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Author Topic: July 19, 2009, Pinnacle / Castle, first time!  (Read 5182 times)
jconli1
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July 19, 2009, Pinnacle / Castle, first time!
« on: 07/20/09, 11:17 PM »

Howdy -

I'm Jeff, I live in Seattle (Ballard). First timer here with the aching muscles and odd sunburn spots to prove it. I've spent plenty of time exploring the mountains on dual-sport motorcycles, hiking, even some snowshoeing... but never imagined I'd be skiing them in summer. So far, my skiing experience has been limited to small resorts covered in icy mid-Atlantic slush. In truth, that came in handy, but I'll get to that.

I first learned of AT skiing in the winter of '07 shortly after I moved out here. While snowshoeing up to Lake Talapus with a friend of mine, we met a great guy named Stash (also from the mid-Atlantic) who was skinning up. I had never seen a setup like that before, and as he explained it to me, I realized it'd only be a matter of time before I'd have to dive into it - it was just that the initial equipment cost seemed a bit prohibitive. After a relatively unenjoyable gliss down, watching stash slide through the trees... I figured maybe it was worth it anyway.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when a good friend (also a Marylander, TAY member Skierlyles) mentioned that not only are the conditions great right now, but he also has upgraded much of his gear and has some "old stuff lying around" that I could use if I wanted to. I wanted to.

We talked about possibly doing Artist's Point, Muir, or maybe something in the Tatoosh depending on conditions. Friday evening, we settled on Tatoosh. It seemed like the perfect middle ground between effort, ski payoff, and overall enjoyability for a beginner like me (I'm never out to prove anything). Chris checked the sweet new Tatoosh cam and picked out a great saddle between The Castle and Pinnacle Peak.

We parked at Reflection Lake around 8:30 and there were very few cars. The weather was just perfect, temps in the low 60s, the few clouds there were seemed to be breaking up quickly. Pinnacle trail only had a few folks on it, all inquisitive about why you'd need ski gear in July. I didn't really have an answer for them myself, but I was excited to find out.

Hiking with a heavy pack is rare for me, and my blood was really going by the halfway point, but it felt good. I had to take my hat off to cool down, and somehow managed to drop it. (Luckily I packed a backup). At the top of the trail just before coming over the ridge, we ran into a mountain goat family with a young kid. We watched quietly for a few minutes as they ate, then showed off their climbing skills.





Now looking south towards Mt. Adams, I was in awe of the view, but wondering just where we were going to find skiable snow. The south-facing patches were pretty much gone. After a scramble up to the saddle between Pinnacle and The Castle, coming back over the ridge facing Rainier, I found out. A beautiful bowl descended down in front of me on all sides with what looked like surprisingly smooth, if granular, summer snow. We couldn't see where it ended, so Chris took the first run while I took a breather, and just sort of basked in the greatness of everything.





So it was time... I clicked in, stood at the edge for a second, then flung myself down to the tarn (ripening... but little more than a slush puddle still). The snow was damn good from my limited easterner perspective, though I don't know the proper lingo to describe it. Granular with mild cupping, but predictable. Chris's old 183cm BD Havoc's took a bit of getting used to; I'd start a turn, and they'd keep... on... turning, but it didn't take long to acclimate. I only went down into the main bowl for the first run because I wanted to see what booting back up would feel like before I committed to the full run.

In short, it felt pretty horrible. Horrible with an enjoyable payoff, but still kinda horrible. I definitely need to get into shape to be any good at this at all. Day hikes galore can't really prepare you for booting up with heavy skis over your shoulder. I'm down in there somewhere.



With the help of water, jellybeans, and Chris's supreme patience (the last boot up took some *time*), I made two more drops doing the full 700' vertical run. The last way down, Chris and I went together, and it was there that I really took it all in. Despite the fact that my legs were burning and my heart felt like it was about to give out, I looked up for a second and in the majestic shadow of Mt. Rainier, in July, there I was enjoying pretty much everything I love about living here, all at once, with a good friend.

At the bottom of the run, back in our hiking shoes, we saw something that wasn't quite a trail, but went the right direction. Checking my GPS' topo map confirmed that if nothing else, there was a relatively shallow way down from where we were, even if it wasn't all that easy. Chris asked if I was double sure I was up for that part.

I actually love backcountry hiking... though I had never done it with two 183cc planks on my back... planks that bruised the back of my legs and pushed against the rock I was trying to descend almost knocking me on my ass a few times. But as we made our way down, passing waterfalls and noting some interesting animal tracks, I think it was clear that I liked that part much more than Chris did.



