I've been recovering from wrist reconstructive surgery since last November and am not yet ready for more technical ice and mixed routes, so this spring has been a good opportunity to stick to the skis and check out some areas I might not have explored otherwise. With one day this weekend to get outside, Kelsey and I agreed that traversing through the Tatoosh Range just south of Rainier would be a good choice. Temperatures were supposed to stay low, the wind was supposed to be up, and high cloud cover was in the forecast—a perfect combination to avoid dangerous wet slides on the low-elevation southern aspects.
We drove down to Longmire early in the morning and waited a bit for the gate to open. Just shy of 9am, we cruised up to Narada Falls and hopped on our skis. The road was nicely snow-covered and went quickly. We dug a pit on the steeper slopes below Unicorn and found a hard rain crust about a foot down, but the snow on top was reluctant to move, so we continued on, skinning up to the top of Unicorn at about 12:30pm. The wind was howling and sending snow and ice at us like a sandstorm, so we didn't linger on the top.
Some fun turns brought us to the saddle separating Unicorn and the rest of the range. We did a long, downward traverse towards The Castle and battled some old avalanche debris along the way, eventually scrambling to the summit of The Castle at 3pm. The wind had calmed a bit and the Southern aspects were getting a bit warmer in the afternoon sun, but the cloud cover saved us from scarier conditions.
We skied down, around the rock band separating The Castle and Pinnacle Peak, and then headed up toward Pinnacle's West Ridge. A couple hundred feet from the top, it got too steep and crusty to skin, so we dropped the skis and boot packed the rest of the way up. It got decently steep in a few spots and was enough to make me be careful, but not so bad as to need a rope. I scrambled to the top of the summit blocks on Pinnacle at 3:45pm.
We could have kept going on to Plummer, Denman, and Lane at this point, knowing the downhill gate would close by 9pm, but we felt pretty happy with the day so far and knew we'd be back to finish up the full traverse another time, so we called it good at the Plummer-Pinnacle saddle and enjoyed some fun skiing down to the Tatoosh Creek and back to our car by 5:30pm. Great day!