We met that morning at Whittaker’s Bunkhouse for a second round of coffee and breakfast, then left in time to get to the gate to Paradise at Longmire right before 9am, parking at the Narada Falls parking lot.
Note: During Winter, the gate to Paradise at Longmire opens at 9am and closes at 4pm, so plan accordingly. You can follow the MountRainierNPS Twitter account for real time updates on when the gate will open for a given day. Also, make sure to bring tire chains.
We walked past the bathrooms to the end of the short service road and started boot packing up to Stevens Canyon Road. We followed the scenic flat road until we got to Reflection Lakes, then cut right to start skinning through the trees towards The Castle.
Winding our way through the trees after leaving Stevens Canyon Road, with Pinnacle Peak in the background.
We worked our way through the trees until we got to the tree line just above 5,600ft, making for about 700ft of gain since leaving the road. The timing put sun just coming over the ridge line, offering an ominous silhouette of The Castle in what remained of the low hanging clouds.
The sun rising behind The Castle as the clouds cook off.
For most of the way you can turn around and get glimpses of Mount Rainier behind you, with more an more becoming visible as you gain elevation. Since, it was my first time in the Tatoosh, is was great getting a summary of the terrain. We also talked about future objectives, such as the Nisqually Bridge Run and Paradise Glacier, as we ran our pointed fingers all over the mountain.
Mount Rainier looms behind you on the majority of the approach, giving you a good excuse to turn around and catch your breath.
While the final push above tree line, another 600ft of gain, was a little technical with the iced up snow, you couldn’t help but stare into the sun as it rose out of the belly of the saddle.
The last push up to the saddle of The Castle, right as the Sun crests over the ridge.
Skiing the South Slope
Once we got eyes on the South face we knew we had to give it a go, but given that it was South facing we wanted to get a closer look before making the final decision. Since it was still early the day, we made our way up to the base of the rock and ripped skins. The snow was nice an buttery as we dropped all the way down, before cutting over and skinning back up to the ridge.
Our tracks on the South slope of The Castle.
We skied our way down the tree line where I started to notice my binding was loose, realizing no on the team had any repair tools (I now have a repair kit), but luckily a pair of girls stopped and let me borrow their Leatherman Signal with the bit extension to adjust my binding back to the correct length.
Besides that, everything went smooth through the trees, just make sure you don’t end up in a terrain trap as the terrain is very variable through that section. We got a last set of turns on the hill down to the service road and it ended up being a dreamy way to end the day.