Three Fingered Jack, Oregon (7841 ft)
Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests
Willamette National Forest
Route: South Ridge
Start at the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCNST) trailhead near Santiam Pass. Take the PCNST north about 5 miles to where you first see Three Fingered Jack and the large scree slope on its western flank. Continue a few hundred yards to the second of two climbers' trails, the second one being the more heavily used and one that might have a stone cairn. Follow this trail up and choose between following it up the scree slope or bear to the right to switchback up through forest. In either case, contine climbing to the south ridge and gain the ridge line.
From this point on the South Ridge, follow the ridge northward, keeping to the left (west) of the ridge crest on various ledges as you pass two large blocks (gendarmes). The route will regain the ridge crest above these blocks. The crest narrows as it approaches another gendarme. This gendarme is passed to the right (east) on a ledge at its base (The "Crawl"). Due to the friable nature of the rock, it is best to belay across this traverse. A rock horn can be used as a belay anchor just before you descend a rock step as you approach the gendarme. You should find one piton in the wall as you pass below the gendarme on the ledge. Continue traversing on this ledge as it angles upward on slabs. You should find a second piton where you are forced to climb upward toward the ridge crest.
Once you have regained the ridge crest, continue northward on ledges towards a broad ledge on the right (east) side of the summit block. This ledge offers a convenient place to wait for any other parties ahead of you to descend, or to leave packs for the final climb to the summit.
From this ledge, climb a short and wide chimney with copious nubbins to better rock from which a belay can be set up for a last short pitch to the true summit. The summit itself is a narrow rib on rather poor rock with little opportunity for placing anchors, little room for people, and significant exposure on each side. If it is windy you may also have some trouble communicating with your belayer, as well.
Retrace the ascent route to descend the mountain. One can rappel from the last belay point below the summit down the chimney to the ledge below. Rock horns are available for belay anchors when descending the Crawl.
As always in the Oregon Cascades, test every hold and keep three points of contact with the rock at all times. Hand and foot holds can dislodge at any time. Be especially aware of any sandy ledges or slabs that may cause loose footing on the exposed ridge crest and ledges.
- Thomas, Jeff, Oregon High: A Climbing Guide, Keep Climbing
- USGS Volcanoes, Three Fingered Jack: http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/ThreeFingeredJack/