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Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - The Castle, Pinnacle, Plummer, and Denman peaks

Excellent one-day Basic-level trip to tag multiple summits in the Tatoosh range. 7.5hr car-to-car with a relatively fast group. Fantastic views of Mt. Rainier and south Cascades on a clear day.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Approach Route Conditions: Soft, patchy snow above ~5200’ on approach from Reflection Lakes via established Pinnacle Peak Trail.  No snow gear or protection other than gaiters needed.

    Refer to trip report for climbing / scrambling route conditions.

Technical Gear: 30-40m glacier rope used as twin rope, 3-4 small to medium sized rock pro, belay/rappel device, ice axe needed for certain small snow patches, but they are easily avoided. Brought radios, but did not need them as the climb itself is short and not noisy.

The Castle

Route Conditions: Snow-free from Pinnacle-Plummer saddle to south ridge of The Castle, after crossing which, more snow crossings are needed on the southeast face to reach the start of technical climbing.  The technical section is dry.

Approach from Pinnacle-Plummer saddle follows well-traveled trail on scree / slab heading due east and generally at the same elevation as the saddle (~6200’).  After passing Pinnacle and headwall of The Castle, it is tempting to scramble up many of the 4th to low-5th class gullies to cross the south ridge. Our group decided to scramble up a short 4th class gully (photo below) to cross the ridge at approximately a few hundred yards from the toe of the ridge.  This gully (photo below) consists of large blocky steps, scattered with loose rock, some of which are of considerable size. One participant at the front of the group triggered a rock fall that narrowly missed other participants below. We strongly recommend exercising caution if approaching the southeast face (start of the climb) via this gully, or avoid this route and traverse ~100 yards further towards the toe of the ridge where it is crossable via class 3 scramble. At the point of the preferred ascent, the headwall is shorter, less pronounced, and there are bushes here and there on it.

4th class gully that crosses the south ridge of The Castle.  PC: Dennis Kiilerich

Technical climbing starts directly below the true summit (north), which is not clearly identifiable from below.  Our group spent a considerable amount of time assessing various options to gain the summit ridge, since multiple rappel anchors (webbings around large blocks) at various places along the summit ridge were visible from below, and we were uncertain of the difficulties of traversing the ridge to the summit.  A separate party of 2 ahead of us gained the summit ridge to the northeast of the summit, and we learnt from them that the summit ridge is easily scrambled (which is correct). We belayed and climbed in pairs directly towards the rappel anchor closest to the summit block. Everyone scrambled that last ~50’ to the summit block unprotected (3rd to low-4th class), and rappelled down to the start of the climb. However, for new climbers, a handline or belay is recommended.  The summit is the near one.

On the return to Pinnacle, we descended the south ridge ~100 yards past the 4th class ascent gully (top of which has a rappel anchor around a large tree), and found the easy 3rd class scramble down to the trail on scree.


While approaching The Castle, our group took note of the start of switchbacks to the southwest ridge of Pinnacle.  The switchbacks start fairly close to the Pinnacle-Plummer saddle. It is tempting to head up the talus field directly below Pinnacle summit when returning from The Castle, but this should be avoided, since rockfall hazard is considerable here given that it is directly below the scramble path to the summit.

The scramble itself is 3rd to 4th class with some exposure.  The route is well-traveled and in good condition, but with a considerable amount of loose rock throughout, some of which are quite large.  Parties should be cautious of rockfalls from above, and pay attention to hand / foot placements to avoid injury to self / others below. Easy access and low difficulty attracts people who are inexperienced travelling on loose rock.


From Pinnacle-Plummer saddle, follow well-travelled trail south of the ridge line.  After a few hundred feet, the trail crosses the ridge at ~6000’ and ascends the gentle slope (mostly snow-covered at this time) due north of the summit.  From there it is a short hike to the summit.


Descend due north from Plummer summit until ~5900’ on heathery slope (some snow -- there may be a more pronounced trail once the snow has melted), then join the well-travelled trail along Plummer-Denman ridge due west-northwest.  Follow ridge down to the col at ~5800’ to the start of the 2nd to low-3rd class scramble. Many ascent routes are available on either side of the ridge. Be cognizant for loose rock.

Descent follows the same route back to the gentle slope due north of Plummer summit and then joins the trail back to Pinnacle-Plummer saddle.  From there, follow Pinnacle Peak Trail back to Reflection Lakes.