Tatoosh Traverse at Mount Rainier!

Trip Report September 15, 2002

Pinnacle Peak 6,562'
Plummer Peak 6,370'
Denman Peak 6,006'
Lane Peak 6,012'
Wahpenayo Peak 6,231'
Chutla Peak 6,000'
Eagle Peak 5,958'

 

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The Tatoosh Range, located near the South end of Mount Rainier National Park is the prominent range you see to the south as you are ascending to Camp Muir from Paradise. It is string of no less than 11 summits, beginning with Tatoosh Peak, 6,307’, on the east and ending with Eagle Peak, 5,958’, on the west. Between the two, there is Boundary Peak, Unicorn Peak, The Castle, Pinnacle Peak, Plummer Peak, Denman Peak, Lane Peak, Wahpenayo Peak, and Chutla Peak. Most are at least 6,000’ high and all offer fantastic views of The Mountain.

These and other satellite summits of Mount Rainier make fine daytrips for the intrepid climber, scrambler, and hiker. Little Tahoma, Pyramid Peak, Mount Wow, Mount Pleasant, and Fay Peak (Fay Peak is named for Fay Fuller, in 1890, the first woman to climb Mount Rainier) are just a few of the long list of peaks possible that offer thrilling views and challenging routes. I only say two people the entire day, and that was on the trail near Longmire.

Most of the Tatoosh Range was first climbed by the U.S. Geological Survey surveyors led by F.E. Matthes in 1910. Some of the summits were climbed prior to this. Sluiskin, Stevens, and Van Trump climbed Wahpenayo, Pinnacle, and Plummer, in August 1870. The Mazamas climbed Pinnacle Peak on July 26, 1897 as a warm-up for Mount Rainier. They called it the "Matterhorn of the Cascades."

On this early autumn day I set out solo hoping to beat the weather. Seattle was overcast and misty. To my surprise it cleared off as I gained elevation. The stars were starting to dim for the day as I left Reflection Lakes, 4,900’, at sunrise, on the Pinnacle Peak Trail. The goal was to do the Tatoosh Traverse beginning with Pinnacle, and bag all the summits between there and Eagle Peak, then take the trail down to Longmire.

The trail is in great condition, and I was soon at the Pinnacle Plummer Saddle. Pinnacle Peak, 6,562’ is a fine short scramble to an outstanding view from the summit. Plummer Peak, 6,370’ is often done as a ski ascent in the winter and spring when conditions are good. Goat Rocks, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Adams dominate the view when one can look away from Mount Rainier. This pair of peaks makes a fine daytrip.

Far below me the cloud sea moved up the valleys from Puget Sound. There was a faint track to Denman, 6,006’, which was easy; Lane Peak, 6,012’, was more difficult with some class 3 and plenty of extremely loose rock. The alpine was stunning in its fall colors of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. The ever-elusive guardians of the treeline, the marmots, were mostly quiet, only an occasional sleepy yawn was heard.

The traverse from Lane to Wahpenayo is the crux of the trip. Many parties turn around at this point. It is a mile of talus and scree at 5,300+’ to traverse from Lane to Wahpenayo. I had plenty of route-finding difficulties, but with my early start it was okay. I looked for the route to cross to the west side of the ridge in two different places, once to the north and once to the south of a small satellite peak, and finally decided to just stay on the east side all the way. I reached the ridge the third time and discovered that I was now south of Wahpenayo and had to traverse around to the west to reach the summit at 6,231’. The clouds had risen, so I was not quite sure where my next summit was.

I was now out of water and getting very thirsty. I foolishly thought that I would find some melting snow, but what snow I found was in the form of hard glacier ice. I saw a few small tarns below, but I was too lazy to drop down the 800’ just to get water.

A little more route finding and a brief path brought me to Chutla Peak, 6,000’. I tagged the summit and staggered on to the last of the traverse, Eagle Peak, 5,958’. Eagle used to have a lookout on top, so there is a good trail from Longmire. A little easy class 3 gets to the summit. The clouds had backed off again, giving way to fine views below. Mount Rainier loomed above, filling the sky. All the snow had melted, revealing the true form of the glaciers and rock.

From Eagle, the trail goes all the way back to Longmire. I found some flowing water at 5,000’. It was 3.5 miles back to the road. Hitching a ride back to Reflection Lakes was easy.

11 Miles, 5,000’ elevation gain, 9 hours, and seven summits. Other than the Pinnacle Peak and Eagle Peaks Trails at the start and finish, most of this trip is off trail. There is lots of loose rock, talus, and scree and steep traverses. An early start and fast light travel is required. The route finding is difficult and sustained. Luckily, the weather cooperated the entire day.

This website is a photographic and descriptive resource of routes and climbs, not a hiking guide. By using this site the viewer releases the creator from any and all liability. Hiking/climbing is a potentially dangerous activity and requires proper equipment, skill, experience, preparedness and awareness at all times.

All contents of all pages   copyright 1997 - 2002  by Mike Mahanay, All Rights Reserved

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