Another weekend in Central Oregon where I chose, as a final long training run for the upcoming Volcanic50, the classic loop around Three Fingered Jack (3FJ).
Starting at the Pacific Crest Trailhead – Santiam Pass, I headed North on the PCT. After several miles, I got off the PCT and started climbing up towards 3FJ. Right before the crawl, I slipped my climbing shoes on as I wanted to go see what the final pitch looks like and maybe go at the top. The crawl was airy and great caution must be made here as well as the sections around it (multiple deaths and accidents have been reported). I arrived at the bottom of the last pitch. The views are terrific from here and while going up it didn’t seem to hard (5.4 climbing grade), I decided to stop here as I didn’t feel like climbing down it without a rope would be safe.
After going down the Crawl and putting back my running shoes, I ran down to go back on the PCT. From there, I ran North to Wasco Lake enjoying beautiful views of Mt Jefferson and 3FJ overlooking Canyon Creek Meadows.
This run offers several opportunities to refill water (Wasco Lake, Canyon Creek, Booth Lake, Square Lake) and I took advantage of it as it was very dry, hot and exposed. From Wasco Lake, I headed to the east saddle of 3FJ via the beautiful and fresh Canyon Creek meadow instead of taking the #4014 heading to Jack Lake as the classic loop does.
My modified loop (Yellow) vs the classic route (Purple)
I quickly arrived to 3FJ East saddle where I encountered Mountain goats that seem to be thriving since they were re-introduced several years ago
From here, people usually hike down the way they came and head back to Jack Lake. As for me, I had found several reports and tracks of hikers going down south following a creek. As a matter of fact, when I arrived at 3FJ saddle, several women were coming up the south side. As they confirmed to me, they mainly followed the creek up. One of her having done this part 5 times, I was confident I would be able to go down this way as well. And I did! But this part was mainly bushwacking though thick brush and a lot of downed trees. I eventually met the #4014 trail, and accelerated to make up for the lost time.
I passed Booth Lake, Square Lake (it’s not square at all!) and arrived back at the trailhead where my wife picked me up in time for some kayak time and swim time at Big Lake before sunset.
if I were to do it again, I would still go up the saddle as the canyon creek meadow and the east saddle were my favorite parts. However, because of the bushwacking part and tree hoping, I would skip going down south and would run back to canyon creek meadow and Jack Lake to join the trail #4014 that the classic loop takes.
GPS Track available here (22.4 miles, 4,300 ft )