Friday, August 5, 2016

Pinnacle Peak (7/26/16)

Despite Monday's amazing weather on Mount Rainier, we woke early, early Tuesday to a low cloud layer. It was warm and calm but cloudy... not a good sign for my climbing plans in the Tatoosh Range with Dad.

We left camp at 6 a.m., hoping the thin, patchy clouds would burn off when the sun rose. We parked at Reflection Lakes, where a bunch of photographers were ready for a morning shot of the mountain. Nope:
A deer wondered along the lake shore, hoping to catch the attention of the photographers (center of the above photo) :)
We held out hope for clear skies, took a "before" photo and headed up the trail for Pinnacle Peak:
Dad read all about the trail and asked about the mentioned pika. I told him they are elusive and we'd probably hear them but not see one.
We hiked up and up the steep but short trail toward the saddle. I heard pika as we crossed this rock field. I pointed out the sound and told Dad all about Pika living in the rocks - but we wouldn't see one. Then just seconds later, one popped up right in front of us on the rocks!!!! He ran away before I could take a pic, but couldn't believe Dad got to see a pika - and really close up!
We reached the saddle and could see nothing... absolutely nothing. We sat for a while trying to decide what to do when all of the sudden the mountain appeared... barely:
We rejoiced that we'd actually seen something and took a quick photo before it disappeared again.
After much discussion, we decided to explore off the maintained trail and toward the Pinnacle summit. We'd go as far as we could, still hoping the clouds would cooperate and we'd make the top. 

We saw several marmot, including this guy hanging out on the next ridge:
Amazing view, right?!?
We made our way to a notch in the rock and again waited for the clouds to part. Our view north through the notch:
OMG! There's the mountain - I TOLD him it was right there:
And... it's gone. We had a snack and waited some more.
This cool tree shared our waiting spot:
The problem, other than not having ANY of the 360-degree view I promised Dad, is that the clouds were so thick that we couldn't see where we were supposed to go. We had no idea where the summit was and how to reach it. But we decided to make our way east and see if we could figure it out.
Suddenly, Mount Adams was slightly visible to the south:
And MAYBE the top of Pinnacle Peak - we kept thinking we could see the top but then we'd see the shadow of something beyond:
The clouds teased us for hours:
It was really fun and frustrating at the same time. We enjoyed exploring and trying to make our way to the summit, but not being able to see the route was annoying. We joked that we were totally lost and totally not lost all at the same time.

We'd given Mom and Eryn a rough timeline of our adventure. Our time was running out, and we decided we'd better head back to camp so they wouldn't worry. Unfortunately, the clouds finally began parting as we made our way back to the saddle. Look - you can see more than a few yards behind Dad!
And there's Plummer Peak, the mountain on the west side of the saddle. We could see none of it earlier in the morning:
And the view north from the saddle - you can see down into the valley:
The hike down was easy but getting hot by that time of day. All done - happy with the adventure but bummed to not bag any peaks:
Dad and I celebrated with showers in Brad's portable shower stall - the best showers ever!! Then the family explored around the Longmire museum. Eryn and I took some time to enjoy the view from the deck at the inn:
You can see that the clouds still hung in below the summit, probably obscuring Pinnacle and Plummer for the whole day.

Dad was initially reluctant to join me on this climbing adventure. But after exploring and seeing glimpses of the magnificent view, he said, with a big smile, "I guess this means we'll have to come back." Yes!! Hopefully we'll get a good weather window this fall to try again :)

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