Lane Peak
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Climbing is dangerous! Every year many climbers are broken, maimed, and killed. Don't be so foolish as to trust your life to what you see here. I'm not a guide and neither is this web site. If you don't know what you are doing or where you are going, please take a course or hire a guide!

Lane Peak, The Tatoosh Range, Mount Rainier National Park
March, 2000

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 us.

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 feet.

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.

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.


This page was last edited on Tuesday, August 30, 2005
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