozy night on top. Jeff and I sipped our whiskey and played Texas holdem while the Hummels regaled us with tales of steep skiing and near disasters averted.
City lights from the hut
City lights from the hut
a little nicer than a snow cave
a little nicer than a snow cave

I was the first one up in the morning but was sorely disappointed by the socked in weather. I did manage to get a couple of tantalizing views down through the clouds, then came back in to drink coffee and wait for the anticipated clearing.
Summit Cornice
Summit Cornice
Is it clearing?
Is it clearing?

Around 9:30 we finally gave up waiting and decided to head out. The Hummels were first down. They had carried their skis up to the hut, while Jeff and I left ours a couple hundred feet below. I didn't envy them the super exposed side stepping and awkward skiing down the summit block.
Jason slithers out the door
Jason slithers out the door
Josh contemplating the crux step down
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Josh contemplating the crux step down

We met up at the entrance to the glacier gully heading down just below the summit. The new snow that had fallen in the night added to the soft sun protected snow for nice turns in a spectacular setting, even if it was socked in and snowing.
Jeff jumps into glacier gully
Jeff jumps into glacier gully
Josh finds some good snow
Josh finds some good snow
Jason skis powder
Jason skis powder
Jeff nears the bottom of the gully
Jeff nears the bottom of the gully
Josh exits the gully
Josh exits the gully

We'd talked about skiing something else, and the snow was so good we had to check out the Middle peak. Skinning up to the saddle between the North and Middle was easy. We booted it from there up ever steepening snow until the last 30 feet of rime covered ice shut us down.
Jason climbing Middle Finger, North Peak in the mist behind
Jason climbing Middle Finger, North Peak in the mist behind

Jeff and I had left our crampons down at the bottom, and we wouldn't have skied it anyway, so we stopped there and skied down in a whiteout.
Good snow - bad visibility
Good snow - bad visibility
Jason & Josh at work
Jason & Josh at work
John Scurlock photo of Middle & South peaks
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John Scurlock photo of Middle & South peaks

After grabbing the gear we'd left at the bottom of Middle we skied by brail down and across the glacier over to the climb out. In a total white out we booted to the saddle south of Camp Saddle so we clicked the skis back on and traversed down and across and climbed up to find our tracks still visible. The long traverse back to Goat Flats on funky lumpy snow in flat light started to do in my thighs and I took a couple of good spills. The snow turned to misty rain, and the skiing got even funkier, but it was low angle and we had it dialed in right back to our shoes.

That damn trail seems to be about half up hill on the way out! I was feeling my old bones at this point so I took it easy, not wanting to twist an ankle or knee. Jeff hung back with me while the Hummels booked out. They were waiting for us at the car to say goodby and then they were off into the dark for their long drive back to Tacoma.
Jeff & I back at the car
Jeff & I back at the car

I retrieved the beers I'd stashed in the snow and we did a "Prost to a great climb!" as we started the drive home.

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jimdockery.com
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Redwic
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Joined: 23 Feb 2009
Posts: 3162 | TRs
Location: On Hiking Hiatus
Redwic
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 12:40 pm 
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Great trip report and photos!!!

What a crazy Winter!!! People are doing Whitehorse and Three Fingers in early February?!?!?!

I feel like I'm missing out on some good ascents right now.

It should be a good Summer for hiking... but bad for droughts and bugs.
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Hulksmash
Cleaning up.



Joined: 20 Apr 2008
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Location: Arlington
Hulksmash
Cleaning up.
PostTue Feb 09, 2010 1:03 pm 
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I need to find a time machine, and go back in time to teach my self to ski. dizzy.gif

I'm not going to say "I can't do that"  but the reality is the probability of ever  attempting any trip like that is extremely low.  Inspiring none the less.  Thank you for sharing. borank.gif


Quote:
It should be a good Summer for hiking... but bad for droughts and bugs.

Don't bugs need water?

