Castle Peak Saddle (Mar 6, 2011)

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castle_saddle_coverConditions: Snowshoe
Gear: Snowshoes
Map: USGS Mount Rainier East
Area: Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park
Reference: n/a
Stats: 4.83mi, 1880' gain (round trip)


I am nearly at my 1 year anniversary...birthday really...for the new knees. I wanted to go out and play to celebrate. Franklin, Carla...mention of a trip out of Paradise. I figured I could give it a go. Good a place as any to bail early if I needed to.

So off we went, one snowshoer (me) and three skiers (Franklin, Carla, Beth), to Paradise :)

My goal was to just get out and enjoy myself. The skiers...they wanted to tag The Castle. One quick stop at the Eatonville Bakery for some ooey-gooey goodness for the skiers. Then we continued on to MRNP. We pulled into the Narada Falls parking area and began the process of getting ready. For Carla and Beth that meant a game of tug-o-war to separate their skins ;)

The hardest part for me was the wallowing in deep snow leaving the parking area to the unplowed road above. Yuck. Then nice gentle, snowshoe friendly tracks. I did my best to stay out of the ski tracks. Thankfully there was a good secondary track I could wallow around in. The time to leave the road and head uphill. A good set of tracks here to follow through the trees.

Nearing the bottom of the big bowl below the saddle on snowboarder swished by. Other than that...the bowl seemed strangely empty.

The skiers reached the saddle before I did. Cresting that ridge I found Franklin, Carla and Beth chatting with another group. Time for a break and some food.

I looked over at The Castle...yeah...won't be doing that today... When the trio readied...I let them know I'd be staying at the saddle. I watched them skin up the basin below The Castle...huddle below the rocky sheer summit block and then with the help of my telephoto lens on the camera, I could see they were roping up for the final climb. The headed down as I snapped some photo of the skiing and pretty quickly they were back at the saddle. I didn't linger long. I knew my descent on snowshoes would be a lot longer then theirs on skis. So...down I sent. We picked a slightly more direct route from about 5400' back to the unplowed road. Steeper terrain and what seemed like deeper snow but it made for one good pillow glissade for me.

We followed the road back down to just above the open area above the parking area and one last shorter, more direct route back to the car.

This was a really great trip. A fun way to slowly get back in the saddle gain after a long hiatus from the mountains. Thanks Franklin for the invite. Thanks Carla and Beth...

Some day I'd like to return to this area and do the Tatoosh Range Traverse as a backpack. Beautiful area. Gorgeous views.
 
Castle Saddle Slideshow

castle_saddle_map
(click on map to view a larger version)

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