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| | |-+  Tatoosh Traverse, April 16-17, 2016
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Author Topic: Tatoosh Traverse, April 16-17, 2016  (Read 3226 times)

Posts: 124

Tatoosh Traverse, April 16-17, 2016
« on: 04/23/16, 10:26 PM »

Tatoosh Traverse

Day 1

With another warm and sunny weekend in April, we knew we had to do another overnight trip. The Tatoosh Traverse had been on the list for a while. Our friend’s Deling and Yinan were heading to Paradise and we were able to get a lift from Longmire to Narada Falls since our plan was to start at Narada and end at Longmire.

Charging my Tesla bulldozer, keep off!

We were unpleasantly surprised after climbing the initial slope above Narada Falls – the Stevens Canyon Road had already been plowed. Nice. So we walked for about an hour until we hit the end of plowing, which was just before the trailhead to Unicorn Peak.

Surprise! Thanks, NPS, helpful as always

We skinned up to Bench and Snow Lake with ease and climbed the short gully before gaining the upper slopes. We wanted to check out Boundary Peak before going further along the traverse and climbed up to the ridge between Unicorn and Boundary. This ridge is always heavily corniced. We had another Rumdoodle moment and mistook Stevens Peak for Boundary. Boundary looked more complicated than we expected and Stevens look easier so without consulting a map we just made an assumption Stevens was Boundary.

Heading towards Boundary - I mean Stevens - eh, Rumdoodle

We didn’t want to drop off the ridge due to the cornices, so we backtracked, heading towards the base of Unicorn’s short rock pitch. Then we were able to drop below the ridge and start traversing over to the Boundary-Stevens Pass. The terrain from Unicorn to the pass is complicated – lots of convex rollers. Steep gulleys, and several rock bands – all of which are above cliffs far below.

About 1/3 up Stevens’ West Ridge, a 40’ rock step is encountered. To the right was a sharp rib with a steep gulley and wall. To the left, was a steep snow slope that ended on a sharp rib, this one snow covered, all of which ended in trees and cliffs below. The day was warming significantly and we decided it wasn’t worth the effort and started heading back to Unicorn.

The "real" Boundary and Unicorn

After our 3 hour side trip, we gained the ridge south of Foss, and started heading for the summit. The snow was incredibly sloppy at this point, having baked all day. Setting a track was tedious since we had to cautiously set it or risk the step blowing out underneath us. The terrain is steep enough here that a fall or loss of balance is not pleasant to recover from.

Halo above the Tatoosh

About halfway up to the summit, Radka said one of her toe pieces was moving, and that she’d heard a loud crack. We took her binding and riser plate off. Upon further inspection, 2 of the inserts had broken. I screwed the binding back on, without the riser plate, back in to the remaining 2 good inserts. The binding was solid enough to continue travel on.

The problem

We booted the final section of Foss not realizing we could have brought skis and skied off the top. It was getting late in the day now so we knew we weren’t going to make the Pinnacle-Plummer area for camping. Instead we skied down to the lake between Foss and Castle, found a good bench, and set up camp here for the night. Shortly after the sun went down, a steady breeze began that continued throughout the night and in to the next morning.

Summit ridge on Foss

Unicorn, Pt 6800 aka Baby Unicorn, and Adams

Rainier after sunset

Lunar halo

Chateau Chapin

Climbers on Rainier

Day 2

Given Radka’s binding situation and that we could still easily bail on the traverse back to Narada Falls from anywhere between here and Lane Peak, we decided to continue on. We traversed all the way over the southern slopes directly below Pinnacle, then had a short skin up to the saddle. We took a short break then continued on. We soon arrived a few hundred feet above the Pinnacle-Plummer saddle and came to what would have been an awesome place to camp, but our side trip and binding failure the day before had delayed us to get this far. At this point we weren’t interested in doing any of the suggested ski runs along the traverse, so we ripped skins and went for the Denman-Lane col. We made it the entire way without needing to transition again. There’s a small uphill at the col which we side stepped and shimmied through in 5 minutes. Then we dropped to the 2 small unnamed lakes and had lunch. It only took us 2 hours to get here from Foss.

After lunch we started the long slowly rising traverse to the col southeast of Wahpenayo. The steady breeze disappeared in this section of the range and we were baking. The snow was extremely mushy. We were able to skin the final steep section to the col since the snow was so easy to stomp a track in. From here, we thought we’d summit Wahpenayo, since Volken’s book has a simple one-line that says to continue to the summit.

Well, the southeast ridge isn’t that straight forward. I’ve grown a bit skeptical of the information in this book and wasn’t interested. Looking at the GPS, it seemed like we could drop southwest from the col and contour around south slopes and eventually get in to the drainage where the Eagle-Chutla trail back to Longmire is.

