Castle-Pinnacle Traverse
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Castle-Pinnacle Traverse

April 6, 2002

Though North Sister is my true mountain nemesis, Pinnacle Peak in the Tatoosh range has also eluded me despite several attempts. Dave hadn't been into the Tatoosh, so I suggested we give it a while, maybe tag both Castle and Pinnacle.

On the way to Ashford Dave says, "Hey, that has to be Greg's Pathfinder ahead of us."

I speed up and pass the truck. Sure enough, it is Dave's friend Greg. Small world.

The gate is locked when we arrive at Longmire, so we pile out and chit-chat with Greg and his BoeAlps buds until the powers-that-be open the road at 8:45.

It is drizzly and overcast when we arrive at the Narada Falls parking lot. There are no other cars. We pack up and depart, skinning up an old track across the steep talus slope above Narada Falls. In the fog we skin down the road to Reflection Lake, and then up into the lower basin below Pinnacle Peak.

With the reasonably firm and deep snowpack, we make good time into the upper basin, below Castle Peak. There, in the howling wind and poor visibility, we decide to start with Castle, which I know well.

Dave in the basin below Castle Peak.

In short order we are at the base of the short south face of Castle. I show Dave the standard finish, but he is eyeballing the longer direct finish. I set up the skis as an anchor and he leads up the wet, but pleasantly solid rock. He dispatches the twenty meter pitch in short order, employing a quick move of aid at the slimy crux. I follow and, with the top rope, manage to free the crux and some consternation and blowing on numb, wet fingers. We each tap the summit and rap off.

Dave leading the direct finish on Castle Peak.

Back at our gear we don our skis and glisse down, looking for a place to drop off the southwest ridge of Castle so that we can traverse into the Castle-Pinnacle saddle. I find a place to downclimb while Dave continues I bit further down the ridge and finds a skiable exit. We meet up in an alcove below the ridge and put our skins back on.

Our routes off the ridge and up to the Castle-Pinnacle Saddle.

Visibility still limited, we follow the contour, looking for the tell-tale rock pinnacle that marks the Castle-Pinnacle saddle. It appears from the fog and we bee-line to it. The wind is screaming through the saddle as we peer up at our planned route: The East Ridge. "So where is the easy route, Loren?"

"I've never seen it. We have to traverse this slope to get to it, though."

Dave skinning up the Castle-Pinnacle Saddle. The landmark rock is above his head.

The wind, wet, heavy snow, and wet rock make the decision easy for us. We traverse out across the slope in search of the standard route to the summit. Roughly following the contours, we come to the west ridge. There we stash our skis and start up a Beckey-esque "obvious gully". The gully leads to a col. A short eastward traverse through krumholtz leads us to the socked in summit. Though the view is obscured, the wind is calm and I comment for at least the sixth time, "It is pleasant today when the wind isn't blowing."

Dave in the clouds on the summit of Pinnacle Peak.

We hunt around for the summit register, unsuccessfully, and have a bite to eat. Suddenly the clouds part above us and the view opens up around us. Rainier, Castle, and Plummer all peek out of the clouds at once. We quickly snap pictures and then the clouds blow back in and the mountains around us are once again hidden. What a wonderful experience to be on the summit of Pinnacle for those three glorious minutes. The mountains are truly my church and those three minutes were certainly a religious experience.

Just above the cloud layer on the summit of Pinnacle Peak. Photo by Dave Burdik.

We take a quick peek down the East Ridge before departing. I'll come back for it as a part of a Plummer-Pinnacle-Castle traverse on a nice summer day.

Back at the col we take advantage of a rap station and skip downclimbing wet rock. Despite my efforts, I can't quite traverse high enough to make it back to the Castle-Pinnacle saddle without taking off skis and boot-packing. As I approach the saddle I notice a sling hanging out of a crack. Cool! Booty gear. As I walk up to the sling I see a cam stem stick out of the iced-up crack. I'm most surprised to find that the cam isn't fixed- it comes out easily. Booty cam? Yahoo!

We put our skis back on and have a pleasant run back down the bowl, despite a slow-speed gumby skier collision between the two of us. It starts snowing hard as we descend. A steep chute at the base of the upper bowl provides an exciting run into the lower basin, where Dave entertains a group of skiers with a full-on endo in the flats.

Post-endo Dave cruising in the flats of the lower basin.

We skin back up the road and enjoy the final run down the talus slope to the parking lot: A great end to a fun day.


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