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Pinnacle and Castle Peak

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Attempted Pinnacle and Castle peak on Sunday 1/14. The area had just received a dump of about 1+ feet of fresh Utah like powder. We abandoned our climb and yo-yo'ed from the col to reflection lake twice. Great snow but poor climbing! Some others were shooting for Castle but were stymied by loose and unconsolidated snow over rock. Avi hazard was really low since we where bombing down 35 degree gulleys and setting off sluffs but thats about it. If we get any wet snow in the future this underlying "dry" layer is going to act like ball bearings. Anyway we had a blast.

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Like most people, Jon and I spent most of Thursday/Friday deciding where to spend the sunny-saturday at. After multiple emails, Jonny-boy and I decided to head up to the Tatoosh this weekend to try our hand at Pinnacle/Castle.


Pinnacle/Castle from Paradise

We departed my house in the Quah at 6, and after multiple stops, and a few wrong turns, we're at Rahneiay by 8:45. We made the mistake of parking at the Upper-Paradise lot, instead of Narada falls, and added some approach time to our hike, but it was an exteremely beautiful day, so we didn't mind. We strapped on the shoes and headed down the road to Reflection Lakes. The road was mobbed with hordes of snowshoers, and some boy scouts with HUGE external frame packs (brought back some memories for me).

Anyhow, we had a very leasiurly stroll down to reflection lakes, and played leap frog with a couple other dudes who were headed up to Pinnacle also. The route up to the Pinnacle/Castle saddle was already well tracked due to a party of about 6 skiers who had already headed up the hill. The snow was still pretty soft (must have been remnants of the powder mentioned in the prior post )

Jon dug a trench to check out the snow pack, and there was a very unstable 2' thick layer about 5 inches down. The resulting slab was quite thick, but the slopes overall we're very stable. If you head up this way in the next few weeks be very cautious of this underlaying weak layer.

The route up to the Pinnacle/Castle saddle was a nice walk up, with wonderful views:


Pinnacle ridge on the right, route to saddle

We chubbed down on some lunch at the saddle and enjoyed the view south to Adams/Hood/Helens and chatted with a couple that had just been up to the summit. They said the gully was filled with some shallow snow and had placed a hand line for one of the climbers.


Summit block from Saddle, we traversed Left under the summit block to a SW facing gully

Anyhow, we followed the prior paties tracks, traversing across the S. side of Pinnacle, and began climbing up the gully to the summit. The gully did not have much snow in it which made kicking steps difficult at times and also yielded some slick-snow covered rocks. The route would be ideal with about another foot of snow. The other party of two was asscending the gully as we were heading up, and there were quite a few people cramped into a small area.

Jon was making his way up to the summit (he had left his pack back at the saddle and was moving quite more quickly than I was), and I stopped about 20 feet shy to enjoy the view. I'm not sure what it was, perhaps i've spent too much time sliding down the hills on a board lately instead of climbing up them, but I really wasn't liking the conditions of the gully. The small layer of snow over the cruddy rock was giving me the spooks, and I always get a tad paranoid when there are numerous people climbing in close quarters in such conditions.

One of the other guys in the first crew was having a hard time with the route and admitted that it was a little above his comfort zone.... this added to my now-heightened fear of something going wrong. Being Cautious-Crawford, I decided to turn back to the saddle, and vowed to return to the peak when the gully was in a little better shape.

Jon ended up having to help the other climber work his way back down the gully because he was having a real hard time. Seeing that he had the situation under control, I headed back to the saddle to chill out and enjoy the amazing views.

All in all, it was a great day for a wonderful little climb. I will now open the thread to Jon's commentary. Watch out for the DUR's, dur.


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