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Three Fingered Jack

August 24, 2013

Coordinator: Fritz Capell

Summit Altitude: 7844 feet
Elevation Gain: 3200 feet
Round-trip Distance: 13.1 miles
Excursion Time: 16 hours (car-to-car)

Photo Gallery

Six of us departed from the PCT trailhead at a bright and early 3:30am: Myself, Adrian, Nathan, Mark, Humaira and Trevor. Our goal was to be the first on the mountain, and if possible, see the run rise over eastern Oregon from TFJ's south ridge. A second group left at 6:30am, consisting of assistant-leader Steven, and Michael and Kirsten. They had to leave later because Gabe had other commitments keeping him later, but in the end he wasn't able to make it. At any rate, we expected that they would catch up to us while we were setting up the ropes on the summit block.

We traveled up the PCT, arriving at the cairn marking the climber's trail at about 6:10am and ascending up to the crest of the ridge about 7am. Unfortunately, we missed the sunrise by about an hour, but we did get some spectacular views of the foggy Willamette Valley and the clear and beautiful Oregon desert. We then ascended the ridge; usually the best routes are along the west side of the ridge, but they are sort of choked with trees in spots, so we deviated and explored the east side of the ridge. The route was more difficult, and there was more exposure, and we couldn't see much so we had to guess at the route a lot. As the rock started to get sketchy, we returned to the safety of the west side.

We reached the crawl about 8:30am and set up a fixed line across it. While not terribly difficult, it features a tricky little pitch at the end which is at an awkward angle, and looking down over a lot of air. Besides the webbing anchors at each end, there is a piton in the wall at the crux of the crawl for secondary protection. I recalled that last time I was there, there were two pitons, but this time I could only find one.

Our second team arrived then, though Michael and Kirsten declined to tackle the rest of the mountain, since they had neglected to bring their helmets. Shortly after I had set the fixed line across the crawl, another group popped out over the ridge, expressing audible disappointment that we had beat them to the bottleneck.

As the team came one-by-one across the crawl, I set up the next pitch. Usually the area above the crawl isn't protected; it isn't very difficult climbing, although the exposure is intense. This time, I set a fixed line along that area, tying into a couple rocks along the way to shorten a potential fall, and with loops in the rope on the verticals to limit exposure there. Very safe. The only problem was that I ran out of rope, so the last 40 feet or so before the saddle were not protected, which again are not difficult, but the exposure can be scary.

My goal with the final summit block was to break it into two sections that could be belayed separately, so I had brought four ropes so we'd have two for this purpose, but as I was setting up we realized that we had dropped off one of the ropes back at the crawl, probably an hour away considering the upcoming climbers. So I quickly reconfigured, and found that the one remaining rope was enough to use separately for both pitches, it was just a little more complicated.

The other team was impatient, so I let their leader come up and belay from the middle anchor. He seemed to have the impression that we were bozos, so he was a little bit bossy, and thoroughly investigated my setup, which was just fine with me, and apparently it met his approval. He managed to annoy several of my team quite a bit with his mothering.

So each climber clipped into a loop at the end of the rope, and was belayed up to the central anchor. From there, they clipped with a daisy or prusik into the anchor while they made a quick transition from the lower to upper rope, where another climber at the top would belay them to the summit. Since there is only room for about three people on the summit, we went in a cycle where the climber would rest and enjoy the summit for one cycle, belay for one cycle, and then rappel out. It went really smoothly, but still took over two hours from the time we started setting up to the time we tore down and I rapped out. Everybody reached the summit between about 12pm and 2pm.

I transitioned the anchors over to the other team and tore down, and we headed back down to the crawl. One other two-person team arrived as we were finishing the crawl, and we let them use our fixed line to get across, provided they would untie the rope when I got secured, saving me from having to downclimb the crawl on belay, which puts me pretty far out on the end of the rope. I thought they would pull their line along for a fixed line, but they had only one so they needed it for the summit block.

From there, we picked our way back down the ridge, pushing as far south as we could on the ridge to avoid the scar, and walked back out, reaching the trailhead at about 7:30pm. There was a PCT hiker there who had set up a "Trail Magic" spot and was serving up tacos, beer, and all sorts of good and rare things for the through-hikers. He welcomed us to join in the magic.

It was a long day, but we made it up, and back down with the same number of climbers. A success! Thanks everybody for climbing safely and making it such a great time!

- Fritz

Post-Event Forum
[View Pre-Event Forum]

Steven says:
Pictures, we need pics yo!

Fritz (leader) answers:
Working on it! Anybody else got pics to contribute? See here for instructions.

Steven answers:
Lol...I know you are, you're always good about that. My comment was directed to everyone else. I'll see if I can upload mine in a bit.

Fritz (leader) says:
Photo Gallery is up! See link above.

Fritz (leader) says:
3D pics are here.

Humaira says:
A huge hat tip to Fritz for leading us! A big hug to all my team & play mates for making this such a fun & safe climb with giggles, laughter, joy and breath taking views. Thank you for the gift of adventure!

Fritz (leader) answers:
Thanks Humaira! And for bringing a bit of spare exuberance to it all!

Fritz (leader) asks:
I loaned somebody a prusik just before the crawl... anybody turn that up? No biggie, but if it could make its way back toward me...

Humaira answers:
I have an extra prusik (red) that is not mine. As a thank you, maybe I can rope you into dinner to give it to you! :)

Fritz (leader) answers:
I'd say there's a definite possibility of that. Ooo, climbing puns - well, why knot? Hehe, email me...

Steven says:
Humaira, could I possibly get those pics you took of me, or any others you have? Thanks, I haven't had the chance to load mine but plan on doing it tomorrow.

Fritz (leader) says:
Adrian added some photos to the gallery! Thanks Adrian!

Fritz (leader) says:
New photos from Steven!

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