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 shorter.

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 climbing!

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