This was a half planned trip, the kind where it's been in the works for the better part of a year but when seasons upon you the trip itself sneaks up quickly. The 'set in stone' date for the trip was made shortly
after my colleagues failed attempt to summit Mt. Olympus the weekend before and during the kind of summer where every days off yeilds a trip to the mountains it wasn't long before we we're turning off of Mountain Loop Hwy. onto FR 41 with every intention of proceeding to Tupso Pass.
The summit snowfield
We arrived at Tupso Pass, the Three Fingers/Goat Flats TH @ around 11:30am, not so bad giving our clumsy start. The plan was to stay the night at the legendary lookout on Three Fingers, a first for the both of us and a personal goal to cap my first 'real' hiking season. When at home packing for my most challenging trip of the year I weighed my heaviest pack-45 lbs. and as we stumbled up the first 2.3m to Saddle Lake we found even half planning didn't lighten our packs. Forecasted to be a clear beautiful September day we where soon moving at a quick pace into sub-alpine meadow, and Goat Flats was coming quick. It was maybe 2:30 when we ducked into the trees at the upper reaches of Goat
Flats, maybe a little suprised to be going downhill and then turning the corner into the cirque below Tin Pan Gap. We rounded the cirque and switched back up to reach the gap, we soon had the finest view of the Summit either of us had ever seen, the deep glacier carved trough of the Queest-Alb glacier almost reached up to the gap as it rounded up the ridge seperating us from the summit area. We where on snow for the first time in the trip and where utilizing our latest snow craft 'skate shoe snow travel' on a pretty airy finger directly above the crevassed glacier some 400' below us. Not so bad as we stepped off the finger and headed towards the moat, we where soon descending a steeper moat bypassing a small section of the glacier and making our way up the ridge and to the final summit block. It was maybe 4:00 and the switchbacks seemed endless as we approached the perrenial snowfield, we dropped pack for a sip of water and then made our way up the snow. As we reached the beginning of the
'class 2 scramble' I realized I was uncertain on where to go from here, "dammit" we split up. I took upper right while he the opposite. It wasn't long before my colleague signaled that he was on track and we turned the corner and got our first glimpse at the fabled ladders, honestly I was surprised to find them smaller than I was envisioning however, at the base of what might be the three best ladders on earth where the worst two things we could of imagined. Ice axes.
Squire Creek Pass
Squeezing through the notch above the second ladder a had to remove my pack one handed, not as bad as I was imagining and feed it up through the rocks. As I poked my head over the third ladder I saw a man sitting in the
wooden chair out front reading a book as non-chalantly as he could convey, "looks like we had the same idea" I confess as I slump my pack onto the 'front' porch. "yep" dude replies as I wonder where the other axe is from and see a lady inside sleeping, now we knew we weren't staying the night and with no tent we had no choice but to turn around. We whipped up a large supper trying to lighten our packs and energize ourselves as much for the descent as we could, soak up the incredible scenery, gazing upon lofty vistas I would soon tackle the following year and snap some photos as we popped our packs back on, took one last very long look and descended the ladders.
Descending the ladders Sunset at Tin Pan Gap
6:45 pm, 7.3 miles and 3600' to go and we where standing below the perrenial snowfield realizing we had one headlamp
between the both of us and maybe a tea candle or two, oops. As we reached Tin Pan Gap the sun was turning orange and starting to set, our pace quickened, we reached Goat Flats at 8:00pm and the lights in the cities where firing up, the moon was rising up directly above the trail leading east of Goat Flats and I munched my final clif bar as we started
our stumble to the truck. We arrived at the TH at 10:30pm and I made it home to Mount Vernon just after midnight. Epic.