Pinnacle Peak ( 6562 ft)
Mt Rainier National Park
March 6, 1999
If you visit Paradise at Mt Rainier National Park on a clear day, you can't help noticing the jagged Tatoosh range to the south. The major peaks that make up the range, Boundary, Stevens, Tatoosh, Unicorn, Castle, Pinnacle, Plummer, Lane, Wahpenayo, Chutla, and Eagle Peak are all impressive, but your eye is drawn to the steep, pointed, symetrical lines of Pinnacle Peak. It's beauty inspired the Mazama's to call it "the Matterhorn of the Cascades". When I saw this climb listed in the Mountaineers climb list, I jumped at the opportunity and signed both Kim and I up.
Our party of five, Dan, Pat, Sascha, Kim and I, all piled into Sascha's suburban and we drove down to Paradise. Along the way Kim and I realized that her boots were left at home. Whoops! So Kim decided that she would just have a relaxing day at the Longmire Inn while we climbed. After dropping Kim off at Longmire, we drove on up the road to the Narada Falls parking area and geared up. We snowshoed through the forest up to the "road". It was difficult to believe that there was a road under all that snow! There were many skiers and snowshoers out that day also.
After a while we stopped to take off some sweaters and a man leading a snowshoe tour scolded us for stopping underneath an "avalanche chute". Either Dan or Pat said something like "oh?" and went back to what they were doing. The The "chute" was not much more than an openning in the trees and did not pose a danger. Hmmm...unsolicitied advice given from someone who feels they know something that others do not. I'm glad I never do that! ;)
As it turned out we were in some real danger. We were snowshoeing in the skiers tracks. If you have ever hiked or snowshoed in the vicnity of backcountry skiers, you will know this is true. We were definitely taking our lives into our own hands by snowshoeing in "their" track. In our defense, I must say that this "trail" was owned by whoever used it last, be it snowshoer, hiker, skier or other!
We snowshoed to Reflection Lakes and turned off the road onto a trail heading towards Pinnacle Peak. We quickly gained ground and soon had a beautiful view of Mt Rainier and the surrounding view. We snowshoed up a ridge leading to The Castle but veered off right traversing below it's steep cliffs. Exciting!
Once we reached the saddle we met up with another party that was just starting the east ridge of Pinnacle. At first I was disappointed, but then I looked at the route and was somewhat relieved that we wouldn't be climbing it. The entire ridge was covered in rime ice!
I looked over to the Castle and it was just as bad. In contrast to the poor climbing conditions, the rock itself was beautiful with it's coating of snow and ice. We decided to traverse around the south side and try the gulley which is a scramble in summer. So we cached our snowshoes and started the traverse on the steep snow slope.
The south side of the Tatoosh range drops away dramatically into what would be a magnificent ski run! But the huge slope could also make for a massive avalanche in the right conditions. After traversing for a few hundred yards we reached a gulley and Dan started up. There was a few inches of snow just covering the rocks, so it made for difficult conditions. We had enough gear to get up it, but it was close to 2 pm so we decided to back off it and snowshoe out while it was still light.