Trip Report    

Backcountry Ski/Snowboard - Pinnacle Peak & The Castle (winter)

Great Trip, good group and conditions.

  • Snow and ice on road
  • A fair amount of new snow made for good skiing conditions, but not so much that trail breaking was a chore.

    Since this was an overnight trip, we had to register for an overnight at the Longmire Museum.   

    Unfortunately we arrived at Longmire at 8:55 and were the 3rd party in line to register and the 1st party leader had a big group and a million questions about snow camping for the ranger.    So get there well ahead of 9:00 and be 1st in line.       

We skinned from Narada Falls parking lot following the NPS marked route over Inspiration Saddle -- which completely avoids the big slope above the falls.    Other day trip parties skinned directly up the big slope in classic "Seattle Skin Track" style -- zigzaging with kick turns and lots of people standing above each other  -- fortunately snow stability proved to be good.  I was glad we chose to avoid that mess.   We chose to climb the extra bit over Inspiration Saddle partly because some folks in the group wanted a small taste of skiing downhill with an overnight pack.  From Reflection Lakes we put skins back on and skinned to a small open meadow about 200 yards  south of the lakes at the 5000 ft level.   After caching overnight gear we skinned up to Castle shoulder in sometimes strong winds, snow and clouds.   We mostly followed the tree band on the eastern edge of open slopes (skinners left of the Castle itself)  There were some wind blown hard icy spots along here.   When we reached Castle Shoulder however, the winds calmed and the sun came out pretty much exactly at the NOAA forecast had predicted.    We performed additional snow stability tests on the open slopes west of the trees and chose to ski those rather than retrace the skin track in the trees.     The skiing was very enjoyable back down to our campsite.   Beyond tents for everyone we also setup two megamids for cooking in.  This worked great.       The moon and stars came out as the sky cleared.
The sunrise was spectacular over Mt Rainier with cloudless conditions.    We followed our skin track from Saturday on Sunday morning and observed our tracks from Saturday afternoon 90% filled in from wind drifted snow.  We did set a new track on the upper portion, to avoid the hard icy sections in the trees, picking a line just west of the trees where the snow wasn't icy.   We skied south from Castle shoulder in two groups of six.  The "gung ho" group skied down about 1000ft and the "mellow" group about 500ft.  Snow on this aspect was still good, but slightly heavier from sun and wind effect.   A few of very small roller balls  (half fist sized) observed from ski tracks.   When we climbed back to Castle shoulder and looked back down, there were about 30 people chugging up the skin track we had set.  So we skipped a long lunch break and skied down slightly west of our down tracks from Saturday in still fresh snow.  Skiing was delightful, with snow still wisping up.

We had a longer lunch while packing up camp.    We skied the 150 ft back to Reflection lakes and then put skins on to shuffle out the road,  except one person in the group that chose to double pole the road to Inspiration point.   He later commented that while this was much faster than putting on skins and then taking them off -- He thought his arms and shoulders were going to be sore on Monday morning.   

The big slope above Narada Falls was already heavily tracked up.   We skied it carefully one at a time without incident.   

Complete set of photos here: