Three Fingered Jack

1 Aug 2003 - by George Sinclair

Last summer while on a family trip to Sunriver, I had the opportunity to climb Three Fingered Jack in the Oregon Cascades. Three Fingered Jack is located near the Three Sisters area. It is one of the higher peaks in Oregon, and is one of the most difficult. Its summit is the eroded core of an extinct volcano. The rock is of questionable quality. However, it is easy to access, and can be done in a long afternoon. Being that this was a family trip, I was allowed no more than ten hours to do the peak.

From the resort of Sunriver near Bend, it is about an hour drive to reach Santiam Pass on Hwy 20. From the trailhead at Santiam Pass it took me another two hours to reach the mountain. The Pacific Crest Trail passes directly below it. I followed an obvious use-trail up the mountain and onto the south ridge, which was followed to the base of a large tower. Here is where things got difficult. An exposed ledge called "The Crawl" was followed out onto the exposed east face of the gendarme. Before long the ledge ends and you need to climb up to a higher ledge. A fixed piton protects the moves here. However, I was alone and unwrapped. The guidebook rates this section as class 5.1. From the higher ledge some easier climbing leads to the base of the final summit tower. A steep grove is then followed to the top - class 5.0. From the summit there are good views of both Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson. There are rappel slings on the summit. Rappel distance is about fifty feet. Once off the tower one must climb diagonally downward to reach easier ground. The climb up and down took me about 30 minutes.

Another two hours of hiking, during which I contemplated the similarity in the number of fingers vs. the number of sisters (is there a connection?), and I was back at the car. A word of warning: This is a very popular climb - I saw at least six parties on the mountain during my visit - where an early start may succeed in keeping you ahead of the crowds. No snow or ice was encountered wh en I did the climb in August.

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