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Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - Unicorn Peak/South Side

Photo Report! Approach on a little bit of trail, then mostly on snow. Moat was fine and gained easy access to the ridge. Used crampons up high. 8 am to 4 pm car to car, even after encountering 10 people from Mazamas already on the rock routes. Great trip on a mostly sunny day!

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • There isn't any snow at the trailhead, but found snow patches between Trailhead and Snow Lake.  We stayed on the trail, which became solid snow after crossing the ridgeline into the Snow Lake / Unicorn Creek drainage.  The snow field between Snow Lake, and into the first gully is getting thinner and narrower, but was solid.  We remained on snow until the moat at the upper ridge.  The moat was still touching the wall on climber's left, and we were able to just step from snow to rock and scramble up about 15-20 feet to the ridge.  There was snow on the ridge, all the way to the base of Unicorn.   Weather called for mostly sunny in the morning, with thunderclouds and rain by late afternoon, and that's exactly what we got.  Bits of clouds floated over Rainier, but we had good enough views to make it well worth-while.

    We put on crampons before the final steep section up to the upper ridge.  We left them on across the rock and onto the upper ridge, and all the way to the base of Unicorn.  That upper ridge remains icy under the snow, so they helped in the morning.  Even in the afternoon, we wore crampons back down the upper ridge, across the rock, across the moat, and down the first steep slope. I was the only one who removed crampons at that slope, and glissaded on my bottom. Others plunge stepped in crampons.  Then we removed crampons and glissaded most of the way down to Snow Lake.

    We went to Copper Creek Restaurant, a few miles west of the park entrance, and got back home about 8 PM. 

We had a group of five. One participant dropped out at the last minute. Here we are, above snow lake, with the approach gully in the center of the photo.  It goes up and left into another broad basin. 


The approach before the saddle near the upper ridge was steep enough and cold enough that crampons were good. There were good "steps", but not great.


Deeper section of moat.  We did not cross here.


Easier section of moat, climber's left of that deep spot. This was taken as we headed down, rather than up, but it shows the transition well. There was a very easy cut in the rock slope here that allowed access to the upper ridge.  We saw two people much further left, traversing the rocks and getting cliffed out.  I don't understand why they were over there. You want to go up on the tree'd ridgeline.


This shows lots of Mazamas at the base, just finishing their rappel.  We took the Classic Line (second from the left), for the two students, and the left line for the remaining two leaders.  Both lines are fun.  Fritz led with a 40m gym rope. Then he belayed from the top while one student followed from a mid-rope tie-in and got on top with the end of the rope still at the base.  Then the second student followed at an end-of-rope tie in.  Then Fritz threw the rope down again, over the left-most route, and the other two leaders climbed that route the same way -- one on a mid-rope tie-in, and the second on an end-of-rope tie in after the middle person had reached the top. A 40m rope was perfect for that, and a 60m would have been even better.  A 30m would have been a little short.  A 40m would have also been great for top-roping from that old tree stump on top.   That got all five of us up the block, belayed from above, one on lead, and four followers on belay.  I tried to get the followers to "prusik up the fixed line while climbing" but these two 5.6 routes were a little stiff for that.  I think that's only appropriate for Route #3 a little further to climber's right.  They were more comfortable with belay from above on this particular route. 


Make the sign of the Unicorn on top! (Lilian, Jon, Emma, and Fritz)


The old dead stump... still pretty solid... but?   There was also a rock with slings around it, about where routes #2 and #3 meet together at the top.  It makes for a good rappel down #2 or #3 when #1 route is busy.


Glissading down with a view of Unicorn Peak


And, why do you do this climb?  It's easy, simple to navigate, and offers amazing and excellent views of Rainier on a good day!


Our Timeline:

5:15 am - met at Ravenna P&R, Seattle.  We went down Hwy 167, 161, and SR7 to the Longmire entrance. Stopped for restroom break.

8:10 AM - On the trail.

11:00 am - At the base, waiting for another large group to finish rappelling.

1:00 pm - All five of us on top for photos.

2:00 pm - All finished rappel, and heading down.

3:55 pm - Back at the car, headed to Copper Creek restaurant for burgers, fries, and pies!

8:00 pm - Back home.