Fuhrer Finger and Fuhrer Thumb route conditions - June 17th
We had good views of the Fuhrer Finger route from the Kautz Route on June 15/16. See the Kautz Route update for comments on the approach to high camp.
Crossing from the 9,600' camp on Wapowety Cleaver to the base of the Fuhrer Finger appears simple with no major crevasse obstacles. It should still be possible to find safe camping spots on the glacier near the base of Fuhrer Finger, too. The hourglass itself has quite a bit of snow and is in good condition for climbing. Though there is some evidence of rock fall, it looks fairly clean overall. See photo of the hourglass.
Looking down Wapowety Cleaver from 13,000' on the Kautz Route, the upper Nisqually Glacier above the top of the Fuhrer Finger hourglass is broken with some big crevasses. Parties ascending Fuhrer Finger should expect that navigating through these crevasses will take some time. As one of the contributors to this blog mentioned below, if the crevasses on the main part of the glacier (climber's right above the hourglass) look impassable you can consider staying to the climber's left above the hour glass, hugging the rocks of Wapowety Cleaver in an attempt to bypass most crevasses to their left (west) sides. But this is speculation based on what we could see from above.
We ascended the Kautz Route just after new snow, so we didn't see much of a boot track on the upper Nisqually. Though climbers on the Fuhrer Finger might intersect footprints from the more-popular Kautz Route above 13,000', you can't count on it. There are some big crevasses with questionable crossings and/or long end-runs in this upper section, so give yourself a bit of extra time to deal with these on your way to the summit.
~ Thomas Payne and Paul Charlton, NPS
Not a lot to report, but a photo of the route, taken by Mike Gauthier on June 13th...
This report came from a few members of a team last week. Photos are from the 5/30 report.
We camped immediately under the lower left lobe of the hourglass on a platform at 9,875'. It sort of seemed protected from rockfall and we had no problems. The hourglass is still in good shape, but it is beginning to show signs of spring melt. That said, it is hard to say how long before it melts out.
We left camp at 12:15AM. The route from the hourglass to ~11,800' was in good shape, we didn't need ice tools, an axe worked fine. There were a couple short sections where ice was starting to form, so conditions might change fast. At 11,800' we went into the clouds, and being dark, had a difficult time getting onto the upper Nisqually. We navigated several crevasses and snow bridges; one was particularly sketchy and we protected it with an anchor. Not sure how long that bridge will be there??? Because we couldn't see the route, it was hard to say how much longer it will be passable.
Other notes include:
Nisqually was very smooth - The approach was basically a straight shot across Nisqually and Wilson. There were some minor crevasses to navigate on the Wilson Glacier
There was some water running over the rocks and we could hear water under the snow but it was brown with dirt.
Saw lots of evidence of rock fall at the base of the route. At our bivy site, we saw minor rock fall on the lower portion of the finger just east of our site late in the day. We stayed to the left on the finger - as we were climbing, you could hear water running under the snow – very weird.
Topped out on the snow field at approx 11.3K - we still stayed left and circled around the seracs and onto the Nisqually glacier at approximately 12K Nisqually. There were a few dicey crevasses to cross high on the Nisqually. Above the last large crevasse, it was more or less a straight shot to the summit There were several crevasses to negotiate but nothing to major.
Post-Climb Thoughts: Fun route, challenging climbing conditions, good camping spot - we were on the route in minutes. If the warm weather continues, the FF route will be out before June ends.
Some "route beta" recommended staying right and joining up with the Nisqually glacier which we did - but we ran into the daunting crevasse. Unless we missed it, the snow bridge we used on the Nisqually will not be there soon. At this time, the best ascent route may be to stay to the left and ascent along the Wilson Headwall and meet up the Kautz route (I keep hearing this suggestion).
Contributed by: Ed Greutert and Dale Smith photos by Michiel Zuidweg and Sam Crary.
Michiel Zuidweg contributed this report, "thought you might like to know the route conditions of the Fuhrer Finger...
Sam and I left the car at 2:30 am. on Wednesday morning and found a great boot pack, and slushy snow to 7400 feet. Here some large group established a campsite, igloo and eating area. The boot pack continued up the Nisqually and forked, one route leading towards the high camp at the base of the Turtle and one leading towards the Fuhrer. At the base of the Wapowtey Cleaver, the boot pack diminished, and there were alot of undulations in the snow. There were a few small snow bridges to cross on the Nisqually, but nothing terrible at 4 in the morning. However, 4 in the afternoon, I wouldn't trust it.
...The Fuhrer was straight forward and simple. There were numerous undulations in the snow, which was fine for creating steps on the way up but not for snowboarding down. The route was clean to the summit, no route finding or crevasse problems. Wands were placed from 12,500, where one has to navigate left around a large crevasse, to the summit. Morning conditions were firm and no rock fall. The boot pack from 13,300 where the Kautz meets this route to the summit was firm and well marked. No problems there.
The snowboard descent was incredible. The dents, undulations and concave aspects in the snow made it a little difficult/annoying for a snowboarder. But with the hot weather and warm afternoon, the slush was easily skiable. Snowboarding was great from 12000 to the car, but lots of rock fall in the afternoon. Basketball sized rocks tumbling down the Finger as you snowboard down.
The best snow conditions where from 10,500 ft to the car. Slope angle, still 40 degrees, great for skiing. Protection, pickets could have been pointless, too slushy in the late morning to early afternoon. No access issues or special navigation.
Thanks Michiel and Sam Crary for the great trip report.
The Fuhrer Finger is still in good shape. The middle of the route has started to melt out but is still passable and will be for a little while longer. Several parties have skied it recently and had no difficulties. Fuhrer's Thumb also still looks it could be passable for another week or so.
The approach across the Nisqually is still in great shape and route finding should be relatively easy. It's possible to climb the Nisqually Glacier onto the Wilson Glacier. There are a few icefalls and crevassed areas to navigate; there are several benches on the Nisqually and Wilson Glaciers for good bivy sites. The higher benches are more prone to rockfall and avalanche hazards from the Wilson Headwall, so be sure to pick a spot away from the runout zone.
Teams have reported firm snow in the morning on the Finger, softening quickly as the sun hits it. Above the top of the finger, parties have been traversing climber's right to get around the icefall on the upper Nisqually Glacier. There seems to be a fairly direct route to the summit up the climber's right. No reports of difficult route finding, but there are several crevasses between 12,500' and the summit. Drop us a note if you climb the route.
For more information on the Fuhrer Finger route, check out our 2006 reports.