Ascent of Three Fingers on 2017-09-10

Climber: Connor McEntee

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Sunday, September 10, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Three Fingers
    Elevation:6850 ft / 2087 m

Ascent Trip Report

Beta TLDR - It would appear that the long approach from Tupso Pass is the preferred route. Late season crampons and an ice axe are likely unnecessary. There are a few water sources on the road up, including a seeping waterfall just feet from the roadbed. Past Saddle Lake there is one unmarked creek that parallels the trail for a stretch, nothing in Goat Flat, and then several good water sources past Tin Pan Gap due to the melt.

Three Fingers was a peak that I had been waiting all summer to do. Based on the trip reports I had read, late August/September is the ideal time frame to avoid having to deal with a moat or the glacier. I was on the fence about which route to take up. It seems that some reports were advocating a much shorter bushwhack approach up a rib to the west of Sevenmile Creek. However, almost every trip report I could find indicated that those parties descended via the much longer Tupso Pass. The fact that I went up the day after the first rain in months sealed the decision to bike up to Tupso Pass. I would later learn that there is a third route that shaves off a few road miles by climbing Meadow Mountain. The party that did this seriously regretted it due to a thick bushwhack and an aggressive black bear near the summit.

I started mid morning from the barricaded bridge. The bike approach is pleasant. I did have to get off and walk my bike half a dozen times. This was the first time I’ve been on a bike for any appreciable distance in more than a decade compounded with the fact that the bike’s gears were pretty rusty and wouldn’t really shift. Once I was within a few miles of Tupso Pass, I encountered a lot of bear scat on the road. The washout is deep, but there is an eroded path through it. Allegedly, just the previous year it was possible to drive a full sized vehicle across it (when the rocks barricading the bridge were removed). Near the trailhead, I found a place to stash my bike and headed off toward Saddle Lake.

The old trail from Tupso Pass to Saddle Lake sucks, but it has probably always sucked. The trail bed is littered with rocks and roots, and when it traverses it is often not even close to level. There is a lot of brush encroaching the trail, and I got pretty wet. Even the following day after it had plenty of time to dry out in lots of sun, it was still wet. There is just enough moisture on the north side of the ridge that I suspect the brush is regularly wet with dew. I was glad to reach Saddle Lake, which seemed quite stagnant and a mediocre place to camp. The trail continues on and significantly improved after about 0.5mi. As soon as it starts reaching more open alpine terrain, the quality of the trail is great and the scenery becomes more interesting. Goat Flat is a beautiful alpine meadow and a worthy place to camp. But, I had tons of time and cruised on to Tin Pan Gap.

The trail fades out in Tin Pan Gap, and I surmise for much of the year the route is covered in snow. Initially, I started too low. The established use trail immediately climbs the ridge from the gap before it traverses on the north side. There was one snow field about 15 feet across that I had to cross. There wasn’t a great runout, but the exposure wasn’t much either. Since it had time to warm up in the morning sun, it was sufficiently soft that I easily crossed it without anything but my poles. If I had wanted to, I could have easily down climbed around it as well. The only other obstacle was finding a hidden gulley with a fixed line that bypasses the glacier. There are a few cairns marking it, and it’s easy to down climb. The rope is completely unnecessary. Earlier in the season there might be a moat at the bottom that needs to be navigated, but it had long since melted out making room for the trail. From there it was a straightforward climb up the use trail to the lookout.

The lookout is perched in a stunning location. Due to the rains the previous days, there were unobstructed 360 degree views. I opted to spend the night in the lookout sharing it with two other parties.

I left early in the morning, and the descent was mostly uneventful. I surprised three mountain goats just past the flats. The bike ride down was a lot of fun, much easier than huffing it up the road.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6597 ft / 2010 m
    Extra Gain:675 ft / 205 m
    Round-Trip Distance:33 mi / 53.1 km
    Route:Tupso Pass
    Trailhead:Canyon Creek Bridge  1603 ft / 488 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Bicycle, Ice Axe, Ski Poles, Hut Camp
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 1 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 53 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Connor McEntee
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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