Wahpenayo Ridge

Where we came from - Foss and Unicorn in the distance

The initial descent from the col has lots of cliffs bands but there is one nice and wide gulley with no hazard that goes right through. Once a few hundred feet lower, we traversed skier’s right as much as we could without losing elevation. Around 5100’ on flatter terrain, we hit some of the worst mush we’ve ever encountered, easily 2-3 feet of pole penetration with one plunge. Nasty.

We traversed further and crossed multiple creeks that were open in places but still had adequate bridging in others. Then we hit open forest with hard snow under the trees and topped with old man’s beard. We put the skins back on since you can’t really ski on this any way.

Travel through here wasn’t too bad (but it would likely be awful if not snow covered) but required lots of sidestepping down which taxed Radka’s binding. Eventually it started clicking as the 2 remaining screws were taking much more stress than they wanted. We threw a ski strap around the toe piece to get it just a little more life. At this point though the snow was thinning, and the brush thickening. So we only went another 10 minutes before the final transition – to hiking shoes. We still had about 1/5 of a mile to go before crossing the last ridge and getting in to the Eagle-Chutla Basin. The sidehilling wasn’t too steep, the brush wasn’t too thick, and the snow (when encountered) wasn’t too soft and we gained the ridge in about 15 minutes.

From here, the terrain simplified and it was a straightforward descent down until we picked up the trail around 4400’. It took another hour and a half to hike the trail back to Longmire since there’s about a dozen blowdowns on it with strenuous and tedious detours. Despite Radka’s skis, we knew all was well in the world, when 10 minutes after arriving at our car, a tourist approached us, said they were lost, and asked us where Paradise and Mount Rainier were. Wow.

High quality trail. It's your park so better clean it up yourself!

RIP K2 Brightsides Sad

More detailed photo report here:


Posts: 736

Re: Tatoosh Traverse, April 16-17, 2016
« Reply #1 on: 04/23/16, 11:49 PM »

Impressive effort and great photos, as always.  I especially liked the climber's lights!  Bummer about your binding.

FWIW, here's an alternate finish I used in a day trip from Castle-Pinnacle col to Longmire many years ago:
At the 5000' waypoint west of Lane Pk, there is a skiable descending traverse mostly in trees down to the large Tatoosh Meadows just south of the Reflection Lake road.

I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
Charlie Hagedorn

Posts: 1886

Re: Tatoosh Traverse, April 16-17, 2016
« Reply #2 on: 04/24/16, 08:01 AM »

Great TR and wonderful photos as always.

That's the first insert failure I've seen. Do you know which manufacturer made the inserts?

From the photo, it looks like the upper-right and lower-left inserts had died?  If so, it looks like the upper right one had died more recently.

Any theories on all the apparent rust-color under the binding? I've never seen any rust under a Dynafit binding or with Binding Freedom inserts.


Posts: 321

Re: Tatoosh Traverse, April 16-17, 2016
« Reply #3 on: 04/24/16, 09:39 AM »

Hey vogtski, thanks for sharing the alternative exit. That looks nicer! We plan to go back again sometime so it's good to know this option.

Hey Charlie, the rust came from water damage - the skis are water logged, rotten, and warped. Kenji discovered yesterday the top sheet in the center of the ski has also split off the ski. Here's the history of the ski. 2011 purchased and mounted at Marmot (don't know what inserts they used). 2013 Jim Mates told Radka to get riser plates at Sturtevants. Sturtevants installed riser plates. Their riser plates are really lame when you look at the products available at, which is what we'll be using going forward. I suspect the riser plates allowed water to get in the ski since they never had a perfect seal to the ski.

Posts: 736

Re: Tatoosh Traverse, April 16-17, 2016
« Reply #4 on: 04/24/16, 11:05 AM »

... thanks for sharing the alternative exit. That looks nicer! We plan to go back again sometime...
My pleasure.  In stable mid-winter pow, Boot's way might be the best alternative exit of all!

I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.

Posts: 124

Re: Tatoosh Traverse, April 16-17, 2016
« Reply #5 on: 04/24/16, 10:18 PM »

You certainly know the various secret spots in the park, vogtski. Boot's way is also great if they don't open the road - nice to have that option.

We have skied in the Tatoosh before - a couple day trips to Castle saddle, climbed Unicorn twice, but this was our first time getting the lay of the land. I have to say, people obsess about the big mountain across the street, but the Tatoosh is where it's at. There are some many options, various aspects, steep and mellow, various points of entry, amazing scenery and there is nobody there. I think we are onto something  Wink

We will be back.
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