Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Foss Peak

It was wet, windy, and cold. We were in snowshoes the entire time. Yet, our entire group made it to the top on this Type 1/2 adventure.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Paradise Road is open, Stevens Canyon Road is not.  Started at Narada Falls and kickstepped (or snowshoed) up the Narada Wall.  Walked along a bare Stevens Canyon Rd.  From Reflection Lakes, it was all fresh snow (6-9 inches) all the way to the top.

Original plan was a 7:30 meet time at Narada Falls.  Due to weather the night before and uncertainty of an on time gate opening, we met at Longmire at 8:30.  Our group of 6 included 3 Olympia scramble students and 1 Seattle scramble student who needed a snow scramble to satisfy course requirements.  I had led this twice before for students, so it was a repeat of that trip.  Since the Longmire gate was already open, we drove to the Narada Falls parking lot where we were greeted with a moderate rain.  There were thoughts of cancelling at that point, but with improving weather forecast, we decided to put on our wet weather gear and make the attempt.  We left Narada Falls around 9:30.

We were greeted to knee deep fresh snow at the base of the Narada Wall.  Three of us kickstepped our way up to the Stevens Canyon Road above, while the other three put on snowshoes.  Both groups got to the top at the same time.  Which option was easier is debatable -- probably more about personal choice than anything.   We reassembled and then started the walk up the snow cleared road to Reflection Lakes trailhead.


Once at the trailhead, we put on our snowshoes and followed faint ski tracks up to 5,600 feet where we had our first views of The Castle.  The rain was decreasing and at that level there were a few breaks in the clouds.  However, we did hear and see the winds howling above us.  We took a snack break and readjusted layers before continuing up to the ridge line.


By the time we reached the top of the ridge, the weather improved, but the snow conditions had not.  We had a lot of fresh snow and we believed that there was an elevated chance of wet loose avalanche.  By staying high on the south side of the ridge line by the trees we were able to mitigate the risks and carefully traversed in an easterly direction towards the low point below Foss (5,950 ft).  We then started up the final 600 feet to our final destination.


The rest of our way to the top was uneventful.  Once at the top, we noticed all the rocks, save one  off to the west side of the peak, were completely covered in snow.  The cornices over the Unicorn/Snow Lakes route were remarkable.  But, we made it in just under 5 hours.  It was too cold and windy to stay at the top, so we took the obligatory summit photos before heading down.


The group descended down to the 5,950 foot level where we would take our late lunch break, but I stayed behind as sweep and got some remarkable photos of the cornices and of Mt. Rainier peaking through the clouds.



After lunch, we retraced our steps back to the top of the ridge and were surprised to see a group that we later learned were from BoeAlps climbing The Castle that late in the day.  We plunged down to the 5,600 level and then did a glissade to 5,250 before snowshoeing out to Reflection Lakes.  The BoeAlps group soon caught up to us and we all walked out to above the Narada Wall where we had one final glissade back to the Narada Falls parking lot.


Our car to car time was 8:40 which made this a long day.  I joked with the group that they should get their intermediate snowshoeing badge after ascending 2,350 cumulative feet in challenging conditions.  I did not hear any gripes on the trip at all though I knew that the scramble did challenge a couple of them.  But, we all agreed that it was good Type 1 fun.