20 miles, 15 hours
Eric Gilbertson and Aaron Yahr
March 19, 2016
A rare winter confluence of sunny weather and moderate avy danger was forecast for the cascades saturday. This was the last weekend of winter, so I was excited to hit a final winter 100 highest mountain of the season.
We drove to Leavenworth friday evening to spend the night, and started hiking just before dawn Saturday morning from Icicle Creek Road. Surprisingly the lot was full, though I’m not sure where all the people were. The road at bridge creek was still gated, and will be for some time given all the snow. We hiked up in snowshoes with skis on our backs, making for quite heavy packs, but it would be worth it on the descent. Neither of us have yet invested in a backcountry ski setup.
After about an hour two skiers passed us moving quickly with very minimal gear. Surprisingly they said they were also climbing Cashmere, and scoffed at our huge packs. We actually caught back up to them at the turnoff to eight mile lake, but then took a break. We followed the trail all the way to little eight mile lake, then turned right up the valley to Lake Caroline. It was extremely sunny, giving me a bad sunburn since I’d forgotten sunscreen, but the views of Mt Stuart, Colchuck, Dragontail, and the Enchantments area were great.
We caught back up to the skiers again on the other side of Lake Caroline. They must have slowed down a lot after passing us, despite carrying
half the gear we were. Or they had just sped up to pass us. We traversed under some snow bowls aiming for the col on the ridge west of Cashmere, and the skiers instead went straight up to the ridge. It appeared they were not actually climbing Cashmere, just skiing down from one of its side ridges.
At about 7,000ft we decided Aaron had reached his highpoint, while I would push on to the summit. I moved quickly up to the col below the summit, then switched to crampons and ice ax. The standard route ascends the west ridge directly, but in these snowy
conditions it actually looked easier to traverse across the snowslopes of the north face. I traversed about halfway across the steep face, then climbed up a snow
gully to reach the ridge. I was unfortunately still short of the summit, though. I scrambled over some third/fourth class rocks on the narrow knife-edge ridge and soon reached the summit at 5pm.
The only other tracks there were from a mountain goat, and I actually saw the goat just 50ft away on the east ridge. He didn’t notice my presence as I peeked over the narrow summit block. It appeared the skiers had chickened out and not summitted after all.
For the return I hoped to avoid downclimbing the fourth-class
section, and it looked like a much easier route traversing the north face. I downclimbed the snowy north ridge, then traversed the steep, snowy north face snow slopes back to my stash of snowshoes and poles. From here I jogged back down to Lake Caroline, and met up with Aaron at 6:45. We reached our skis just after dark, and had a fun ski back to the car. Surprisingly we got back early enough to drive back to Seattle that night, arriving by 12:30am.