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"Bears couldn't care less about us....we smell bad and don't taste too good. Bugs on the other hand see us as vending machines." - WetDog

Albuterol! it's the 11th essential
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BigSteve
mere tourist



Joined: 06 Mar 2007
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BigSteve
mere tourist
PostTue Feb 09, 2010 1:06 pm 
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Great TR and great pics, as usual.   up.gif
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Yana
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Joined: 03 Jun 2004
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Yana
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 1:07 pm 
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Wow. Simply amazing. Great job getting to and into the lookout!

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PLAY SAFE! SKI ONLY IN CLOCKWISE DIRECTION! LET'S ALL HAVE FUN TOGETHER!
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Backpacker Joe
NWH Joe-Bob



Joined: 16 Dec 2001
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Location: Cle Elum
Backpacker Joe
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 1:10 pm 
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Yana wrote:
Wow. Simply amazing. Great job getting to and into the lookout!

X2!  Great work guys. up.gif

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"I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I require the same from them."

—Wayne's John Bernard Books in The Shootist
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silence
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Joined: 25 Apr 2005
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silence
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 1:15 pm 
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Awesome .. as i knew it would be ... great tr and even greater images ... nice work on all counts .. you're all a bunch of friggin animals

btw .. i'll take this over the ladders



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PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33792231@N00/sets
FILMMAKING: http://www.crestpictures.com/

Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb. – Bob Dylan
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dicey
custom title



Joined: 11 May 2004
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Location: giving cornices a wider berth
dicey
custom title
PostTue Feb 09, 2010 2:00 pm 
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Wow, wow, wow!
I love these pictures eek.gif

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I'm not always sure I like being older but being less stupid has advantages.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/32121172@N00/sets/
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 29 Jan 2007
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Location: Shoreline
Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostTue Feb 09, 2010 2:10 pm 
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You were actually able to get inside the hut and stay there.  Amazing!

Awesome photos also.

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“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Opus
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Joined: 04 Mar 2006
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Location: The big rock candy mountain
Opus
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 2:23 pm 
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Wow!  Just when I thought the trips from this past weekend couldn't get any more amazing! eek.gif  up.gif  up.gif
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Redwic
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Joined: 23 Feb 2009
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Location: On Hiking Hiatus
Redwic
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 2:32 pm 
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Hulksmash wrote:
Quote:
It should be a good Summer for hiking... but bad for droughts and bugs.

Don't bugs need water?

Yes, but that is what those many hundreds of lakes and stagnant ponds in the mountains are for. My prediction: Bugs will be WORSE than during last summer, unless we get some sort of freakish warming and then freezing activity during March/April to kill off the first hatchlings.
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cmurph
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cmurph
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 2:46 pm 
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What a sweet looking weekend....I wish I had half the guts that some of you guys have!  Pretty awesome that you were able to dig your way into the hut, who would've thunkit up.gif

Oh, and the pictures aren't too bad to look at either wink.gif
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iron
getting old



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
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iron
getting old
PostTue Feb 09, 2010 3:16 pm 
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you guys are bada$$!

i love the tunnel to the lookout door and the morning views of the cornice over the vertical face.

next "winter" i'm totally going to learn to ski! no more board. thanks for the inspiration.

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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Ingunn
Hiking Viking



Joined: 01 Feb 2008
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Ingunn
Hiking Viking
PostTue Feb 09, 2010 4:23 pm 
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Holy wow, the trip reports from this weekend just keep getting better and better. What an amazing experience this must have been. up.gif
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Obi Tony Kenobi
Waterfall Crazy!



Joined: 25 Jun 2007
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Location: Capitol Hill, WA
Obi Tony Kenobi
Waterfall Crazy!
PostTue Feb 09, 2010 4:26 pm 
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Those pictures are amazing! Wow I wish I had the guts to do that!  borank.gif

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Tony
http://flickr.com/photos/obitonykenobi/
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