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2003 Backcountry Trip Reports => June 2003 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: TeleRoss on 06/27/03, 06:50 AM

Title: June 25-26, Mt Rainier: Fuhrer Finger
Post by: TeleRoss on 06/27/03, 06:50 AM
This trip almost didn't even get off the ground, due to extreme foolishness on my part, when I realized as we were pulling into Longmire at 7:30am Wednesday morning, that I had forgotten my tele boots all the way back in my apartment in Seattle.  Oh CRAP was all I could think...Fortunately my awesome father saved the day and picked up the boots and met us(Alex and I) back in Graham and made the drop...THANKS DAD!!
Anyway, with boots now in hand we hightailed it back to the Christine Falls TH, and began hiking at about 12:30.  hiked up past Comet Falls and up to Van Trump Park and out of treeline and into the baking sun.  I booted and Alex skinned all the way to camp at ~9200' on the W. side of the Wilson Gl.  Made camp at 6:30, and made dinner and discussed the route and made our gear arrangements.  Wake up call at 12:30am, and out of camp at 1:45.  
Under a perfectly starry night made our way across the Wilson Gl. to the bottom of the Fuhrer Finger.  Climbing the finger was straight foreward with some sections of extremely large suncups, which while not hindering climbing, we were a little concerned with them for the ski down.  As the sky began to lighten from the approaching sunrise the outline of some large seracs of the looming Nisqually Glacier became visible above and to our right.  The scene was awesome.  As we continued higher and higher we encountered one steep pitch with some exposure, just above 12000' and right against the rocks separating the finger from the Wilson Headwall.  Negotiated this section and broke out onto smooth relatively lower angled slopes near the top of the Wilson Headwall.  and finally after many exhausting hours of climbing, reached Columbia Crest at 9:15, under crystal clear skies and a fairly stout breeze.  We paused for a photo break and rolled out the sleeping bags for a quick nap to recoup for the ski down.  
Started the descent at 12:15..Descended perfect corn on the upper Nisqually Glacier, with the top 1000v.f. or so being completely unbroken.  Then negotiated some crevasses down to 12000' where we broke east and onto the top of the Fuhrer Finger.  Here we began to encounter some of those large suncups, and even though softened by the sun, still made the skiing conditions less than ideal.  There were some great turns about halfway down the finger, and then the best turns were below and skiers left of the hourglass, on the last little pitch before skiing onto the Wilson Glacier.  
An awesome ski with some great turns and some really crappy turns, but an awesome ascent and descent, especially among the large crevasses and seracs of the upper Nisqually, the immensity of the features are truely humbling, and beautiful.
Anyway, back at camp around 1:30 we crashed out for a couple of hours.  Made dinner around 4:30, and then organized our gear for the ski down on Friday morning.  However, as we were lounging around the tent at 7pm, realizing that we had absolutely nothing to do, and would probably wake at 3am if we went to bed, made an impromptu decision to strike camp an beeline it to the car.  
Had our packs loaded and ready to go at 7:30, and skied some of the best snow of the day down to Van Trump Park in beautiful evening light.  Skied down a creek drainage to the bitter end of the snow, and hiked down through the forest to find the Chrisine Falls trail, just near Comet Falls.  A quick dash down the trail put us at the truck at 9:00.
The Fuhrer Finger is still in good climbing condition, but the skiing conditions are far from ideal.
some pics should be up shortly if I can figure it out??

Title: Re: June 25-26, Mt Rainier: Fuhrer Finger
Post by: russ on 06/27/03, 03:09 PM
Congrats Ross! This morning I was able to do a close fly by of Rainier and thought FF looked to melted to ski - guess you proved that wrong. Way to go.  8)

Title: Re: June 25-26, Mt Rainier: Fuhrer Finger
Post by: TeleRoss on 06/28/03, 04:43 AM
Yeah, the skiing through most of the Finger itself was far from ideal, lots of suncups and down near the hourglass there were some fairly large runnels.   But there were some great turns to be had also, and it was a completely continuous descent which was nice to do also.  But I think if I were going to do the finger again, I would definitely do it earlier in the season, and hopefully find some better skiing conditions.

Title: Re: June 25-26, Mt Rainier: Fuhrer Finger
Post by: wolfs on 06/30/03, 07:00 AM
My brother and I have always wanted to ski the Finger (will be next year now, of course). But one thing we've been concerned with based on reports by other alpinists and the CAG description is the amount of rockfall and potential for inevitable objective hazard in the hourglass and at a couple of other choke points between 11-13K. What did it look like far as evidence of rocks or rock tracks in snow, and did you in fact hear anything going on around you esp. given the late (by alpine standards) start of descent? Obviously starting as early as you did is a great call since you'll spend ten times longer exposed to such hazard on ascent.

Title: Re: June 25-26, Mt Rainier: Fuhrer Finger
Post by: TeleRoss on 06/30/03, 11:03 AM
Debris were everywhere.  And really there is no way to avoid the exposure to rockfall for nearly the entire length of the Finger, from the bottom on the Wilson Glacier at about 9500' all the way up to nearly 12,000'.  Most of the significant danger is down around the lower sections of the Finger.  We were not too concerned with rockfall on the ascent as we began a few hours before sunrise.  And we had cleared the areas of most significant rockfall by the time the sun had hit the route.  However, it was on the descent that I was most concerned.  We did our best to ski very quickly down the most exposed sections of the finger.  The entire time we spent on the route, we saw no rockfall come down the finger itself,  after we had made it back to camp, we saw some rocks come down a side chute that empties into the bottom of the finger, below the little hourglass, but that was the only rockfall that we witnessed in the finger.
As far as choke points, there really aren't any of any significance.  One really small hourglass pretty low in the finger, and one narrower section about midway up that becomes a little constricted as the slope to climbers left steepens.  I think that timing the climb is most important, and if you get an early start and then descend quickly and with vigilance you will minimize the risk as much as you can

Title: Re: June 25-26, Mt Rainier: Fuhrer Finger
Post by: russ on 06/30/03, 02:06 PM
TeleRoss - my pilot friend (Matt) send me the photo's from our fly by. Didn't get a perfect shot (a little to soon, and just a little later), but I cropped one that probably shows the route on 6/27. Send me a pm if you'd like the jpeg. It would be great if you have a way to mark your ascent/descent lines and post it.

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