The first winter ascent of the Finger of Fate was made on March 19, 1973 by James Christopher Hecht, Harry Bowron, Gordon K. Williams and Joe Fox. I was part of the support team which also included Art Troutner and John Platt. I took the color photos. I developed the black and white photos that were shot by the ascent team.
Our first day was spent skiing up Hell Roaring Road down in the forest, the end of the road being Camp I. Semi-unplanned as it was we hooked up with a Boise contingent of the DFC&FC* on the ski in, boosting our group to seven adventuresome lads. The second morning we were greeted with scenery. The fickle “Finger of Fate” is seen pointing skyward in this view from the outlet at Hell Roaring Lake, flanked by the Arrowhead and the Birthday Cake on the skyline. *Decker Flats Climbing & Frisbee Club
Looking southwest from the Hell Roaring Lake outlet toward Imogene lake, which is up and around the spectacular canyon beyond. This was my first Winter expedition and, at this point, I remember being extremely impressed with the snow forms on the mountains. Everything about the Sawtooths was magnified by being there in winter. I was 22 years old in 1973 and it may as well have been the Himalayas to me.
The 2nd day we humped from the road end to Hell Roaring Lake, where the climbing began. Carrying heavy packs up to High Camp II was tough. The 3rd morning dawned a little funky but cleared up after a while.
The North Face of the Finger, showing the “Open Book” route in deep shadows, not a nice climb in Winter. It was attempted repeatedly before selecting an alternate plan.
Gearing up in the morning. Nice equipment, huh? I believe those are my Hickory 215CM Sundins Mountain Skis from REI, with screwed in metal edges and my surplus canvas + aluminum frame pack. I fondly remember treating the ski bases with Pine Tar so wax would adhere properly. I don’t miss doing it anymore though. The Silveretta cable bindings were versatile and enabled amazing Winter travel, though stylish turns were difficult. Also my classic aluminum cup.
Gearing up in the morning. Nice equipment, huh? I believe those are my hickory 215 cm Sundins Mountain Skis from REI, with screwed in metal edges, and my surplus canvas + aluminum frame pack. I fondly remember treating the ski bases with Pine Tar so wax would adhere properly. I don’t miss doing it anymore though. The Silveretta cable bindings were versatile and enabled amazing winter travel, though stylish turns were difficult. Also my classic aluminum cup.
Soft morning light kisses the powder snow ‘Good Morning’ as Gordon leads off toward the climb on Day 3.
Skiing up from Camp II the morning of March 19, 1973. A cloudy dawn turned into a fine day.
A closer look at the Open Book Route.
Ascending the colouir to the West Ridge saddle.
Looking back down the col toward Camp II, with someone working their way up the track way below.
Sitting atop the buttress west of the Finger and making a plan before the climbers scramble back down to the saddle and head up the West Ridge Route.
Rappelling down the buttress back to the saddle.
The Finger of Fate as viewed from the buttress, with Hell Roaring Lake snowed over down below, looking east toward the Sawtooth Valley. Our cars are waaaay out there. Big bad Castle Peak is on the horizon.
If you see the rope, follow it upward and you’ll notice Gordon’s head (center) peering out from a belay position above a pitch.
A casual belay.
Looking down at the saddle.
The Buttress west of the Finger as seen from the Finger. I took up a position on top of the buttress with my Graflex to shoot pics back toward the Finger while the rock climbers worked on their goal. You see the route up and down the buttress in the disturbed snow.
Looking toward the Arrowhead, Sevy Peak and the Birthday Cake displayed prominently on the skyline.
The view west from the Finger of Fate. Chris is coming up.
Belay on! View is to the NNW with Decker Peak the more distant summit on the right.
Harry leads a nice pitch.
The lads are now seen (lower left if you look closely) watching as Harry leads a line. These are the pics I shot from over on the buttress.
Looks like Gordon is belaying the next climber up while Harry pokes around.
Making a leap of faith. There is a large gap from one boulder to the next, which takes a measured leap to do properly. Don’t come up short, but don’t overshoot the landing either.
Harry on the summit block.
Detail summit photo of the first Winter ascent (March 19, 1973). Left to right: James Christopher Hecht, Harry Bowren, Gordon K. Williams and Joe Fox.
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