Castle and Pinnacle Peak
April 6 - 2002
Loren approaches The Castle in the Tatoosh range.
The weather looked bad for Saturday: rain, snow, clouds, wind. But how
can you deny the mountains when there is skiing and climbing to be had?
So, with little a convincing, Loren and I headed down to Mt. Rainier to
climb in its satellite range, the Tatoosh.
We arrived at Longmire at 8 am to a closed gate. People were saying 9
am for the usual opening, so we had some time to kill. Oddly enough, about
1,000 other climber-looking types were milling around. By the mass quantities,
we could only assume: Mountaineers. Fortunately for them, Longmire has
added plush outdoor seating on the North side of the Inn, where one can
gaze for hours at the inside of a cloud...
We past the time talking to Greg and Eric from Boealps (who happened
to be there) and feeding the birds doughnuts. Luckily the gate opened
early, and we scooted out of there before Loren and I could be singled
out for corrupting the wildlife.
There is a short steep slope to skin up just outside the Narada Falls
parking lot, and we huffed it up under light snow flurries. This takes
you to the road leading to reflection lakes. We skinned along, passing
an interesting looking granite crag, until we reached the first lake.
We skied a ways down the right fork until cutting right up into the trees.
Visibility was nil, but Loren was familiar with the route and so I just
followed his skis up into the basin under The Castle's North Face. We
decided to try Castle first due to the bad weather and because it was
We skinned up around the back side (South) and setup below the final
rock crag leading to the summit. The standard route up looked like a short
scramble, but I was pretty keen on trying a more direct and longer finish
to the summit. Every 10 feet or so there was a steep open book leading
to the ridge top. I figured, hey I can see pro, and it'll be great stemming!
Stemming in plastic boots on a slab you might ask??
I lead off onto solid but wet rock on Castle's direct finish.
Photo by Loren
The rock was wet, and as I started up I began wondering if this was really
as good of an idea as it seemed to be on the ground. The rock felt steep,
and my plastic boots clunky. I guess I'll have to save all that good stemming
for the summer. I found some pro, and figured I just continue on up. The
climbing wasn't difficult, just tricky. I had to look around and do some
mild-acrobatics to get good foot holds. Eventually I had worked my way
up under a mini roof plugging the open-book. I set a bomber cam at waist
level and tried to work my way up. Crap! Slipping! I backed off and looked
at it for a long time. There was a critical foot hold, but it was just
too dang small for my boots. After some deliberation I decided that the
critical foothold would come from a runner off the cam. Perfect!
Loren frees the dreaded mossy-openbook-buldge!
While Loren was following, he also lost that lovin' feeling in his hands,
but still managed to free the route. I belayed loren up to the summit
and then down to the rap station by the standard route. We rapped off
and Loren almost lost face when his "perfect rappel horn" just
about stuck our rope. Not sure in how to get over to Pinnacle Peak from
here, we walked over to check out the "view" from the notch
on Castle's West side. After almost simultaneously falling into a 6 ft.
deep moat, we determined that we'd have to ski down a ways to get into
the basin between Castle and Pinnacle.
We skied down and found an easy cross over a few hundred feet below.
Traversing the bowl soon lead us to the col. with its distinctive little
tower. The weather had begun to worsen, and the wind was blasting snow
and ice crystals at us. Visibility was still zero, so we decided against
the East ridge and contoured around to where we thought the standard route
should be. We traversed the face until we spotted a "gully"
breaking the South face. We stashed our skis and climbed on up to investigate.
Climbing up into the mist...
Loren nearing the top of the gully.
This soon lead to a short and polished rock scramble up into a notch.
From here is was an obvious scramble up to the summit.
Climbing the last little bit to the top.
We were hanging out on top when all of a sudden Loren yells out, "Oooooh!"
Our prayers had been answered, and Mt. Rainier lay before us in all its
glory. The window only lasted a few minutes, but made the whole trip worth
it right there.
Me on top of Pinnacle Peak.
Photo by Loren
The ski back down was a mix of icy breakable crust and heavy slush skiing.
The skiing was enjoyable in places and a chute lower down provided some
great steep turns. Soon we were skiing the road back out, conveniently
letting another ski party make the track. It had been a great day of Alpine