Fuhrer Finger Route Conditions - July 22
A recent patrol to the Kautz Glacier spied some worsening conditions on the Fuhrer Finger. There is now a small rocky section at the hourglass. The rocks looked loose and "unstuck" during the mid-day heat. Above the finger itself was a rocky outcropping which has been dropping some debris onto the route - giving it a dirty appearance. Be aware that conditions changed from good to poor on this route in seven days! Things are changing quickly on the mountain with hot weather. Look for more of the finger's snow to melt away to rock in the late July and August weather.
Iain Morris over on Cascade Climbers.com posted a nice report.
The Fuhrer Finger route is still in for the moment, although with the warm temps the snow has been melting fast. Climbing rangers Paul and Adrienne were able to make good visual observations of this route while traversing the Wilson glacier in route to the climb the Kautz. The couloir is still all snow, but expect conditions to change rapidly as the snow continues to melt. Rockfall is a big hazard in the couloir so climbers should start early to avoid the increase in rockfall that will happen as the sun hits the upper part of the route. Once climbers have exited the main couloir they will have the choice of ascending close to the rock ridge or traversing out onto the main part of the Nisqually. Crevasses have been opening up fast so be prepared for some challenging route finding once you are on the glacier.
The approaches are still straightforward for the most part. Most parties have been reaching the high camp at 9,200 on the Wilson by ascending the Nisqually, although from recent reports the fan appears to be in good shape, mostly snow with a small rock band in the middle. The bridges around Comet Falls are now all passable if you decide to approach from that direction through Van Trump Park.
What a treat, the Finger is still in, and it is almost mid July. The west side of the Wilson glacier offers a great straight-forward approach to the base of the Finger. It is easy to get onto the Wilson by going up from Van Trump Park (one of the bridges on the Comet Falls Trail is still out so this makes things a little trickier) or by crossing the Nisqually and ascending the Fan. The Fan is a bit rocky so watch out for rock fall and move quickly up this section.
There are some great camps between 9000' and 9500' on the Wilson that provide wonderful access to the Finger. In the couloir there is still great snow and several parties have been climbing the route so there may even be steps kicked if you are lucky. Rocks love to rain down the couloir at all times of day, but they are most active when the sun starts warming up the rock walls that border the couloir. The best way to avoid these missles is to climb early when they are less active and to move fast. Above the couloir there are two route choices: hugging the rock ridge or going out to the middle of the Nisqually and climbing up the glacier. The route closer to the routes has more open crevasses to negotiate and some of these require short steps of steep climbing. Out on the glacier the route is more straight forward. The snow bridges on the upper mountain have been collapsing so be ready for some crevasse rescue if you are traveling this way.
-Andy AndersonJuly 2
We departed Camp Muir at approximately 0400 hours, descending the Muir Snowfield approximately 1000 ft. to the uppermost rock outcropping on the snowfield. From this point at the edge of the glacier we roped up and descended a steep chute between the broken seracs of the glacier and the rock cliff. The descent was fairly straightforward with minimal weaving around crevasses. If you scope out the line the day before in the daylight then doing it the next morning should be no problem. If you donÂt (we didnÂt), the descent feels steeper than it actually is (35 degrees, snow) because there appear to be some very large crevasses beneath you.
After dropping a few hundred feet, we traversed through a broken section of the glacier to reach the smooth, main body of the Nisqually glacier. This was roughly the level with the bottom of the Nisqually Cleaver (unknown elevation). Traversing the Nisqually was the most challenging part of the climb, it took some tricky maneuvering between crevasses and on ice-bridges. Much of the walking was on ice with occasional belays and one ice screw used for protection.
The Finger itself remains in excellent condition, with uninterrupted snow from bottom to top. There is a noticeable boot path leading from the Turtle Snowfield and the prominent bivy rock near the Turtle. There is minor exposure to icefall from the Wilson Headwall approaching from this camp, and there are few open crevasses too.
Once in the Finger we found no ice, no running water, no exposed rocks, and minimal rockfall. I saw one golfball-sized rock fall in the two hours I could see the finger. However, after the sun had warmed the rocks on the sides of the Finger it seemed like more rocks could start to fall. The freezing level during the morning of our climb was 13,000 ft; the snow was frozen and solid.
Above the top of the Finger we returned to the Nisqually Glacier. The easiest route leads out into the middle portion of the glacier, away from the edge and travels smoothly all the way to the crater rim. We walked into a cloud cap at 12,000 ft so visibility was minimal. An old but still visible set of deep boot tracks (kicked in during some hot weather over a week ago; not comfortable to walk in) helped reassure us that we were indeed heading the right direction. It seemed that intersected the top of the Kautz route somewhere near the crater rim because a series of wands appeared. We topped out uncomfortably in a cloud with moderate winds then descended the DC.
People can still ski the FF if they choose. Overall it was in much better condition than it appears from the Muir Snowfield. Because above the top of the Finger the route traverses in the center of the glacier, routefinding is not straightforward in a whiteout; in clear conditions it is probably easy.
Safe camp sites can still be found both on the lower Turtle and on the glacier beneath the start of the Finger. Regarding the DC, everything remains safe and fast. The route is easily identified by its deep boot trough, courtesy of parties descending in late in the day during the recent warm weather. The only exposed rock on the Cleaver is at the nose. The traverse itself is flat with minimal difficulties transitioning from glacier to rock. Up high there are no major open crevasses to speak of, though on the current trail one small hop is required to pass a crevasse at 13,000 feet.
The Fuhrer has been seeing almost as much climbing activity as rock fall activity! Most people are approaching via the Nisqually Glacier and avoiding the fan. This is a shorter and more straight forward approach so take advantage of it before the Nisqually breaks up. The chute is in great shape and the snow is nice and firm in the morning. As soon as the sun hits the rocks on the Wilson Cleaver rockfall becomes a big hazard in the chute. One party was descending a little late in the morning and had to hunker down against the wall until nightfall to avoid the continuous stream of rocks during the day.
Above the chute there are two options for continuing to the summit. One is the standard way of hugging the rocks on the Wilson Cleaver until you meet up with the Kautz. The other route is to cross over onto the central Nisqually and follow the Nisqually to the Summit. The Wilson Cleaver way is rockier but will remain in shape longer. Right now there are hardly any crevasses exposed on the Nisqually, and it provides a more straighforward way to the summit. Watch out for holes openning up as the temperatures stay warm.
At least one group skied back down the Finger this week check out their photos and trip report here.
Jim Couch had this to say about his recent climb:"Snow conditions on the route were excellent - well frozen and consolidated the entire morning. The route was very straightforward all the way to meeting up with the Kautz Glacier route.
The upper Kautz was also very straightforward all the way to the summit. The route is relatively direct from 13000' clear to the summit weaving only slightly to avoid a few crevasses and ice falls."
Fuhrer Finger and Wilson Headwall - June 8th
I'm begining to wonder if I should add the Fuhrer Finger conditions report to the Kautz related routes... They all seem to see similiar activity...
That said, with the FF, comes the Wilson Headwall. Here is a report from Sky, who happened to climb and SKI the route...
"Easy access to the route, just start to the left... Fun route, lots of 40-degreeish snow. Climbed through the rock bands up and right, turning a corner above the Nisqually near the top [of the Wilson Headwall.]
The ski descent was simply marvelous. A bit icy in several spots on the upper half of the route, including the traverse to skier's right below the ice cliff, then unbelievably perfect corn the rest of the way."
And here's the best part...
"12.5 hours car to car... what a fun day!"
Here is a mid May climbing report for Gibraltar Ledges