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Cashmere Mountain

July 5-6, 2008. I was browsing the trip reports at NWHikers.net and saw this beautiful camping spot on the south slopes of Cashmere that I had to try for myself. And while I was there, I might as well scramble to Cashmere (8501 ft.), and so began this weekend backpack.

It did not start off according to plan. First, I should have known that I wouldn't get much sleep on July 4th living next to one of the biggest fireworks displays in the country. Second, I got up early to make sure I got a permit in Leavenworth --- only to see that the cloudy weather had not cleared as expected. It got better on the east side of the Cascades, but as I started up the Eightmile Lake trail, the clouds began moving in. Once I was over to Lake Caroline, it started to drizzle. I moved in-and-out of clouds hiking cross country on the south slopes of Cashmere and it then started to rain. So much for the weather report. Third, after pitching my tent, I realized that I forgot my stove. So I had cold noodles for dinner. Finally, the wind started. I should have realized camping in the open by "Windy Pass" was not the brightest idea. Not able to move to the shelter of some trees, lest my tent completely fly away, I had another mostly sleepless night as the gales battered against my tent. I recall peeking out around 3 AM and seeing that I was socked in. Great.

I awoke at dawn with the wind still howling, ready to pack it up and head on out. But miraculously (or at least it seemed so to me), the sky was clear and the alpenglow was deep upon the Enchantments and the Stuart Range. My "poor" choice for a camp site suddenly became the best spot I ever had. There was a pretty creek nearby feed directly by a snowfield next to my tent. The meadow by the creek was full of blooming lupine. And the sun rise that day was awesome.

I suppose when you're running on empty, your body releases endorphins to compensate, and that may have contributed to my alpine high that morning. But I nearly sprinted up Cashmere; I don't recall any annoying parts of the scramble at all. There was very little boulder hopping on the standard route. The snow fields on the north face helped out. There are a couple class 3 moves to gain the summit block, but they are not extremely exposed. In retrospect, while it was a nice day, it was also a bit hazy. Nonetheless, I was in such a good mood that I actually took my time on the way out. At least until I got back on the Eightmile Lake trail. Man that thing is long. All-in-all, a gorgeous and memorable trip. (~17 miles roundtrip, ~5700 ft. gain; ~7 miles, ~4000 ft. to camp)

Eightmile to Caroline

[Eightmile Lake Trail]
[Eightmile Lake Trail (1)][Eightmile Lake Trail (2)][Eightmile Lake Trail (3)][Eightmile Lake Trail (4)]
Eightmile Lake Trail: Little Eightmile Lake. The junction to Lake Caroline is before this point, but I wanted to ditch my nasty Seattle tap water and filter some from the creek. The lupine and paintbrush were as attractive as the last time I was here.
[Marmot Peek-a-boo]
[Marmot Peek-a-boo (1)][Marmot Peek-a-boo (2)][Marmot Peek-a-boo (3)][Marmot Peek-a-boo (4)]
Marmot Peek-a-boo: I had a short encounter with this marmot hiking up to Lake Caroline. (1) Maybe interested? (2) No, not interested. (3) More lupine and paintbrush on the hillside. (4) Ditto.
[Eightmile Lake]
Eightmile Lake: View of the lake and a peak from the hillside heading to Caroline.
[Trail and Flowers]
[Trail and Flowers (1)][Trail and Flowers (2)]
Trail and Flowers: Despite the overcast sky, there was plenty of scenery like this to look at along the trail. (1) More lupine. (2) And more by the charred forest.
[Lake Caroline]
[Lake Caroline (1)][Lake Caroline (2)]
Lake Caroline: Had a snack by the lake. The view here wasn't great even when it was sunny on my way back. No wonder it is the least popular Enchantments Zone. (1) Cashmere under the clouds. (2) Little Lake Caroline. I ran into a couple campsites here even on this cloudy day.

South Slopes of Cashmere

[Meadows]
Meadows: Since I was on the slopes by early afternoon, I wandered around for a while searching for the perfect camp site. Eventually I settled on a spot in the flat green area near the center of this picture.
[Camp]
[Camp (1)][Camp (2)][Camp (3)]
Camp: It was a little hard to balance the desire for a view, the need for a flat spot, and the conscience to have minimal impact. This spot near a receding snowfield was more dead grass than most others, so a pitched my tent here. (1) Views of Dragontail and Colchuck above Colchuck Lake to the south. (2) The snowfield feed directly into a stream nearby, behind the field of lupine in this picture. (3) The blue sky peeked through a couple times during the afternoon.
[Panorama I]
[Panorama I (1)][Panorama I (2)][Panorama I (3)][Panorama I (4)]
Panorama I: Enchantments, Dragontail, Colchuck, Sherpa, and Stuart under clouds. Don't let the bits of blue sky and sunset glow in this photo fool you; this was simply the best time of the entire afternoon. The remainder of the time, it ranged from raining to socked in. (1) Dragontail and Colchuck Lake. (2) Sunset behind clouds and rain. (3) I am sure glad I brought my iPod to pass the time. (4) Socked in.
[More Lupine]
[More Lupine (1)][More Lupine (2)][More Lupine (3)][More Lupine (4)][More Lupine (5)]
More Lupine: At one point, it stopped raining long enough for me to take some dripping wet photos of the lupine by the creek. This field of unblossomed and blossomed lupine was indeed pretty.

