I had to cancel my Rainier climb via Kautz route 6/26-6/28 because I tweaked my left knee one week before on a Sahale Peak climb. Still, with the weather expected to be good, I couldn't resist going on a short climb. Besides, I justified it as being a good test climb for my knee.
I chose Unicorn Peak because of close proximity to my house, short approach, and nice short (really short) rock climbing up the summit pinnacle. Since I have never climbed alpine rock requiring protection (I've always chose routes with class 3-4 and even low class 5 scrambles), I asked my friend Shane if he wanted to come. He has the credentials and experience.
Unicorn Peak is located in the Tatoosh Range (south of Rainier) and can be approached via Stevens Canyon Road in the Rainier NP. It is the tallest mountain in the range. Just having climbed Pinnacle Peak (within ear-shot of Unicorn) couple weeks before in bad weather (see my trip report for Pinnacle Peak), I was looking forward to great views of Rainier, Little Tahoma, and other mountains in the range.
The approach starts from the Snow Lake trailhead few miles down the road from Reflection Lakes parking lot. The trail to Snow Lake is 1 mile and is mostly flat. As a matter of fact, it felt like we were going down more then up. The trail is well maintained and the wildflowers were plentiful. Very nice day with few clouds, but as advertised, the views of Rainier were nice.
We quickly got to snow lake and up the steep 40 degree slope into the large bowl northwest of the peak. Nice boot tracks so the route was easy to follow. Within 2 hours, we were at the base of thesummit pinnacle. We sat down, ate lunch, and waited for a group of 9 to finish in front of us.
Shane and I decided that this would be a great place for my first lead experience on alpine rock. The route is only about 50 feet and the route we picked is low class 5. I think the summit pinnacle route we picked is a little variation of "Open Book Cracks" described bycluck on the Unicorn Peak page under Snow Lake. It had been a while since my rock climbing class six years ago (Cascade Alpine Guides) but I remembered the basics and I was ready. The rock was good, plenty of good hand and foot placements, I quickly made my way up. Ok, I had to do one thing that I probably shouldn’t have…. I took this picture in the middle of my climb. I couldn’t resist! The views of Rainier were just awesome. Kinda wishing I was climbing Rainier then Unicorn.
We took severalsummit pics and using the existing (fairly new) sling and rappel ring, we rappelled down the "Roof" route to the saddle at the base of the pinnacle. The date on the sling had said July something 2003. We put our gore pants on and we quickly made our descent. The glissade was fun as usual and I was pleased that my knee pain did not flare up.
In the short 6 years of my climbing career, I’ve mostly done glaciated climbs and scramble routes but now, I’ll look to do more technical alpine rock!! An awesome outing overall.