Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Unicorn Peak - 6/25/10

Our objective

Our objective this weekend was Unicorn Peak in the Tatoosh Range just south of Mount Rainier. Unicorn Peak is a very nice climb with a short approach and enough technical challenges to make it interesting but not intimidating for less experienced climbers.

We had reservations for a beautiful campsite at Cougar Rock Campground in Mount Rainier National Park. It was so pleasant that I decided to sleep outside Friday night even though I’d brought a tent.
Ready to go

On Saturday morning, the short hike in was all on snow. We were thankful for the wands and footprints of an unseen group ahead of us. We ate lunch at Snow Lake before donning crampons and heading up the couloir that leads from the lake to the upper flanks of Unicorn. It had been a while since most of our group had done anything with ice axes, so I gave a brief review on ice-axe use and self arrest, but we skipped practice due to the soft wet snow in the basin.

We caught up to a group of Mazamas at the base of the summit block and waited a bit for them to get their group on top. The weather was warm and sunny with little wind, so it was not a bad day to sit around.

Once the route was freed up I set up a fixed line and we all scrambled to the top without much difficulty. The view from the summit was one of the best I’ve ever had on a mountain. The sky was very clear and we could see at least 4 volcanoes clearly in the distance. Almost all of the area we overlooked was park or wilderness, so there were no distracting clear cuts and few signs of human activity.
On top, Rainier in the background

After soaking in the 360° panoramic vista and snapping some photos, it was time to descend. I lowered Sean, Lindsey and Liz since none of them felt comfortable rappelling. I used a 96’ rope for this trip to save some weight. When it was time for me to descend the rappel was ~52’, which made for a fun finish on the doubled rap line which ended a few feet above the ground.

We easily descended in the soft snow until we got to a moat at the top of a snowfield not far from the summit. The Mazamas group had set up a rope here and members were rappelling one at a time down into and climbing back out of the moat. This took a while, but we decided to throw a rope over as well since there was a nice sling setup. Sean, Lindsey descended using prusiks, while Liz opted to rappel. I followed without a rope and was able to hop over a narrower section of the moat without any trouble.
Liz modeling the classic trash bag glissade pants

At the bottom of this snowfield Liz and Lindsey started glissading almost all the way back to Snow Lake!

The easy way down

We anxiously gobbled up the burritos that Liz prepared for us for dinner Saturday night and relaxed around camp before heading home Sunday morning. Overall this was a very pleasant trip with perfect weather and a great group of friends to enjoy it with.
Let the burrito digestion commence

Awesome weekend!

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