Summit Day

[Morning in Contrast]
[Morning in Contrast (1)][Morning in Contrast (2)][Morning in Contrast (3)]
Morning in Contrast: I awoke expecting to go home, but then I looked outside to find this. It was still pretty windy though, so before heading out, I moved my tent behind some tree cover to ensure that it wouldn't fly away while I was gone. (1) Happy now. :) (2) Morning by camp. (3) View to the south.
[Panorama II]
[Panorama II (1)][Panorama II (2)]
Panorama II: Now that is more like it. The Enchantments basin begins to the right of the first notable peak on the left. The snowfield on Little Annapurna is visible at the right end of the basin. Then comes Dragontail and Colchuck above Colchuck Lake. Argonaut is next, followed by Sherpa and Stuart. Lake Caroline is below the near orange ridge. One more ridge divides Eightmile Lake from Stuart Lake. (1) Lake Caroline. (2) Sherpa and Stuart.
[Climber's Trail]
Climber's Trail: I guess after a day of bad luck, some good luck is due. Once you reach the south ridge of "Middle Cashmere" (shown here in this 360 degree panorama), there is a very easy to follow climber's trail that practically leads all the way to the summit. (O.K., when the snow melts, there won't be a boot path across the north face :)
[Subtle Hints]
[Subtle Hints (1)][Subtle Hints (2)]
Subtle Hints: With cairns like this, who needs to think about route finding? (1) Cashmere from the ridge. (2) One of two snowfields between Middle Cashmere (left) and Cashmere (right). They were icy in the early morning, but relatively flat with a good boot path.
[On the Saddle]
[On the Saddle (1)]
On the Saddle: The view north from the saddle between Middle and main Cashmere. A thick layer of haze hovers above the peaks, but I believe Glacier Peak is visible near the left. The ridge just north of Icicle Creek is pretty impressive by itself. (1) View to the south on the saddle. You can't miss the climber's trail.
[Documenting the Route]
[Documenting the Route (1)][Documenting the Route (2)][Documenting the Route (3)]
Documenting the Route: You can clearly see the climber's trail head up the west ridge of Cashmere. Just below the rocky part, the trail veers off onto the north face until it reaches Cashmere's north ridge (left edge). Then it climbs a gentle gully for a bit before hopping onto the north ridge itself. It's just a walk to the summit block from there. There are plenty of other, more challenging ways up with easily visible routes. (This photo was taken from the boulder field below Middle Cashmere, which you have to cross to get to the saddle.) (1) A few snow fields were left on the north face, but the boot prints were deep. Since I brought crampons, I used them, but I think they were overkill. There were no cliffy run outs, so just an axe would have given enough piece of mind. (2) The start of the gully. The north ridge is the rocky left edge of this picture. The gully follows that edge. (3) At some point, the path of least resistance leads up onto the north ridge, shown here. Its just a walk up from here; no big boulders or arete in the way.
[Summit]
[Summit (1)]
Summit: The summit block. A few class 3 moves and you're there. (1) 360 summit panorama. In my excitement, I forgot to take the polarizer off my camera so the sky shows substantial banding. The haze didn't help.
[Panoramas]
[Panoramas (1)][Panoramas (2)][Panoramas (3)]
Panoramas: West: Cathedral Rock and Daniel among others in the distance. (1) North: haze covering everything but Grindstone, Cape Horn, and Snowgrass. (2) South: Enchantments and the Stuart Range. (3) Down: Caroline Lake and the south slopes of Cashmere. The ridge running from the center to the right of this picture is where the climber's trail begins.
[Me!]
Me!: Self-panoramas always end up warped. :)
[Consolation Summit]
[Consolation Summit (1)][Consolation Summit (2)][Consolation Summit (3)]
Consolation Summit: If the summit block is too scary, you'll be happy to know that there is a large flat area just to the east of it that provides basically the same view (shown here). I couldn't find the register either on the real summit or here, but I didn't look very hard. (1) One of the USGS markers here. (2) Dragontail and Colchuck Lake again. (3) Just Colchuck Lake.

Heading Back

[The Ridge]
The Ridge: I wish more scrambling trails were this pleasant. This is better than many hiking trails.
[Ridge to Camp]
Ridge to Camp: What a difference a day makes. Although I had wandered on this slope the previous day, it didn't look nearly as appealing.
[Back at Camp]
[Back at Camp (1)][Back at Camp (2)][Back at Camp (3)][Back at Camp (4)]
Back at Camp: The pretty lupine field one last time.
[South Slope Meadows]
[South Slope Meadows (1)][South Slope Meadows (2)][South Slope Meadows (3)]
South Slope Meadows: It was possible to go south directly to Lake Caroline from my camp site, but the south slopes looked so beautiful on this sunny day, that I opted to traverse to the Windy Pass trail before heading back. It was full of flowers, streams, and small waterfalls. (1) Pink stuff and Stuart. (2) Yellow glacier lilies, Enchantments, and Dragontail. (3) View of the south slopes from the Caroline Lakes trail later in the day. The ridge of Middle Cashmere runs from the center to the right. My camp was just below it near a rectangular snowfield and a browner area visible in this picture. I traversed all the way to the left side of this picture before rejoining the trail.
[The Long Road Home]
[The Long Road Home (1)][The Long Road Home (2)]
The Long Road Home: Junction with the Windy Pass trail, looking south. (1) Cashmere on a sunny day from Caroline Lake. (2) Heading back down through the burned out forest. With many more miles to go, I picked up the pace at the Eightmile trail junction and made it back to the parking lot around 5 PM.

Last modified: Nov 27, 2011