We left fairly uneventfully. (Although a turnaround for forgotten skins in Seattle did delay us.) We pulled into the park around 7:30am and were at the parking lot around 8am. There were at least a half dozen cars with Oregon plates in the lot which I told Matt meant the Mazamas were climbing the peak. Hopefully they would be done, or we'd pass them before the summit block.
Going through the flats at bench like was uneventful and pleasant. Except for Matt who had to stop a few times because his boots are not right for him. Climbing over the ridge to get into Snow Lake basin had some minor difficulties and found us taking our skis off to boot some steeper, more narrow sections. Then we were skinning again heading to the gully at the far end of the basin. We stopped one more time and discussed crampons for the gully, had a snack and Matt once again adjusted boots.
From there we booted up the gully. We both started with trekking poles and no crampons. The peak appears to have been climbed during the weekend and there was a sitting glissade trench in the middle of the gully as well as numerous foot steps. I picked a set that I felt were nice to follow but led me into the shaded eastern half of the gully where the snow was more firm. Then the steps stopped. I did not feel comfortable traversing back over the icy glissade path to the sunny side, so stopped and got out my ax and crampons. This change allowed me to make quick work of the rest of the gully. Matt had continued on the sunny side of the gully and felt that swapping into crampons was more dangerous than continuing without. When we topped out we put skis back on and continued to skin up the cirque toward the saddle. A party of two women overtook us on the final steeper pitch to the saddle where we took our final uphill break.
We left skis at the saddle and booted up the final ridge to the summit. I counted no less than 14 Mazamas mulling about on and below the summit. The party of two was starting their ascent on one of the farther right routes up the summit block. There was a kerfuffle between the party of two and the Mazamas after a Mazama attempted to rappel down onto their lead climber. We took our time to get ready and took a combination of the far right route and the next to far right route to get to the top as the Mazamas were rapping the two left routes.
By the time we were on the summit the party of two was rapping and we had it all to ourselves. We hung out in the wind, and snapped a few pics before rapping down off the snag. I had a minor incident in the rap where I opted not the go over the roof near the top and it put me in a pendulum situation down low that left me a little scratched up. I instructed Matt not to do what I had done and then we were back in ski boot hiking down to our skis.
Back at our skis we noticed that the Mazama leader aiding one of his scared followers down the steeper pitch from the saddle. We made sure to ski around them, and then I went far skier's left into the bowl for my turns while Matt took a more fall line approach with his run. At the bottom the the bowl we eyed the top of the chute which now had an even deeper glissade trench in it. Matt said he was going to try skier's right of the trench and side slip down. I opted for the right side due to a left side constriction but made turns before crossing at a shallow spot and just above where the skier's left of the chute opened up. The chute didn't ski as great as the cirque due to the amount of boot holes in it, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. Below the chute the snow got heavier and stickier and I attempted to make a high traverse back to the ridge. Eventually we both booted back over the ridge and were now skinning back across the bench to the car. In order to avoid any more uphill, we headed to the road a bit east of where the summer trail would take us and got in a few more turns before reaching the road and walking 100m back to the parking lot.
This was a pretty successful trip and while we could have been faster, we had fun and did not get involved in the conflict that comes with bringing more than a dozen people on a peak. Turns in the cirque were pretty close to perfect and had we been faster, I would have lapped it one more time at least. Unicorn is also a good place to take in the view of the Tatoosh traverse to plan for later this year.
Pics are here.