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|Weather||medium to fine|
|Mailed to WacList||09/13/2005|
|Seven Fingered Jack
The Talking Entiat Dustbowl Blues |
(or: How Andy learned to use his Camelback)
Prose by Mike, Pictures by Andy and Jenny, Brownies by Ali.
Uncle Fred claims that Mt. Fernow, Mt. Maude, and Seven Finger Jack are the crowns of the Entiat range. Alas, he must not have visited in the late summer when the whole area disappears in great clouds of the finest dust you have ever seen. Perhaps it was the ghost of Frederick Stanley Maude (WW1 British General) trying to make the area look like the Tigris valley where he achieved his fame.
The trip began insanely enough with a fury of email exchanges to organize an attempt at 4 summits in 3 days. We quickly settled on four who should have known better, Ali Ritter, Jenny Schoenberg, Andy Iles, and Mike Daly. Not so bright, but nice an early on Saturday morning, we assembled at the park&ride and began removing gear from the packs to reduce weight. After everyone was carrying everyone else's stuff, we decided that that packs were light enough.
Our first hint of things to come was the drive up the Chiwawa river road trailing a huge, opaque, towering cloud of dust. The hike to the Leroy Ck Basin introduced us to the difference between tan dust, brown dust, light grey dust, and dust that smelled strongly of horse. Even the waterfall at the east side of the basin was bone dry.
Pitched camp and headed off to tag Mt. Maude. The low saddle southwest of Maude looked to be 20 minutes away and optimism reigned supreme. One hour and one huge, dusty, overhanging, crumbly, dusty, deep, dirty, and treacherous gully later, we arrived at the saddle. We were halfway to the Chipmunk / Ice Lake col. We reached the col 30 minutes before the turnaround time, and 1500' to the summit. .We hung out at the col, talked to other wanderers and enjoyed the purple dust (new color). Back to camp for miso soup, mountain house, tuna and rice, and some pretty fantastic brownies. When in doubt, bring Ali along on a trip, she bakes good desserts.
Saturday morn dawned cloudy and grey with the summits playing peek-a-boo in the clouds. We enjoyed a leisurely fresh Jell-O, sausage, and oatmeal breakfast interrupted with funny white dust falling from the sky. Unlike the Saturday dust, this dust didn't taste funny, make our teeth grind, or stick around very long.
Back over THE GULLY FROM HECK in the middle of the boulder field, and on to Maude. The wind was blowing enough to keep us chilled, and the clouds stayed just above our heads. The summit was hidden for most of the trip. As we reached the top, the clouds dropped below us, the sun started to come out, and the winds dropped. A great improvement. The summit register is new as of July 05 so there were not many names, but we did see fellow WACers Miles and Kathy from the previous weekend.
After a leisurely lunch and descent, we crossed the scree, talus, boulders and huge huckleberry patches to return to Leroy Ck. Basin. We wandered back into camp for chicken soup, tuna and tortellini in a pesto sauce with dried mushrooms, dried tomatoes, and fresh broccoli, and a quick rain shower. We had way more than enough, and rather than attracting small scavengers with bad manners, we fed our neighbor. While he appeared to be grateful, he beat a hasty retreat when the food was gone, and did not appear the next morning until we were well away from camp. So, "Josh from Issaquah", we hope you slept well in spite of the mushrooms.
As we packed up from dinner Andy was observed using a camelback sans nipple. Now this is completely against the manufacturer's instructions and voids the warranty. The local camelback experts showed him the correct technique and now Andy knows how to use his nipple.
The winds picked up, the temperature dropped from chilly to down right cold, and the skies cleared around 9 pm. We were optimistic for Monday's attempt at 7FJ, but the weather was far from certain.
Early Monday morn the winds dropped, the temps rose, the sky stayed clear, and the summits were free from fresh white dust. We were out of excuses, so we dragged our tired legs out of the tents, ate breakfast (fresh huckleberries!) and had a sub-alpine start (7:45) for the summit of 7FJ. Jenny had been up the summit before and showed exceptional prudence by staying back in camp and taking a nap.
I don't know what the 7FJ picture in Uncle Fred's book is trying to show, but the dotted line up the west ridge (left of the picture) looks like you need wings to get over the silver gully, and "go-go-gadget" arms to get through some of the cliff bands. We headed up to the right and passed the middle and upper basins. Neither has any snow left. The middle basin (around 7000') looks like a very nice place to camp.
If you like scree and talus, you have come to the right place. Ali cleverly decided to leave her helmet in camp. She claimed she was not going to go to the summit, but as the morning went on she got stronger and faster. Uncle Fred is right about rock fall. Bring your helmet. We were careful and stayed close together, but it could be nasty up there if there is a clumsy party above you.
Think back to all the times you have lost a climbers trail while scrambling around the Cascades. We found where they went. 7FJ is the retirement home for all kinds of short, informal trails. There are grassy, brushy, wet with moss, slippery scree, ankle bashing talus, trampled, and almost invisible trails all over the west face. If you don't like the trail you are on, don't worry, it will be gone in a few minutes, and you can have your choice of three or four others near you.
7 Finger Jack is a very nice mountain for the navigationally challenged among us. Even on a nice clear day, it is easy to get to the wrong col and you have a 6/7 chance of getting the wrong summit. We are happy to report that the col between summit 1 (the main one) and summit 2 looks a lot like the other cols on the mountain.
Once we arrived at the right 3x5 bit of rock with 2000' of big air to the north, we hunted for the missing summit register (never found it), ate lunch, and tried to identify all the peaks we could see. Stuart and the Enchantments, through Mt. Daniel, the Snoqualmie Pass peaks, Mt. R, were visible to the south, Glacier Pk and beyond to the west, Baker, Shuksan to the north beyond Bonanza, and then east to the peaks beyond lake Chelan. We figured we could see at least 25 of the high hundred. We don't understand what George ate for breakfast that made him think he could run the 7FJ/Fernow Ridge. We are so not worthy.
Alas, the milkshakes at the 59 Diner called and we must be home. We descended back to camp, stopping to listen to the pika-chus, and wait at the marmot crossing while the mother and child rambled across into the meadow, and were back in camp in 2 hours. The plan called for another two hours to the car, and one more to ice cream, and then over the pass to home, but the plan had not met Mr. Murphy. If the approach was dusty, the retreat was doubly so. At one point Jenny tripped over a snow snake and went down in a cloud of dust. It took 5 minutes to clear and for her to find her way out. At least it was not the horse-scented dust.
There was only a little snoring in the back of the van as we passed Monroe. 64 hours, 10,000', 22miles later, we stumbled home to patch our blisters. Another successful Cascade Ramble. 48 hours later, we still can taste the dust.
A version of this trip report with pictures can be found at http://thenwdalys.com/Mountaineering/maude_7finger_jack_2005/maude_7finger_jack_2005.htm