Ascent of Three Fingered Jack on 2014-09-27

Climber: James Barlow

Others in Party:Samuel Hahn -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Edward Earl
Date:Saturday, September 27, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Three Fingered Jack
    Elevation:7841 ft / 2389 m

Ascent Trip Report

My ship was delayed returning to Everett because of weather. Initially I was pissed, then I realized that if the weather was bad that I would not be able to climb peaks anyway. I raced off the ship as soon as liberty was sounded, glad to escape from my gray cell for a nice weekend of peakbagging in Oregon with Edward and Sam. I picked Edward up and we were on our way south ahead of rush hour, yet still in pretty bad traffic from the east side all the way past Fort Lewis. We stopped for dinner in SE Portland at the Original Hotcake House, which we both enjoyed thoroughly. In my haste to leave the ship as quickly as possible, I somehow forgot my GPS and camera in my office. Sigh, I guess I will just have to settle for the camera on my smart phone and no GPX track to upload to peakbagger (#firstworldproblems).

We arrived at the trailhead around 10:30pm, still plenty of time for a decent night's sleep. Sam was waiting for us as we quickly tossed sleeping pads and bags on the ground to immediately lay down and pass out. We were up before sunrise to begin the walk to the peak, though another group beat us out of the trailhead by 20-30 minutes. We made good time up the PCT 5 miles to the turn off, taking a short break along the way. The use trail from the PCT to the ridge is well-defined and easy to follow. Once you reach the ridge, a number of use trails braid their way up the mountain to the "crawl." We passed the group that started ahead of us prior to reaching the crawl. Edward and Sam requested a belay for the "crawl," so I free-soloed up it with the rope in my pack and used a large boulder at the top as an anchor to belay both of them up. Above the crawl, Edward and Sam continued to ascend while I stowed the rope. We reached the final summit pinnacle where I encountered the least friendly rock gully I have ever seen. It looks like hundreds of lava rocks held together by solid mud as the glue. It is not something that I would normally consider climbing, however, the photocopied guidebook pages in our possession confirmed that this is indeed the ascent route.

I put my harness on while Edward flaked the rope out and Sam racked the gear I would need to lead the pitch. Leading the pitch was easier than it looks from below. Test every hold to verify its worthiness to support your weight though! I slung a large rock horn for my first pro - psychological at best - it would not have held much of a fall. I then placed a #3 Friend in the crack on the right side of the wall that seemed to be a pretty solid placement. Next stop was the anchor. This pitch could easily be soloed if you just bring a rope to rap down. We had a 60m rope, but a 30m rope would have been enough. I belayed Edward and Sam up to my position and then we all free soloed to the summit. The guidebook jokes that the summit seems to shake in the wind. I believe it. In the light wind we had on top, it felt like the summit was swaying like a wooden fire tower in a hurricane. The downclimb to the anchor was uneventful and I belayed the next group's leader up to save him the trouble of leading it. He was up in a flash on the 5.0 toprope pitch. After that, Edward and Sam returned from the summit pinnacle downclimb and we rapped down to the bottom of the climbing portion.

We opted for lunch at this point as the sun had finally come out - just in time to ensure that our summit photos are in the clouds! We chatted with the other group, and one of them asked us if we used to log our ascents - AWESOME! He was Richard and their group was a club from Eugene, OR. Pretty cool group of folks with a strong, competent leader.

The group from Eugene had set a fixed line for the crawl and told us that we could use it. Edward tied in with a prussik, then Sam did the same. When my turn came, I figured that it would be obviously safer to use it as it was there. Of course, the way that we divided the gear up left my prussick in Edward's pack while I carried the rope and he was already down. Go figure. I ended up using it as a hand line for the 1 downclimb move that it felt better to hold on to it. Another group was still ascending as we passed the bottom of the crawl. The rest of the descent was uneventful.

Overall, Three Fingered Jack was a great peak in spite of the loose-looking summit pitch. A 30m rope would have been sufficient for a small, strong, competent group like ours.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3001 ft / 914 m
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3001 ft / 914 m
    Route:South Ridge
    Start Trailhead:4840 ft / 1475 m
Descent Statistics

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