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
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:
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.
I had a short encounter with this marmot hiking up to
(1) Maybe interested?
(2) No, not interested.
(3) More lupine and paintbrush on the hillside.
View of the lake and a peak from the hillside heading
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.
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
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.
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
(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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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
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:
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
(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
(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.
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.
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.
Self-panoramas always end up warped. :)
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.
I wish more scrambling trails were this pleasant.
This is better than many hiking trails.
Ridge to Camp:
What a difference a day makes. Although I had wandered
on this slope the previous day, it didn't look nearly
Back at Camp:
The pretty lupine field one last time.
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:
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