2015 Fourth of July Finger of Fate

Sunset over the alpine lake we camped at.

July 3-4, 2015

Over the long weekend Carly and I headed to Idaho and the Sawtooth Mountains, something I did a couple years ago as well.  This time I had a more modest objective called the Finger of Fate.  The name is ominous but our intended route is only 5.8, but an old school 5.8 put up in the late sixties I think.

We woke up relatively early and drove up Friday morning.  Unlike our last drive up in these parts for Aaron and Tina’s wedding we head good weather and clear skies.  The first crux of the route is the dirt road into the upper trailhead at Hell Roaring.  From all the beta I could find online the road was a heinous jeep trail only surpassable by 4x4s and monster trucks.  Ok, well I’m being a little facetious, but it was described as high clearance and four wheel drive only.  Naturally we took Carly’s CR-V for this task over my Subaru.  The road turned out to be not too bad.  Definitely very rocky and in two places a little difficult, but overall I’d give it a 5.9 compared to what I expected to be a 5.11 passage to the upper trailhead.  I did take some smug satisfaction that when we arrived at the end of the road of the dozen vehicles there, we were the only one not in a full size truck or SUV.

The trail is primarily flat for about 4 miles as it winds through the pine forest, which has certainly been affected by fire recently.  The tall narrow pines offer little shade unless right under them so we were hot on the approach.  At Hell Roaring Lake we skirted to the right shore and along the climber’s trail that heads up the last mile and 1100 ft of elevation gain.  Overall, not a difficult approach and it took us a little over 2 hours.

The Finger of Fate from our campsite alongside the unnamed lake at its base.  Notice the daylight under the summit block which we tunneled through for our last pitch.
The Finger of Fate from our campsite alongside the unnamed lake at its base. Notice the daylight under the summit block which we tunneled through for our last pitch.


Our campsite for the night was at the shore of a small unnamed alpine lake.  Across the lake our objective loomed over us.  After we set up our tent and a quick dip in the lake we studied the Finer and noticed that we could see daylight under the summit block.  This wasn’t completely surprising since the topo for the route described tunneling under the block.  However, it was a little unnerving that we could see the gaps even from half a mile away.

The next morning we set off for the climb.  Thankfully there weren’t any other climbers in the area so we didn’t get as early a start as we might have otherwise.  The approach trail around the lake spit us onto the talus and skree field below the feature.  This portion of the approach kind of sucked because every 3 steps forward involved one backward.

Arriving at the base of the climb we were glad to be in the shade.  The aspect still holds a small snow field at the very base.  The route follows an obvious 90 degree corner on the north east aspect of the Finger.  While granite of some flavor, the rock is very different than Little Cottonwood or City of Rocks, the other two granite areas I frequent.  The stone is heavily lichened and much more splitter rather than flared.

The first pitch ramps up some easier terrain to a splitter crack in the corner.  There’s a tricky move below the corner to pass a bulge.  Above that there’s some good jams that get a bit wide getting toward the belay.  Pitch two was the best climbing in my opinion.  Awesome jams and passing roof which required a smeary reach to good holds.  Above that were more jams and a widening crack that I ended up butterfly hand jamming.  Feet were a little tricky but not terrible, though Carly’s smaller hands and feet made this section tougher for her.

During the belay for P2 I got cold as we were still in the shade.  I figured that the wide crack just had cold air blowing out of it and didn’t think much of it.  However as I started up P3, which would bring us into the sun, I notice that the large chimney that the crack turned into still held a considerable amount of snow.  After reaching the top of P3 and the terrain flattened and we enjoyed the sun.  Carly lead the next pitch, which transitioned the belay under the next vertical section.  Double cracks lead into a single crack with great jams.  These then topped out at the base of an unprotected slab.  A fall on the slab would be serious because of the angles of the rock and where the protection was.  Luckily we didn’t find out first hand and we were deposited just under the summit block.

View from the top of the 5.5 runout slab.  Beautiful country up here.
View from the top of the 5.5 runout slab. Beautiful country up here.


Tunneling through the other side spit me out to what is called the “Leap of Faith” and much like in Indiana Jones it looked quite improbable.  The gap is about 4 ft across and 10-12 up-not really steppable as I was hoping.  The landing zone is about 2.5-3 ft deep flat rock.  Not too much of an issue when on the ground, but when 500 ft up it was more than I was willing to tackle.  I skirted around to the left along and slopey hand traverse which wasn’t all that fun either.  The final pitch is a boulder problem to surmount the summit block.  After much debate we opted out of finishing the last 20 ft of the climb.

We arrived back at camp a bit tired and around 7:00, leaving about 2.5 hours until sunset.  We had planned for a single night and so our food supplies were down to a couple bars and some jerky.  I gave Carly the option of either filling our water bladders or striking camp, she sluggishly took water duty.  In about 30 minutes we were able to start hiking back to the car.  The hike out didn’t turn out to be all that much shorter than the way in owing to the flat terrain once at the lake and that we had been on the move for 10 hours already.  Finally after what seemed like and interminably long walk we got back to the car.  Heating up our dinner and drinking beers was satisfying, but the bugs were also out in force so we didn’t stay up too long.

Sunday the weather turned cloudy and our beach day at Redfish Lodge turned into just watching people, drinking beers and catching up with Roxanne, Marmar, Jeff, and Jessa on what they did in the area that weekend.  Good weekend overall.