Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - Unicorn Peak & The Castle Traverse

One day traverse of the middle Tatoosh including Unicorn, Foss, The Castle and Pinnacle.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Steven's Canyon Road is closed east of Bench Lake TH so need to approach from the Longmire side.  The route is in great condition.   Snow free trail until Snow Lake, then consolidated snow above the lake. 

    Moat to saddle between Unicorn/West Unicorn was steep and required a few moves on steeper rock to gain the saddle.

    Traverse along the ridge between Unicorn and Foss was partially on trail and partially on a snowy ridge.  Cornices exist in places and care should be taken.

We departed the Bench Lake TH on July 4th at 6a with an objective to tag 4 peaks in a day.  The hike up was uneventful with dry trail to Snow Lake and then snow above the lake.  Just below the saddle between Unicorn and West Unicorn at 6500ft there was a steep snow ramp (~30ft, ~35 degrees) followed by a 8-10ft rock step which was blocky to gain the saddle.  There is tat at the top of this step which we used to rappel this section on the way down (could also be down climbed without issue).

Once at the south face of the summit block, we divided our party of 4 between two routes to save time with one rope climbing the classic 5.6 pitch (awkward moves on good rock) and the other rope climbing a 5- pitch to the right of center (little opportunity to protect).  There is a sturdy but dead tree at the top that many parties use to rappel - but we chose to rappel off of a horn that had several newer slings with rappel rings.


The traverse to Foss was partially snow covered with some moderately exposed ridge walking.  There were cornices in places, but easy to see and avoid on the west side (climbers left) of the ridge.  The hike up to the summit required some short blocky rock steps that were easily navigated.  

We descended Foss on snow covered slopes of the west face of Foss and skirted the lake at the col on the north side (climbers right).  

We roped up for the summit block on the SE face of The Castle for a short left leaning pitch of mostly 3rd/4th class scrambling with a move or two of 5- near the top.  We did a single rope rappel from a horn with slings and rap rings to arrive back at the base of the summit block.

We then descended and traversed around the north side of The Castle to the saddle between Pinnacle and The Castle.  There was a ~3ft wide moat we had to navigate to gain the saddle.  We then traversed below the south face of Pinnacle to gain the SW ridge for the standard scramble up to the summit.  This pitch is loose, but blocky with a few steeper moves to the right of a gendarme about 2/3's of the way up.  We brought a rope and protection just in case, but did not use them on the ascent or the decent.  


We then decended the ridge to the Pinnacle/Plummer saddle where we found a dry trail heading back to the Relection lakes parking lot.  The trail back to the parking lot was dry at points, but was still 80%+ covered in snow.  Fortunately we shuttled a car to Reflection Lakes parking lot in the morning to save the ~1.5 mile road walk back to Bench Lake TH.

The trip took about 9 hrs car to car including about 4500 ft of elevation gain over 6.3 miles.  Our rough timeline is below: 

6a: Depart Bench Lake

8:30a: Unicorn Summit

11a: Foss Summit

12p: The Castle Summit

2p: Pinnacle Summit

3p: Reflection Lakes TH

It was a fun climb with a great group!