Ascent of Three Fools Peak on 2012-08-04

Climber: Eric Noel

Others in Party:Ken Jones -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, August 4, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Three Fools Peak
    Elevation:7920 ft / 2414 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is a straight-forward non-technical peak that is mostly just a trail hike. But it is a long way in to this mtn, at least for a slow out of shape hiker like myself. The pleasures of the picturesque scenery were offset by the usual trials of summer backpacking: heat, mosquitos, a backpack w/ overnight gear, heat, mosquitos, melted chocolate, heat, mosquitos, a trail reroute requiring extra elevation gain, heat, mosquitos, a long drive and heat and mosquitos.

We made the long drive over after deciding that sleeping at home was better than starting earlier in cooler temps. The trail is the PCT and so it is a great gently graded trail virtually the whole way. The high TH meant that we were in wildflower meadows with views of the North Cascades to start. But it also meant that the trail was going to do a lot of rolling up and down and that we would often be out in the sun. Lots of day hikers until Windy Pass which seems to be where most folks turn-around. We continued and passed good water, for now, in the drainage E of Tamarack as we ascended to another pass. Then the trail drops and does some up and down around some bumps and then on to a traverse along the side of Jim Peak. We rounded Devil's Backbone and dropped to Shaw Creek which had some water. Continuing N we considered a campsite at 6000' but elected to continue on. We stopped at a mediocre campsite at 5450' where we spent both nights. Water may not be present there in later season. We considered continuing to Holman Pass, but decided that this would shift a little bit of our gain to day 2 with daypacks rather than day 3 when we had on backpacks and had to drive home to boot. Good spacious shaded campsites at Holman Pass but I am not sure how far you have to walk to get water.

On day 2 we did the easy hike to Holman Pass, did a rising traverse and then some switchbacks to get onto a bench. Shull Mtn looms large here. We continued on in meadows as the trail rose up to (and above) Rock Pass. Here the map shows two forks in the trail that later merge. Sadly, the upper fork traverses some sketchy cliffs on Powder Mtn and so it was abandoned decades ago. Since then the trail has faded. We looked at it but it was loose and exposed for our taste. So we dropped down on the newer trail which switchbacked lower before heading back up to Windy Pass. By now we were feeling the heat. Big snowpatch at the saddle and some water on the S side of the pass. We continued on and though we were tiring the peak was now finally rather close. As we pulled SW of the peak we picked an alley of steep grass between trees and headed up. The mosquitos then attacked en masse. This sucked. We continued on, finally deciding to hit the S ridge at perhaps 7400'. From here we picked our way along the ridge through rocks, talus and grassy bits. Nothing really hard or worse than class 2, just more sun and hiking. We reached the obvious top and found a cairn but no register. Real pretty views. We reversed our path and made it back to the trail and then slogged it out. It seemed interminably long but eventually our summit day was over after 13 hours. The sun melted me. It was much harder than we thought it would be.

On the plus side, we got a decent night's sleep, by backpacking standards. We were up at 5AM to get moving early and got off to a good start. Nothing like a 3000' gain day on day 3 of a backpacking trip to get back to the car. We faded on the way up to the shoulder of Tamarack and by the time we were doing the ever ascending traverse from Windy Pass to the car I had long ceased having fun. Why do I backpack again? Thankfully my stiffening feet and thigh chafing took my mind off of the pain in my shoulders. But soon enough it was over and now that it is done I am very happy to have gotten Three Fools. Bigger effort than I expected. I really think it was the heat mostly. This is a beatiful peak with a great trail and lots of meadows and views. The up and down nature of the trail can get tedious but not much you can do about that. Were I in better shape or if it had been about 25 degrees cooler I would have enjoyed it a lot more and probably given this hike an 8 or 9.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:9120 ft / 2779 m
    Extra Gain:4000 ft / 1219 m
    Round-Trip Distance:40 mi / 64.4 km
    Route:PCT to West Slope
    Trailhead:Slate Peak Road  6800 ft / 2072 m
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Crampons, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot

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