Lane Peak, The Tatoosh Range, Mount Rainier National Park
Jens and I made an early start to scope out Lane Peak in the Tatoosh Range.
We'd ogled the multiple couloirs on the North Face of Lane many times. From the
road to Paradise they look steep, narrow, and wicked.
The many couloirs of Lane Peak. Lovers Lane is the left-most couloir, narrow and
angling from left to right.
Photo courtesy Phil
Fortier. Thanks, Phil!
Our plan was to climb the couloir called "The Zipper".
It was a good plan, except that we weren't sure which one was The Zipper. As the
odds would have it there was a sizable group gathering next to us at the Narada
Falls parking lot. Go figure, it was a smallish Mountaineers party of about
eight. Through discreet eavesdropping we learned that they were also headed for
The Zipper. Jens and I left the parking lot ahead of them, but then decided to
play hide-and-seek with our transceivers long enough for them to forge ahead
(and assume the trail-breaking duty).
We reached the road and skinned up the snowshoe tracks. Where
the road turns left, the tracks turned right onto a treed ridge and began a slight
descent. We were loving life on skis as we passed the spread out group of
Mountaineers. Much faster than I expected we were in the basin below the Lane.
At this point an unspoken race for the couloir began. The problem for us is that
the Herd of Mountaineers knew where they were going and we didn't.
Depending on how you score it, we won the race. We were higher
and ahead when we chose the couloir called "Lover's Lane". Though we
didn't know this until the Mountaineers disappeared around a buttress below
Shortly after our victory, the slope became so steep that our
skis were no longer useful. Upon removing them we discovered that we post-holed
to mid-thigh each step without them. After some bit of struggling and thrashing
I opted to traverse left into a stand of timber. It looked to be easier. It was
only different. I ended up breaking out a tool and hooking and hauling my way up the
steep slope. As we came to the top of the trees we had to make a choice to
traverse over a small rocky ridge and back into the couloir or to climb up an
open snow slope to a rock buttress and try to regain the couloir there. We opted
for the lower route and after a short but sporty traverse across a steep rock
face covered with deep, soft snow, we were back in the couloir proper.
Thankfully the snow was slightly firmer here. I looked at my watch. In the hour
since loading our skis on our backs we'd covered an underwhelming 300 vertical
After another thirty minutes or so we came to the top of Lover's
Lane. It is, by the way, the narrow, left-most couloir in the picture above, angling from left to right.
Lover's Leap is probably a better name: At the top we were faced with a very technical
traverse to reach the col, or a rappel down to the upper Zipper couloir. After a
brief start on the traverse we spotted a well stomped in set of tracks down on
The Zipper. A quick rappel and we were once again benefiting from the hard work
of the Herd.
Looking through the fog to the col at the top of The Zipper. That is Jens up
there making his first few turns.
In just a few minutes we reached the col. From there
we continued following the track until we met the group. They were finishing a
roped descent of the 30 degree slope and had stopped to coil the rope at a place
where is was very difficult to get around them. Eventually they picked up their
rope enough that we could pass and we climbed the last few hundred feet to
The summit of Lane Peak.
Jens was standing at my skis when he took the picture above. The
first half-dozen turns from the top were challenging. The ski down The Zipper
was outrageous. The deep snow we'd post-holed up made for a thrilling ride down.
We were back in the basin below the North Face in a matter of minutes. Jens
described it as the best backcountry turns he'd ever had.
It was a bit of a bummer to have to put the skins back on our
skis to climb back up the treed ridge to the road. But it went by
quickly and soon we were tearing our skins back off for that last glorious
run back to the Narada Falls parking lot.
I'm contemplating my line as I prepare to make my first turn in the nice powder.
I'm always surprised by how close and how fun the Tatoosh peaks
are. I think my sense of scale is thrown off by the dominating presence of Mt.
Rainier. I've now climbed Lane, Castle, and Unicorn Peaks in Winter conditions.
Every time I go into the Tatoosh I find sporty technical climbing and some good
(and frequently great) skiing.