Finger of Fate


We return to climb the Finger of Fate again, 35+ years after our first time.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

This was a most excellent day, for both the climb and the personal reflection. Without getting too sappy, I'll just say that Tom and I have been best friends and climbing partners for more than 35 years. And the Finger is where we really started our climbing careers (oh, the stories I could tell about that apprenticeship- a couple of teenagers (pic from that era) with pitons, goldline, and mountain boots). So to be back here together again (and still alive!) was pretty special.

On the hike up to the climb, we talked about some of those exploits. The only problem was that we couldn't remember exactly *when* any of them happened. Of particular was trying to remember what year it was that I lead this route the one time.... it might have been in about 1975? We did establish that on that trip, we climbed Feel Free (again) on the same day. On the other hand, Tom has led this thing many times.

In either case, we were both returning with many memories and eager for the climb.

Finger of Fate

We left Boise at about 5:15 under an orange slice of moon. In Lowman, the smoke was choking thick due to the Banks fire and the backburns they were conducting in the cooler air that had moved into the area.

We bounced and lurched up the awful road to the inner trailhead and started walking about 9:15, It took us about an hour and a half to get to the upper cirque, 1800' higher than the trailhead. It was a little smoky up high, but not nearly as bad as it had been driving through Lowman.

Upper cirque

As you approach the bottom of the climb, you get a great view of the route. If you click on the picture to see the larger version, you can see the air under the summit block, which sits like a tripod on top. Yes, you have to crawl under it. And no, it doesn't seem to want to slide off- it's been there for at least 35 years that we know of.

The route

This is another perspective of the route, taken looking south-southeast from Decker Peak.

Photo:Jerry Osborn

The route

This is what the route looks like from the start. The red arrow shows the "Book" shape that comprises the first four pitches. This first pitch is rated the hardest at 5.8.

On the hike in we had been sweating. When we got here, we changed into dry clothes and jackets. Even so, I was shivering as I watched Tom move up the rock. Was it cold or was I nervous...Both.

Looking up the route

One of the things we love about this route is how sustained it is. It's not that hard, but it doesn't let up. Tom was recovering from a shoulder injury but led the whole thing anyway. With Tom in front, I didn't have to spend a lot of time pulling gear.

Somewhere in here is where I realized the other problem with getting old: memory. This route was a lot harder than I remembered. I could do the moves, but I was breathing like a freight train and my hands were going limp.... would I be able to pull the whole way?

The Book

When you get to the top of the Book, you scramble up to the base of the pitch we call "Aerie." It has two parallel cracks, which is good because you can look between your feet and see the ground.


The top of Aerie is a 30-40 foot slab that cannot be protected. Tom is belaying me. It's not hard, but the exposure is tremendous. In the picture below, a tiny red dot shows where I was when I snapped this. You can also see the airy pitch below this spot.


The run-out slab

Then comes the tunnel pitch under the summit block. The only real danger here is hitting your head.

Once out of the tunnel, Tom showed me his variation on the summit block. The "normal" route winds around the block onto what you see here as the left side. To do the moves, you have to step across the gap you can see in this picture and do a spooky mantle onto a smooth, sloping area of the summit.

Instead, Tom's route goes up what you see as the right corner. Watching Tom climb something is a little deceiving. He is so smooth, it's hard to tell how hard the moves really are. So with a lump in my throat, I did the exposed boulder problem, chanting to myself, "You shall not fall here." It worked.

Position on the route

We did the two raps off, collecting a free rope on the way. Then it was time for the hike back to the car, and a long but fun drive home. The Finger in a day from Boise- not too bad for a couple of old farts.

Tom and John

Mr. Natural Home | 2007 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski