Climb: Cashmere Mountain-North Ridge
Date of Climb: 7/3/2005
Started out from Seattle around 5am in order to get to the Leavenworth Ranger Station by 7:30. There were about 6-8 spots open for 8-Mile. A few groups were turned away.
We had 6 people in our group, and on the way up were broken up into pairs. I was bringing up the rear with my GF who is new to hiking. We were a little slower so I wont quote any times as anything you do will be a bit faster.
Beautiful sunny day, and some clouds which gave some nice shade every once and a while. Lower trail to Little 8-mile was in excellent condition, a little overgrown in spots with few bugs. Caught up with the group 2.5 miles in at Little 8-Mile. Snaffles-a-plenty. Easy going to that point. The next 2.5 is where almost all of the elevation is gained. Switch backs take you up from Little 8-Mile though the old fire areas. It was a little muddy in spots but dry otherwise. There are a few stream crossings along the way. Lots of places to fill up if needed. Lots of wildflowers in bloom. Lake Caroline had a few spots left but the bugs seemed a bit thick so we moved on to Little Lake Caroline. Bugs were worse there. Camped near the lake on the South side. It was a large site but was next to a marsh area (hence the skeeters). There were a few smaller sites on the north side of the lake. One nice one next to a large rock formation. Water was moving well through the lake and was a good source for filtering water. We hung our food from a tree because we saw a few fearless blacktail deer around the lake, and we could sense the food stealing marmots and chipmunks just waiting for their opportunity to strike. In the evening it was pretty chilly (clear skies) and at night the temp dipped down to the upper 30's. Woke up at 6 or so and made some breakfast then headed up around 7:30 or 8 (sans my GF who got stuck in the tent the whole day because we took all the bug spray on accident). We followed the standard route as described in the Falcon Guide "Climbing Washingtons Mountains" to Windy Pass, and then along the ridge line to Cashmere Mountain. The ridgeline offered amazing views of Stewart, Rainier, Baker, Glacier, Colchuck, Dragin Tail, And well... everything. As you make your way toward Cashmere along the ridge there is some scrambling (minor) over large boulders and across a few small snowfields (one gave a nice little 30ft glissage.
On the north side of the ridge there are still many large Snowfields, but nothing you will come into contact with. After dropping down in elevation from about 8100ft to the saddle below the summit at about 7900 there is a trail that leads up towards the peak. This is an obvious trail. This is the route described by most books that leads around the west side of the peak. From talking to others at the summit, it did not involve crossing any snow but involved some more difficult scrambling that left 4 of their group behind. We opted for a traverse around the North side. There were some boot tracks leading across some small snow covered gullys. We had axes but crampons would have made me feel a little more warm and fuzzy. I had a 50cm axe and wished I had brought my longer glacier axe for stability reasons (soft snow). We crossed about three of these snow fields before scrambling up one of the more northern rock ribs. The rib we took lead us directly to the summit block. Along this route we noticed a lower route a few hundred feet below. There was some ice still remaining in spots along the scramble, but should be gone soon. The summit was vacant except for two others (from a party of 6) that were just leaving as we arrived. We spent about 1/2 hour at the summit all taking turns standing on the peak. We followed our tracks back down however opted to take the lower boot track back. The snow was plenty soft by now and at 200+ lbs I was postholing a little. But nothing that went past my over the calf gaiters. This route was a bit quicker and less exposed than our higher approach. From there we headed back across the saddle, across the small snowfields and boulders, but did not continue to the ridgeline that lead to Windy Pass. Instead we headed across a large meadow that lead directly to the visible trail just bout 1/2 hour out of Little Lake Caroline (Just before the switchbacks leading to Windy Pass). This route could also be taken on the approach, but it would not save too much time and definitely not enough to justify sacraficing the views from Windy pass and along the ridgeline. This did however shave off an hour or so on the decent. There was a faint trail that we followed most of the way. From there we headed back to camp and quickly packed (to avoid the waiting masses of mosquitos). We then follwed the same route out to the trailhead. The weather was great the whole time. I forgot my trekking poles so my knees took a bit of a beating, but they were not necessary. There was enough water along the trail that you could get by with just a few nalgenes (if you are not a camel). Crampons would have been nice. I would have taken my Aluminium pair, but the steel pair would not have been worth the weight. Just step carefully and place you axe well. We took Helmets (we were the only ones up there that did). I would recommend it, even if solo. There was lots of loose rock. I cant really think of anything else I would take or not take. Make sure you bring some T.P. and lots of bug repellant. Leaving as soon as you get your permit in the AM will get you the choice camping spots. Hope that helps.
I will try to throw in some pics soon.