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Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - Pinnacle Peak & The Castle

Blue-bird day with temps in the 60’s and a solid team of Basic students made for a fun climb of the Castle. Stevens Canyon Road is clear of snow but not officially open yet. Be mindful of heavy traffic on the Castle on weekends as weather improves.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Snow was beginning to soften with recent warming, but we were able to kick steps up to the east side of Castle (and down) without traction, and skiers in the group noted no issues. 


Leaders were in touch with two Boealps groups of 12 throughout the week to coordinate so that everyone could share the mountains and have a good day. One of their group of 12 would begin on Pinnacle and one of 12 would start on Castle. They agreed to depart the TH earlier to create a buffer for our team of 9, and we agreed to let them leave their fixed lines up for their next group. It was very amicable and worked out very well – we were able to climb the Castle in-between their two groups in addition to other climbers during the day. 

Our team met for the briefing at an already-busy Narada Falls trailhead by 8:15, we briefed, checked gear, and did intros. We took the snow-covered climbers trail back to Stevens Canyon Road, which is now clear of snow but still offically closed. We walked the road together for 1 mile or so until a turnoff at Reflection Lake up a snowbank with a boot track formed by the earlier Boealps group. The three skiers in our group (#teamski) started skinning up and the booters (#teamboot) decided against snowshoes and made our way up our Gaia track on slushy but consolidating snow. As of this date, we were able to kick steps, went to axes fairly early, and we did not use the snowshoes or crampons we brought today – training weight.


We made our way up to the east side of Castle - we discussed and deemed the saddle to be too avalanche-prone on this warm day. Via radio, we reunited with #teamski for the final push to the ridge and we made good time to the base of the Castle, where we could see a group of 12+ making their way across the ridge and setting up a rappel just shy of the summit. We talked to the Boealps leaders and modified our plan in order to work together.

While we waited for them to clear the ridge a bit, our team harnessed up  and discussed our plan: I would lead up a 100' or so dihedral, placing gear where necessary, build a sling anchor around a horn with a redirect carabiner, then continue with the rope as a handline across the ridge to the summit block. Once that was secure, each participant would climb the Class 4 one at a time on the fixed line while prusiked in, make their way to me, summit, and I would build the rappel with a second rope in my backpack.


Our plan went very well with some on-the-fly modifications: I led the dihedral, placing one cam along the one just to be safe and making sure it was a doable route for the Basics – a couple of moves to think about but nothing too hard, which worked great: they loved the climb. I built a redirect around a rock horn, walked the rope to the summit block, where I encountered a conga-line rappel of the group in front of us. I opted to terminate the fixed/handline at the summit block around a horn, and saw that – despite reports that the summit was extremely exposed – there was plenty of room to fit nine team members comfortably at the summit block, so we began to send folks up the fixed line one at a time. I was in constant contact with the primary leader and assistants via radio, which we highly recommend.

Our two assistants did well all day checking safety, lead belaying, etc. As each participant reached me or got to a stable position on the ridge, I had them come out of their prusik, and we sent the next climber up. During this, the previous group finished, pulled their rap rope, and I set up our rappel in the wind. I then coordinated a system where a participant would come up and tag the summit safely, then set up their rappel, which I checked, then they’d rappel down with a fireperson’s belay as the next climber arrived. We got a good rhythm going and finished by the time the next Boealps group of 12 was arriving from Pinnacle + some other small groups as well.


Because we waited for another group, I noticed we were running into our turnaround time and decided we would not do the Pinnacle today, my mentor agreed, and our party was comfortable with that choice.

We gathered at the base of the Castle, packed up, and devised a plan where #teamski - led by the primary leader - would travel down to the main road and wait for us. I led #teamboot, and we did a great job of glissading and plunge-stepping down the not-overly mushy snow to meet the others. Since we were in a shady, quiet spot, we debriefed, everyone agreed it was a great day out together and folks really enjoyed their first alpine climb. At the busy lot, we did an instructor debrief and agreed that everything had gone to plan, awesome group that showed up on time, had great attitudes, and supported each other all day. No safety issues. As the mentored leader, I thought the day could not have gone better.


Note to other Basic SIG leaders: this is an awesome early-season first climb for Basic students as a precursor to longer rock objectives later in the season. The snow route is steep but not too long. They practiced tough but protected T4 rock climb/scrambling on a fixed line (there are many routes to choose from), communication and partner checks, being patient with other teams on a mountain, dealing with a handline/prusik on the ridge, doing a first alpine rappel, working as a team when different modes of travel (boot and ski), navigating en route, observing avalanche and rock fall terrain, using snow skills (axe, walking in balance, glissading) and rock skills (climbing, rappellling) on the same trip. And the views? Wow.

Time: 7:42 total. 2:45 from TH to base of Castle. 3:30 climb itself (with bottlenecking, rappelling, etc.). 1:45 base of Castle to TH. 1.6 mph moving speed, moderate pace, multiple short breaks on ascent.