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[TR] Cashmere Mountain - South Face central couloir 3/8/2015

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Trip: Cashmere Mountain - South Face central couloir


Date: 3/8/2015


Trip Report:

About a decade ago, while attempting a winter ascent of Cashmere by the standard (SW) route, my partner and I were beaten back by true winter weather. Just before we turned back above Lake Caroline, the clouds broke for a moment and we glimpsed a long straight couloir on the S face that seemed to top out very close to the summit. On March 8 – the 1st day of daylight savings time - Rick Sloop and I arrived at Bridge Creek campground at 7:00 AM Standard time (we had decided to postpone the time change to reduce early morning (pre-coffee) confusion), expecting to be able to drive to the 8-Mile trailhead and launch a one-day assault on the S face couloir. Unfortunately, the Bridge Creek road was gated even though the unusually minimal snowpack led us to expect that the road should be passible to the trailheads. We pondered for a minute the effect of adding 6 miles of road walking to an already ambitious day, and decided “What the heck, we have headlamps and perfect weather!”. The summit of Cashmere stood a mere 6501’ above us.



Approximate location of S face couloir with approach marked


As expected, the road to the 8-Mile trailhead could have been easily driven, but the locked gate would likely assure our solitude. The regular route to the top of Cashmere is long and circuitous. Our plan, which looked good on the map, was to follow the 8-Mile trail less than a mile until it crossed Pioneer Creek. At that point we would leave the trail and parallel the creek up a steep slope, then cross it and move up a shallow gulley system rapidly gaining elevation to reach a bench high on the S flank of Cashmere’s long E ridge. From there we would do a rising traverse westward to reach the base of the central S face couloir. Rick had plotted our route out on a map and had plugged waypoints into his GPS to keep us on track. I hoped we would find the snow in the couloir to be stable and conducive to a rapid ascent. I had found no trip reports or any record of previous ascents, and had no accurate information on the steepness or length of the couloir. I only hoped it would be continuous – as it had seemed to be in the glimpse through the storm a decade earlier.



Bob crossing Pioneer Creek


As it turned out, our approach route materialized much as expected, including logs for the creek crossing. The only surprise was that it took us right through the middle of a large burn from the previous summer. Without the protection of the forest, the slope was devoid of snow until an elevation of nearly 6000’. The fire eliminated much of the undergrowth, which would have made the bushwhacking easier had it not been for the charred downed trees strewn about. Above the fire zone, movement was easier. Our long traverse took us over snowfields and partially covered boulder slopes. Gradually, Cashmere’s main summit formation came into view. We continued to traverse the snow slopes below the S face until we stood looking up at the base of a couloir that showed promise of leading to the Cashmere’s top. Remnants of a slide were visible at the base.



No snow at 5000' on March 8 - Something isn't right!



Only the lowest 300' of couloir visible from base.



Rick kicking steps and moving into the mid portion of the climb.


It was already mid-afternoon, so we wasted no time putting on our harnesses and crampons, and grabbed snow and ice tools. The temperature was warm and the snow was soft, but seemed reasonably secure. Neither Rick nor I felt any need to rope up, given the conditions. At 400’ up the couloir, we were at the top of what could be seen from the base. Rounding a slight bend, we could see that the couloir steepened somewhat and continued at least another 600’. I was quite certain the summit lay just beyond what was visible. When confronted with apparent forks in the road, we kept to the right. Occasional views beyond our couloir to major S face buttresses caused me to reevaluate the scale of the S face and realize that the summit was either much further up than I estimated, or that we would top out on the W ridge well to the W of the summit. The couloir turned out to be at least 1500’ long and it topped out on the summit ridge about 100‘ west of the summit. Rather than take the couloir all the way to the ridge top, we made a diagonal traverse over mostly snow to bypass a small tower on the ridge and reach the summit ridge immediately west of the small summit tower. The high point required only a minor scramble to gain.



Bob following on upper portion of couloir.


We had hoped to descend by the standard W ridge route, but abandoned the idea after traversing about 200’ due to somewhat treacherous conditions and route-finding uncertainties. Using pickets, we down-climbed the steepest portions of the couloir in belayed pitches. We reached our snowshoes and trekking poles with about an hour of daylight remaining to drop 5000’ over 6 miles. We returned to the car at about 9:15 Standard time.



Rick on Cashmere's summit.


The S face couloir on Cashmere is a fine winter/spring route that can be done in a day from Bridge Creek campground on Icicle Road. The approach involves significant cross-country travel and bushwhacking that would likely be easier with a normal winter snowpack. The couloir itself is pretty straightforward with a steepness estimated at 35o to 45o over a length of around 1500’. The climb seemed reasonably secure from rock fall (no falling rock debris at base). Like all snow/ice routes, the difficulty and danger can vary dramatically with the conditions.




Gear Notes:

We brought snowshoes, ice axe and ice tools, crampons, harness, helmet, rope, and 3 pickets. Two pickets would have sufficed.


Approach Notes:

The approach involves significant cross-country travel and bushwhacking that would likely be easier with a normal winter snowpack. A GPS is highly recommended for the approach.



Map showing approach route from car at Bridge Creek campground.

Edited by RCR

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Nice work getting up there in sub-optimal (low snow) conditions. Looks like a stellar day though.


For consistency sake, mod's may want to move this TR to Alpine Lakes forum.

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"I had found no trip reports or any record of previous ascents, and had no accurate information on the steepness or length of the couloir."


Really? Have you used Google before? I just Googled and found the first two links describing this couloir in detail with photos.


Anyway, nice going busting out a long day in the mountains. It's always a pleasure to walk a dry 8 Mile Road.

Edited by telemarker

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