The Zipper, Lane Peak

Sandy :

On New Year’s Day of 2021, we did a double lap on Kings Mountain (Tillamook Forest), hiking up as fast as you can and running down. It felt amazing. Since then we decided that 2021 will be a year of maximum elevation gain. On Jan 3rd, we ran the south nasty route in Forest Park. I was surprised that within a day of recovery, I could run over 13 miles with over 2600 feet of elevation gain. The following weekend we did a triple lap on Kings Mountain on Saturday followed by a 11.5 mile run with over 1100 feet of elevation gain on Sunday. I realized that the thing about elevation gain is that I don’t enjoy it if its not a usual thing for me but if I am regularly doing activities with elevation gain then I love the cardiovascular and muscular strength it leaves you with.

Following the same progression we decided that we should do something a bit more challenging on the 3 day MLK weekend. So we linked up the North and South Nasty in the forest park on Saturday. Rick got a blistering pace of 11:05 mins/mile for a gain close to 5500 feet. I remember getting back to the car, sitting in my trunk, looking at the ground and feeling happy that its over. But after looking at Rick’s pace, I thought I need to improve my snail pace. A goal for next time!

We took Sunday to recover with foam rolls, high calorie food, protein etc. One of the perks of running hilly distances over 20 miles is that I get to eat delicious Mediterranean pizza. I give credits to the pizza, some foam rolling and stretching for a faster recovery.

We left home on Monday morning at 6am for Narada Falls parking lot. Both Rick and I have a lot on our plate in terms of academia, work, athletic and household chores, therefore when we invest 6 hrs in driving, I feel we better get our time’s worth. We reached the Rainier Longmire gate at 8:40am and waited for 25 minutes for the gate to open with a few hundred other cars taking advantage of the free national park day. We started the hike at 9:40am, up the Narada Falls trail, following the snow road for a while and then taking the turn off for Lane Peak. We both think that unless one is sinking knee deep for every step, snow shoes are unnecessary weight. It had not snowed since Friday but based on the snow conditions it seemed that it had rained a bit. Every umpteen step we were sinking thigh deep and giggling our way out of the deep hole.

Post holing on my umpteenth step 🙂

This is our first snow outing of the season so we were mesmerized by the beauty of winter wonderland.

Winter Wonderland
First sight of sparkling snow
This has to match the sparkles they showed in the movie Frozen

We crossed possibly two snow sturdy and thick snow bridges.

Assessing the snow bridge

First sight of Lane Peak. We were open to doing either Lovers Lane or the Zipper. Since there was not any recent snow from 3 days and it had rained a bit, the conditions were crunchy snow right from the parking lot. We were hoping for hard packed neve and possibly ice at places.

The gully on the left is Lovers lane

We got to the base of the gullies at 11am and thought that if we want to make it back to the car by 4pm then we will have to rush through Lover’s Lane whereas we can enjoy the sparkles on the Zipper. Since this is our first snow outing of the season, we decided to focus on enjoyment more and decided on the Zipper. I was astonished to see that Rick agreed to my proposal. We were fairly comfortable in soloing the route so we ditched the heavier rope and anything else we didn’t need at the base.

Left goes to Lovers Lane and right goes to Zipper
Start of the Zipper
Approaching the narrow part of the gully

At the wider and lower part of the gully, the snow was mostly a bit softer neve where you can carve foot steps at places for rest.

Almost half way

From the narrow part of the gully, the snow was fairly inconsistent changing frequently between hard neve and ice to carving out big buckets in the soft snow. At first, I was turning around and looking down frequently to assess what would happen in case of a fall but the higher up I went, I stopped thinking about it and gave my full attention to my foot work and placement of ice-tools.

Frozen mixed climbing opportunities

We felt that the angle of the gully was mostly 40-45 degrees with some slightly steeper icy spots.

The gully becomes steeper for the last 1/4th of the height
Last little bit to the top of the gully

We reached the top of the gully by 2pm. We looked at the last bit to the summit but decided to skip it because of the sun baked snow and several visible avalanche debris. I had so much fun climbing the gully that I didn’t regret skipping the summit.

In a rush to get out of the gully :). View of the summit above me
Rejoicing the top of the gully
Mt. Rainier in Rick’s backyard
View from the top of the gully. Mt. Adams in sight.

The back of the gullies is a moderately steep snow descent. Snow was bit soft and plunge steps were good to go.

The very happy me 🙂
Zoomed in on Mt. Adams
We took about 50 shots of Rainier but this one won

We needed to collect our stashed rope and water so we were finding a way to get back to the start of the gullies. We realized that we were descending a water fall. We carefully traversed climber’s right into a gully and down to the avalanche debris near the start of the route.

Thin ice on Denman Peak

We reached the car at about 3:40pm and we were out of the gate by 4:30pm. We devoured ourselves in the oily JoJos from the gas station at Morton and got home by 7:30pm. I was amazed by the speedy recovery from our double Nasty run, the amount of fun we had on zipper and the energy I had as we reached my home garage. For the first time we emptied the car right away and organized all the gear. Somehow strava dropped our moving time and we got a blistering fast pace but the true time is the elapsed time – 15 mins when we forgot to turn it off as we reached the car. From the total elevation gain, the gain in the Zipper is about 800 feet which felt pleasurable compared to 2500 feet of Reid glacier headwall on Mt. Hood. Here’s to many more snow outing in 2021 :).

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