Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 44.02620°N / 114.9619°W
Additional Information Elevation: 9760 ft / 2975 m
Sign the Climber's Log


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This striking Sawtooth Tower is probably the second most rock climbed peak in the range. It boasts over 9 technical routes, with the easiest way to the summit being 5.7.  Located in the Central Sawtooths, it sits well below and east of the main Sawtooth Crest, so it is not obvious from highway ID-75.  The road approach involves a hideous 4WD road; one of Idaho's worst backcountry roads.  The tower itself rises over 1000 feet and is composed of mostly solid granite. There are many nearby rock towers, with most requiring Class 5 climbing to reach the summits.  The Arrowhead, The Coffin, Mt. Sevy, and the Birthday Cake all have unpublished rock routes.  Here are some well known routes on the Finger of Fate:

1) The Book (II 5.8) - the most popular route up the Finger
2) Tiptoe (II, 5.10)
3) Feel Free (II, 5.8)
4) East Face (II, 5.11)- Over 1000 feet of climbing ; impressive long route first climbed by J. Beaupre and G. Webster in 1967
5) Drizzlepus (II, 5.7)
6) Bino's Book (II, 5.9)

The first overall ascent of the Finger of Fate did not occur until 1958, when Louis Stur and Jerry Fuller (Sawtooth Climbing Pioneers) made the climb up the SE face.

Since most people climb the Book route on the Finger, here is a pitch by pitch description.

Pitch 1- Start up the 5.5 left leaning crack to a point where the chimney goes vertical and straight up. Here make some 5.8 layback moves in a 2-4 inch crack. Just under an obvious ledge, is one of the tougher moves on the route.  After the layback move, reach up and mantle onto the belay ledge.

Pitch 2- From the ledge, climb up into an offwidth layback crack (3-4") to a point under the obvious roof.  The 5.8 layback moves are slightly easier than the pitch 1 5.8 moves.  From under the ledge traverse right and up with minimal feet, but a big reach up reveals big jugs to pull onto a mini ledge. (July 2014 there was a stuck nut in the crack under the roof). Continue up the dihedral on 5.6 to 5.7 terrain to a point near a chockstone where the gully divides slightly.

Pitch 3- Climb through the notch over loose blocks and 5.5 terrain to a point where a committing yet easy (5.6) move slightly up to the left puts you out of the dihedral and onto 3rd class terrain.  Gaze at the east side of the finger and the selection of different cracks.  Scramble up and to the right to a notch below the twin cracks.

Pitch 4- Climb the twin cracks using opposing pressure at first. Left crack is about 1 inch, right crack about 3 inches.  Feet are non existent at times on the outside of these cracks and the rock is lichen covered. Eventually left crack peters out and you will need to double hand and double foot jam (5.8). This section along with the 5.8 on pitch 1 are the crux moves.  Atop this move, emerge slightly right to a ledge and a point where the route goes left.  Leave a directional runner in this area for your 2nd and climb 5.5 runout slab for 35 feet to a ledge and a large boulder with many slings.

Pitch 5- Climb up and left on a 5.5 slab and tunnel your way under the summit block. Go straight through, or if carrying a pack go right and emerge on the west side. Either way , there will most likely be rope drag.  This would be a good pitch to climb unroped.  On the west side, make a leap across a chasm toward the south side and a set of slings. Alternately, make a balancy slab crawl to avoid the jump.

Pitch 6- On the south side at the obvious notch, climb the boulder just south of the summit block and step across onto a ledge with a piton. Traverse out onto the east face using crystal pockets and ledges (5.7). Mantle onto the summit block. If you mantle early, it's 5.7. If you traverse further out onto the east face, it's closer to 5.8.  The summit contains a bolted on summit register and some newer rap anchors.

Descent-  Rappel single rope toward the west and the class 3 blocks below.  Scramble 100 feet toward the northwest side and find a tree with slings.  Double ropes gets you off in one rappel from here, or use a tree below for the 3rd rappel. You will emerge in a loose and sometimes snow covered gully that takes you back to the base rather easily.

Getting There

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The Finger of Fate is located about 2.5 miles south of the Elephant's Perch in the Hell Roaring Drainage. It sits on a ridge leading due East from Sevy Peak.

Road Approach

From Stanley, Idaho take ID-75 south for 12 miles, turn west at Decker Flat, cross the Salmon River and then drive 5 miles on one of the worst 4 wheel drive roads in Idaho. High clearance is required and large boulders need to be negotiated at times. 

Hike / Scramble Approach

From the trailhead cross Hell Roaring Creek (can be difficult crossing in high water), and hike a relatively flat trail for 1.7 miles until you reach Hell Roaring Lake (Elevation 7407). The main trail goes left here and out toward Imogene Lake. You'll take a climber's trail on the right hand side (north) of the lake until you reach a stream inlet at which the hiking steepens. At mile 3 (from the trailhead), you'll reach a gorgeous unnamed lake at 8179 feet. This destination makes a great bivy spot if needed. From here, follow the drainage that runs SE of the Finger of Fate. At about 8700 feet you'll turn due north and traverse just east of the tower with the full 1000 foot East Face (5.11) route visible. Continue rock hopping around toward the NE side where you'll most likely encounter a snow field. The popular Open Book (5.8) route starts here in a shady corner. A few other routes are just to the right (west) at this point and the standard rappel descent is just around the corner on the NW side.

Red Tape

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They ask you to get a permit at the trailhead,  yet backcountry rangers are virtually non existent.  They recently made the trailhead further away from Hell Roaring lake.  You now get to hike an extra 1.5 miles on the dusty road bed you used to be able to drive on.  On the positive side,  they removed a few rocks from the rough road leading in. 

When To Climb

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Standard climbing season is June through October. Conditions may dictate whether you can negotiate the road. I've been at the Finger as late as early December and as early as late April. A cross country ski in would be possible from ID-75.


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Camping is allowed virtually anywhere in the region

For more information go to the Stanley Ranger Station Site

Mountain Conditions

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Sawtooth Web Cam can give you a good idea of the conditions in the area:

SNOTEL site gives latest snow depth readings:

Google Maps also gives snow depth maps:

Sawtooth Climbing Information

Sawtooth Climbing Beta is hard to come by. There is no official book or publication that gives detailed description. Here are a few references that have some more basic information and photographs:

1)  Climbing Magazine #15

2)  Rock & Ice #44 

3)  Off Belay: The Mountain Magazine Feb 1975 #19  (Whole issue devoted to rock climbing in the Sawtooths, but hard to find)

4) American Alpine Journal- Issue 47 (1973)

External Links

  • Sawtooth Camera
    This will give you an idea of the local conditions (Camera about 15 miles north of the Finger)
  • SNOTEL site
    Vienna Mine snow depth readings- sensor is about 15 miles south of the Finger at a similar elevation
  • Google Earth Snow Cover Maps
    This will give great snow coverage maps. Usage of Google Earth is required.



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Sawtooth RangeMountains & Rocks