Three-Fingered Jack (Oregon Cascades; 7,841')

Three-Fingered Jack is an impressive-looking, highly eroded volcano that had gained an "unclimbable" reputation before the first ascent by Ervin McNeal and party in 1923. The rock is horrible in general, but the South Ridge (the only recommended route) is a very enjoyable climb with solid rock on the crux. The knife-edge summit is spectacular.

Topo Map

Routes: South Ridge (I, 5.1)

Three-Fingered Jack in December from the summit of Maxwell Butte
References: Jeff Thomas, Oregon High Keep Climbing Press (Portland, OR 1991)
J. Smoot, Summit Guide to the Cascade Volcanoes Chockstone Press (Evergreen, CO 1992)
N.A. Dodge, A Climbing Guide to Oregon , Touchstone Press (Beaverton, OR 1975)

Date: July 28, 2010

Party: DB solo

Route: S Ridge

Equipment: 50m half rope

Time: Santiam Pass - Summit 3 hrs 15 mins
Summit - Santiam Pass 3 hrs 20 mins
Roundtrip from Santiam Pass 7 hrs

Comments: Time down includes Point 6,961

Trip report:

I needed a training climb for my upcoming trip to the High Sierra, and opted for Three-Fingered Jack. There was a surprising amount of snow left, and the mosquitoes were accordingly vicious, but apart from that everything went very smoothly. I switched from sneakers to rock shoes at The Crawl as usual, and soon was on the summit. The views were not as good as they can be because of a hazy overcast sky. On the way down I found that the rappel anchor on the summit block was rigged in a very weird way that I was reluctant to trust. I did not carry any slings, and was too lazy to change the existing setup (plus, the main anchor was very high in a place where I did not really want to go), so I downclimbed, using my rappel setup as a self belay. This meant downclimbing mostly one-handed, of course. If this sounds weird, I'm sure it looked even weirder, but there was nobody around to watch me.

Because of the mosquitoes I decided to not go straight down to the PCT but rather stay on the ridge and descend via the ski summit (Point 6,961) where there was a breeze. This worked fine, and on the way down from the ski summit I saw a surprisingly large toad (Western Toad, bufo boreas) in an area where the snow had just melted. A mixture of scree and snow fields got me down to the PCT, and a bit over an hour later I was back at my car.

Photo Gallery:

Click the thumbnails to see a higher resolution image

View of Jack from near the trailhead.

Jack and the Ski Summit from the PCT.

Wildflowers high on the ridge.

View of Mt. Jefferson from the summit.

More wildflowers.

View of Black Butte across the snow fields.

The toad.

Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters from the PCT.

Date: September 4, 2008

Party: DB solo

Route: S Ridge

Equipment: 50m half rope

Time: Santiam Pass - Summit 3 hrs 20 mins
Summit - Santiam Pass 3 hrs 10 mins
Roundtrip from Santiam Pass 7 hrs 15 mins

Comments: I took it easy both up and down

Trip report:

I took my chance on a perfect September day to get out again after quite a while. I wanted to go solo, but needed a training climb for a planned trip to Tuolomne Meadows, so I settled on Jack. On the approach hike I noticed that a lot has changed in the burn area since I last came trough there two years ago: there now are lots of small trees around, between 6" and 2' tall. The higher the elevation, the smaller the seedlings, which makes sense. Almost all of the charred snags are still standing, but now, 5 years after the fire in 2003, one can certainly imagine the new forest. That will be the end of the wild flowers and the manzanita that are now thriving there. It's fascinating to see how the area changes and recovers after the fire, with several layers of different plants moving in over time.

I made steady progress and reached the climbers trail after a little less than two hours. After a food and drink stop I started up, managed to go into the notch on the ridge this time, rather than too far north, and soon arrived at The Crawl. Here I cached my sneakers and put on rock shoes, and enjoyed the short pitch on amazingly solid rock. On the summit block, on the other hand, I keep wondering about the quality of the nobs, especially while free soloing. The summit was nice as always, and on the way down I used my 50m half rope to rappel the chimney. Why tempt fate by downclimbing, given my doubts about the quality of the holds?

After a lengthy lunch break I reversed The Crawl, skidded down the scree to the PCT, made a couple calls to announce my safe return to my family, and enjoyed the view through the snags on the hike out. Rotten rock or no rotten rock on the summit block, the South Ridge of Jack is an amazingly enjoyable climb, and this was the ultimate free solo: There was not even another party on the mountain.

For earlier ascents, click here .