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| | |-+  March 5-6, 2010, MRNP, Fuhrer Finger to Bridge
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Author Topic: March 5-6, 2010, MRNP, Fuhrer Finger to Bridge  (Read 2773 times)

Posts: 92

March 5-6, 2010, MRNP, Fuhrer Finger to Bridge
« on: 03/08/10, 01:12 AM »

The 48 hour weather window of March 5-6 looked prime for a summit attempt on Mt. Rainier via the Fuhrer Finger, with no clouds, no wind, and moderately chilly temperatures.  With Amar Andalkar's post from last January as beta, Carl and I planned what we figured would be a leisurely (sleeping bags and a tent included, as opposed to our more typical fast 'n light blitz) summit push.  Left Seattle around 0730 on Friday, picked up a few essentials en route, filled out the paper work at Longmire, and were on our way from the Paradise lot around 1045.  Dropped down to the Nisqually from just west of Pan Face; snow conditions were variable, but skinned just fine up to our camp at 9200 ft, right below the Finger.  We established camp around 1700, had the tent up and organized with dinner cooked a half hour later, and were asleep by around 1945. 

Alarm went off at 0230; we had snow melted and water bottles topped off in short order, then packed up camp and placed everything but summit gear in a shallow trench, with trash buried separately (and as it would turned out, not nearly deeply enough...).  Moving out at 0345, we discovered immediately above camp a slick, breakable crust with waste deep powder below that defied skinning and made for arduous postholing.  Our rate of ascent dropped below 300 feet per hour, with intermittently improved snow conditions providing merely false hope.  As the sun rose, we were merely half way up the Finger, and while we discovered rapidly improving snow conditions, five hours of postholing had sapped our energy.  During one water break on the slope, I carelessly set my helmet down, and one accidental elbow tap later I watched it skitter out of sight down the chute <insert expletives here>...  Pausing around 0950 at 11300ft with the seracs of the upper Nisqually in sight, we considered the performance necessary for making the summit, skiing out and getting a ride back up to Paradise so as to be out the Longmire gate before it was locked, and glumly admitted it was beyond our present capabilities. 

Making the best of things, we gladly removed our skis from our packs and placed them back underfoot.  The snow conditions through the Finger varied from firm to breakable crust, but we enjoyed the run back down to camp, with crystal views south to Adams, St. Helens, and Hood on a perfect bluebird day.  Reaching the campsite, we found that merely placing trash under a few inches of snow was insufficient deterrence for the ravens, which managed to locate and abscond with the food packaging.  Cleaning up what they left behind, we loaded our packs and carved turns through good snow for the next thousand feet, happily finding my helmet along the way (about 3000 vertical feet below the point at which I'd inadvertently invited it to minimize its gravitational potential energy subject to the topography).  Snow conditions continued to vary from firm to breakable crust with intermittent pockets of powder down onto the Nisqually. 

Dropping down to the creek bed, the warm day rendered snow the consistency of snow cones, and the warm temperatures from the past week reduced coverage, requiring four creek crossings to reach the bridge.  Happy but exhausted, we picked the wrong side (skier's left) to bushwhack out (what I assume was at one point a roadbed and looked initially promising turned out to be hopelessly overgrown) but we finally were standing atop the bridge at 1245.  Carl caught a ride up to the Paradise lot to retrieve the car, and soon we were on our way back home.

This was a character building experience: I currently stand 0-3 on my last three major summit attempts (retreated through a whiteout on Shuksan several hundred feet short of the summit during a late season blitz without skis via Fisher Chimneys--the hike out from Lake Ann was in a miserably cold driving rain; bailed off Baker at the foot of the Roman Wall with clouds moving in a few weeks ago; now this).  While slightly discouraging, we've racked up some good training, enjoyed beautiful scenery, and come back to climb and ski another day.  I continue to look forward to putting together a summit to bridge (or perhaps to Longmire in a better snow year) descent--hopefully one of these days the weather and snow will cooperate.

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Charlie Hagedorn

Posts: 1810

Re: March 5-6, 2010, MRNP, Fuhrer Finger to Bridge
« Reply #1 on: 03/08/10, 12:44 PM »

Turning 'round when you're tired and it's getting late is a good plan.

Did you camp immediately at the base of the Finger? We tried that last May and had a sizeable rock visit us inside the tent. The ranger-advised camp at the 9200 foot level on the cleaver below the Turtle has significantly less hazard from above.

Looks like a beautiful day out!


Posts: 92

Re: March 5-6, 2010, MRNP, Fuhrer Finger to Bridge
« Reply #2 on: 03/08/10, 01:29 PM »

We were below and climber's left of the chute a few hundred feet, with the obvious debris paths to our right; agreed that on the cleaver as you suggest would probably have been a better choice.

Posts: 50

Re: March 5-6, 2010, MRNP, Fuhrer Finger to Bridge
« Reply #3 on: 03/08/10, 01:39 PM »

nice report, thanks for all the details. that is very helpful.

Posts: 257

Re: March 5-6, 2010, MRNP, Fuhrer Finger to Bridge
« Reply #4 on: 03/08/10, 04:51 PM »

Wanna try again this wk-end?  DC rt.
Drop me a msg at jhamaker

Posts: 43

Re: March 5-6, 2010, MRNP, Fuhrer Finger to Bridge
« Reply #5 on: 03/08/10, 05:23 PM »

I think that if you want to ski the finger in the winter, you are best off going up via Gib ledges or the Igraham Direct (if it's filled in enough).  We found pretty rotten snow conditions for the first thousand feet below the freezing level when we did it May of last year.  I'm pretty sure that you need to wait until April/May with a lot of sunshine to be able to boot up the FF like you want to.  It would sure be a hell of a challenging skin up given how consistently steep it is.  Way to get after it though!  That routes stout on the ascent for sure!
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