Lake Mountain – 8,371ft
Eric and David
October 29-30, 2016
We discovered that it’s essentially winter above 5,000ft in the Cascades, with many feet of snow, cornice-topped ridges, and cold. We still somehow managed to get up one of the Washington Hundred Highest Mountains. On Friday night we drove up to Mazama and parked at the trailhead for the Monument Peak trail. Saturday just before sunrise we started hiking up the trail. After a few miles the trail hits Eureka creek, and stops being maintained at a washed-out bridge. The USFS website says it hasn’t been maintained for 30 years, and I believe it.
We hiked up some overgrown and washed-out switchbacks steeply up a ridge, at times bushwhacking when the old trail was hard to find. At about 4,000ft snow started falling heavily from the sky. When we hit around 6,500ft on the ridge the snow was 3ft deep, and we regretted forgetting the snowshoes. But it was still October, so it had seemed too early to need them.
I led the way postholing and traversing towards Pistol Pass. After skirting above and below some cliffs we reached the pass at 4:30pm, and an hour later were at Lake of the Woods. We set up a nice campsite and had a roaring campfire that night.
Given the deep snow, we modified our plans of hitting both Monument and Lake Mountains and instead settled to just climb Lake Mountain. In the morning we left camp at 5:30pm heading for the east ridge of Lake Mountain. By sunrise we were just above treeline at the base of the impressively steep southeast face.
I had loaded a GPS track from another group, and we climbed up a steep and powdery snow gully near the east ridge, eventually popping out at the summit at 8:45 am. Amazingly, we were treated to sunny, undercast skies, with only the 8,000ft peaks poking out above the clouds all around us. Mt Baker and the Pickets were visible to the west, and the Gardners to the south.
The ridge to our south was heavily corniced, culminating in a steep technical gendarme. Luckily the gendarme was not the true summit, since we’d neglected to bring any ropes or rock gear.
As we descended the clouds rolled in and we were caught in a near white-out. Luckily we had the tracks to follow to navigate back to camp. In all, the only sun the whole weekend was that 1.5hr window when we summitted.
We soon reached camp, packed up, and headed back down the mountain. This time we had a boot track to follow, which greatly sped up the descent. We reached the car shortly after sunset and were soon back to Seattle.