Several of us came loaded with multiple Middle Pal trip reports such that collectively, we probably had 10 versions or so...This came handy since we reached Finger Lake by 2:30pm (after leaving the trailhead at 10:15am). We killed time by reading (and napping).
We left camp Saturday 6:15am. We accessed the tarn above Finger lake by climbing the right gully at the S end of Finger lake, climbing on the left side of that gully to avoid the permanent snow field. Above the tarn, we stayed on the moraine (previous trip reports indicated the sun-cupped glacier is a slower route.)
The key thing on Middle Pal is finding the start of the route. Check Porcella's Fourteener's book (2004) p157 route 1. He clearly shows the snow finger you need to head for. We did not use our crampons to go up the snow section. We relied on waist deep sun cups to keep us from sliding down.
The EASY class 3 route starts slightly higher than Porcella's picture, closer to the top of the glacier and tucked into a corner on the right. Once you have found the class 3 start, you follow the ledge around the buttress and reach the chute. You follow that chute to the summit, staying left when it splits.
I would like to point out the reports which we found most helpful in terms of route descriptions: Kelly Mass 99, Peter Maxwell 93, Dave Harris 96. We are greatly indebted to these dedicated authors for going off route, then taking the time and effort to tell us how to actually stay on route. Ron Karpel '03 has a good description on how to tackle the summit block.
Thanks to all this help, we tremendously enjoyed the class 3 rock and reached the summit at 10:45am. It was a nice day and we took our time. On the way down, half of us used crampons to tackle the sun cups. Some of us also tried to cut across the glacier and eventually retreated to the rocks.
We reached camp around 1:30pm. We packed up and reached the trailhead around 5pm. To celebrate, we reserved a table for 4 at this East Side culinary institution commonly referred to as...the Mobil station. (I recommend the Jambalaya)
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