Seven Finger Jack
Seven Finger Jack was suggested to me by a friend wanting a weekend adventure whom was also familiar with my quest of the Washington 100. True to my nature I was happy to go, we planned to leave on Saturday morning with hopes of summiting in the afternoon and returning first thing on Sunday. We enjoy breakfast at a small café along the highway and then drove to the Phelps Creek trailhead, our jumping off point for the trip. We hiked 3.2 miles to Leroy Creek and then up the abandoned Leroy Creek trail eastwardly beside the creek, and in approximately two miles enters the upper Leroy Creek basin directly under Seven Fingered Jack and the east slopes of Mt Maude.
Seven Fingered Jack is the second highest of the three 9ers that make up the Entiat Cirque. The other two are Mt Maude and Mt Fernow, which at 9,249 feet is the third highest non-volcano in the Cascade Range. The name is descriptive of a rugged formation of steep crags once called "Entiat Needles".
We quickly set up camp at about 6,000' and made our way up the prominent gully northeast toward the Maude-col. We read this mountain was messy and notorious with loose rock and scree and recommended to keep party’s at a minimum due to the hazard of falling rocks.; therefore helmets were brought just in case. The key to scree, just as it is with soft powdery snow, is to ensure that each step is placed firmly but carefully in what I like to call "clean climbing" because it takes more energy to regain your balance than it does to climb itself.
Once up on the upper reach of the mountain, we navigated a series of small cliffs with slight exposure and then continued in a northeast heading to a large bench at 6,800'. It was apparent this was the point we needed to turn north and traverse the remaining section of the climb to a point underneath the summit finger. There was little snow on the mountain except for a large patch underneath the easternmost fingers. We passed a few other groups as when headed up and both warned that the key to the climb was to stay left even though the route naturally goes up into a false summit. There is no question that the route was loose and to my surprise there were very few cairns leading the way, but the more I thought it was very obvious that they could not survive in this environment due to the constant barrage of rocks falling from above. We continued to a good pace and enjoyed the view all around that include Glacier Peak in the distance surrounded by a marine layer of clouds. We wondering if the clouds would continue moving up and toward us, but at this point it did not matter with the summit directly above. and the weather from our vantage point was outstanding throughout the day.
We approached the final turn and turned back northeast toward the small saddle underneath the final summit finger, we ascended to the right on a knob which appeared to be the summit. We unclipped our packs and congratulated each other for a successful summit of Seven Fingers Jack. I pulled out a snack and quickly noticed a higher group of rocks across the gap from where we just came and was unfortunately the true summit. A studied the map and confirmed our position that to the east of the true summit and was more exposed than the actual route to the true summit. I scanned the best route from our current vantage point as it appeared that the only route was heading up the ridge required a class 5 climb. Knowing this was not the route per Becky's, I continued to look across the deep couloirs which separated us the opposite side but enough of guessing, I climbed across to take a closer look. As I expected, there was a narrow path along the rock which gave access to the backside of the summit and an easy walk to the final summit. We ascended the firm rock and within 10 minutes were actually on the true summit which deserved the premature congratulations. The summit including a flat area built up similar for a tent platform, but I believe it has been carved out for better protection from the deep cliff on the opposite side of our route. Initially our turnaround time was 7 p.m. on the summit and we made it at 5:30 p.m. and a bit less than three hours. We spent only a few minutes on the top and the idea came to us to go ahead and hike all the way back to the car to have a full day at home before work on Monday.
As with any mountain making it to the top is only halfway up and heading back in the loose rock required care to prevent a rock slide and/or twist of the ankle. We made our way down back without incident to the 6800' bench and from there, continued to down climb the small cliffs which we came. Soon enough we were back in the high open meadows and the basin. We spoke to a couple groups in the basin and discovered that Maude seemed to be the more popular trip of this area; to our surprise everyone was interested in our climb up Seven Fingered Jack as it was the harder of the two. As daylight was setting we needed to move on with the hope of getting to the main river trail before turn dark and the final 3.2 miles back to the car. About halfway along the path, we turned on our headlamps and made it back to the car at 10:30 p.m. The night was warm with stars all above and the moon illuminating the surrounding mountains. After covering 14 miles and an elevation gain of 6000 feet, it was yet again a remarkable day in the mountains. The Entiat Cirque is an area I have not been previously and look forward to coming back to climb the surrounding peaks that make up only part of the Washington 100.
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