Our makeshift trail intersected with the real trail unexpectedly, and I took a minute to run back looking for my hat. No dice, but it was worth a look. Back at the lake, the parking lot crowd had really increased, though the trail was still quiet (kinda sad, that). The perfect end to a perfect day... we enjoyed a celebratory beverage, cooled our feet in the lake, then were told by a very nice ranger that we could not do those things.

Heading back to Chris's car, he noticed something - my lost hat kindly wedged under his windshield wiper by an anonymous hiker. OK, this perfect day is now over the top.

So when all is said and done, I've got to get in much better cardio shape, but it was great to be able to jump head first into this and enjoy (almost) every second of it on my first try. Many thanks to Chris for his time and guidance - as well as the use of his old gear. I'm not sure what your referral program is here in this cult, but Chris deserves a toaster or $100 or whatever the spiff is for bringing another unsuspecting victim into the fold.


complete Flickr set : http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffconlin/sets/72157621600714069/detail/


video : http://youtube.com/watch?v=c1mPdJevY9E
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Aleksey
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Re: July 19, 2009, Pinnacle / Castle, first time!
« Reply #1 on: 07/20/09, 11:51 PM »

congrats on your first outing, great tr. Look forward to reading many more.
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ron j
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Re: July 19, 2009, Pinnacle / Castle, first time!
« Reply #2 on: 07/21/09, 06:45 AM »

Welcome, Jeff,
Perfect destination for your first tour. Chris is a great mentor.
We'll watch for more of your adventures.
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"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston
telemack
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Re: July 19, 2009, Pinnacle / Castle, first time!
« Reply #3 on: 07/21/09, 10:16 AM »

Coolio, Jeff and Lyles!  Tatoosh prob'ly was a better intro. than getting to the Flett with Chris's old heavy planks.
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George Santayana
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Re: July 19, 2009, Pinnacle / Castle, first time!
« Reply #4 on: 07/21/09, 10:29 AM »

It's like that "circle of life thing".
I can still remember when Skierlyles was a newbie and first showed up.
Now he's a seasoned vetran showing the goods to a new guy.
Good on ya Chris and welcome Jeff!

It gets easier,trust me although light-weight gear does help and Skierlyles has humped those Havocs some large distances over the Cascades in the last few years before he became a Dynadevotee.
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skierlyles
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Re: July 19, 2009, Pinnacle / Castle, first time!
« Reply #5 on: 07/21/09, 10:39 AM »

.

I'm not sure what your referral program is here in this cult, but Chris deserves a toaster or $100 or whatever the spiff is for bringing another unsuspecting victim into the fold.

The reward is seeing that look on your face when we pulled up and over the saddle, revealing the north-facing snowfield amidst all the melted out south-facing slopes.

Ron- you are too kind. You and I both know I am no mentor, just a newbie. You on the other hand showed me all of these places, and for that I appreciate the value of a real mentor.

 Glad to hear you all had a good time out there in the Paradise glacier environs, sounded like some good turns still left out there.

Mack- I am always willing to let someone drag an old setup up the hill, it is fun to see how much it used to hurt me with all that weight on my back. I summited Helen's in old alpine boots, naxos, and havocs. Now as Ron prophesized, I am dynafiddlin'!

Jeff- welcome to the cult! Great first post, keep them comin'!
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Don Heath
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Re: July 19, 2009, Pinnacle / Castle, first time!
« Reply #6 on: 07/21/09, 11:26 PM »

Welcome Jeff!  Time flies - your report reminds me of my own religious conversion experience to TAY not that long ago.  And I remember Chris' first TR, I think.  Well done you guys!  The video was excellent.  Chris [u]is[/u] a good guy to go out with because he does have a lot of patience, even with old guys.

Too bad you picked a fixed heel mentor, though.  I think you might just have enough heart to telemark, Jeff.   Wink
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JW
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Re: July 19, 2009, Pinnacle / Castle, first time!
« Reply #7 on: 07/24/09, 03:46 PM »

Hi Jeff and welome....I coordinate a Ski Mountaineering course for the Mountaineers and believe you to be a prime candidate. read about it here: Mountaineers Activities (second line down) and email me if  you have questions ... nice report ! Jerry White PS  Did you ski across the budding Slush Cup?
« Last Edit: 07/24/09, 04:08 PM by JW » Logged

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jconli1
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Re: July 19, 2009, Pinnacle / Castle, first time!
« Reply #8 on: 07/24/09, 09:11 PM »

Hey guys, many thanks for the replies and encouragement. That one short trip has already altered my perspective a bit. I was planning a day hike for Monday then thought, "Wow... 5 miles out and then I have to turn around and walk back?"


I've seen that Mountaineers class mentioned before and think it would be a great next step, provided I can figure it out with my work schedule. 
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