Local Cascade Peaks First Scaled in 1923

The summits of two peaks of the Central Oregon Cascades, Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington were first climbed on successive weekends in the summer of 1923. The conquerors of the two peaks were a group of six Bend boys who had trained for the epochal accomplishment by climbing the North Sister a few weeks earlier.
The climb of Mt. Washington had been attempted on several occasions by the Mazama Climbing Group of Portland without success. Experienced climbers had been turned back by a lava tower that reached nearly 700 feet above the main summit. The Mazamas claimed it would be “an epochal event in northwest mountaineering” when the feat of reaching the top was finally achieved.

On Sunday morning of August 25, 1923 the six young climbers from Bend, Irvin McNeal, Armin Furrer, Phil Philbrook, Leo Harryman, Wilbur Watkins and Ronald Sellers were the first to climb the peak. The boys gained much recognition in the mountaineering community with their successful climb.The group was not through with their feats yet, as they planned an attempt on the summit of Three Fingered Jack the following weekend. Sellers and Watkins did not make the climb but fellow climbers Ernest Putnam and Elmer Johnson joined the group for the attempt.

Three Fingered Jack presented a more prolonged hazardous exposure and a greater obstacle than the climb of Mt. Washington. The final climb of the peak necessitated a nearly perpendicular climb of over 70 feet. The alpinists claimed that the rugged spire seemed to vibrate as they chipped a niche for a container holding their names.

The two peaks that had long defied attempts at reaching their summits had been conquered in a span of one week by the group of young local climbers. It was an accomplishment that was hailed by fellow climbers throughout the northwest and made the young men part of the early legendary lore of local mountaineering.