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Brent

Early season cascades

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Does anybody have any suggestions / recommendations for early season alpine climbs in the Cascades? I am planning a trip there for late April / May and would like some idea of what to expect in terms of typical conditions for this time of year.

ThanksBrent

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It's not the best time of year for climbing in the Cascades. Most of the alpine rock climbs are still very snowed up. That time of year the snow is transitioning from winter to spring mode, so its often slushy and unconsolidated and avalanching. Often, but certainly not always. During a cold snap you could get nice frozen stuff.

If you want rock at that time of year, I would do something on the east side, say in the Stuart Range, where things melt out earlier I think. Snow might be more consolidated there too. And the weather is better.

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I in part agree and in part disagree with Philfort. Philfort is right that in April/May there comes a time every year when the snow goes "isothermic" so that, in many areas, you may be wallowing up to your hips or even eyeballs, and this condition can persist for several weeks. And he is right that the rock climbs will largely be pretty snowy still. However, even when large parts of the Cascades may be unfavorable, you may find good conditions at higher altitudes or lower ones, on the south aspects instead of the north, or maybe -- as Philfort suggested -- on the east side of the range as opposed to the west. Rainier is always open, and both Glacier Peak and Baker are often both accessible and very enjoyable at that time of year. They are commonly climbed by ski mountaineers in the Spring, not so much because of the deep snow but because the glaciers are filled in at that time of year (more often than not, after about April 15 or May 1, I carry skis up the hill and ride them down-hill only on firm snow). Shuksan and Silver Star are also common Spring destinations because the roads are open to the trailheads, and I believe Jim Nelson recommends April/May as potentially being the best time of year for the Stuart Glacier Couloir, and the Snow Gulch route on Whitehorse. Spring weather is often unstable, and the conditions are generally more difficult to assess than they are during the middle of the Summer, but the days are long, deep snow covers the brush and the talus, and there's good fun to be had.

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Brent, typically the North Cascades Highway is opening right about then, and there are some great Spring climbs that are accessed from the road. Climbing in the Liberty Bell Group (SW Couloir S Early Winters Spire), or going up to Colonial Peak or any other variety of things is possible. Also, the Mountain Loop highway opens about that time of year and the Monte Cristo area is a real nice destination for earlier season climbs. Things like Monte Cristo, Cadet, and mountains in that group are good destinations.

Alex

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In reply to the post about Cadet in winter. Alex and I climbed it in May a couple of years ago. I recall it was a nice hike. Expect more snow in winter.

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I climbed Monte Cristo last May. Both Cadet and Monte Cristo have somewhat similar approaches in that the sun hits those southern slopes early in the morning. If you go as a day trip think about going in on a cloudy day as the snowslides from warming snow won't be as much an issue.

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