May 27-29, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend Climbing Trip: Icicle Mountains

Cashmere Mountain (8501′)

——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–

Region: Central Cascades

Starting & Ending Point: Eightmile Lake Trailhead (Eightmile Creek Road)

Way Points: Eightmile Creek & Little Eightmile Lake & Lake Caroline & Little Lake Caroline & Windy Basin (hike & snow hike)

Campsite: Windy Basin

Summit: Cashmere Mountain (climb via West Ridge; descent via Northwest Face)

Sidetrip: Windy Pass & Little Windy Point

Approximate Total Stats: 18 miles travelled;  6800 feet gained and lost.

——————– Full Trip Report ——————–

I spent Memorial Day Weekend up Icicle Creek with Lisa, Kevin L, Kevin K, George, and Eileen.  We hiked into Caroline Lakes on Friday and set up a base camp at 6500 feet in Windy Basin.  Our goal was Mt. Cashmere.  It had been exactly 40 years since my last ascent of this peak, so I felt confident that a return trip would not be viewed as excessive repetition.  I soon found out that some peaks—including this one—just get better with age.

Day 1 – Trailhead to Windy Basin:

There was a chilly wind blowing out of the northeast all day Friday as we hiked up to Windy Basin above Lake Caroline.

Day 2 – Summit Climb:

We awoke to a skiff of fresh snow in camp on Saturday morning.

Cold Morning In Camp

The day started clear enough to give some nice views over to the Stuart Range.  It was also comforting to see a healthy high-elevation snowpack.

Heading Across Windy Basin
Aasgard Pass To Argonaut Peak

We hiked up frozen tundra and crusty snowfields, heading for Mt. Cashmere.

Snow and Tundra Above Windy Basin

Our clear weather didn’t last long.  Upon reaching the low saddle between Windy Ridge and Mt. Cashmere, we were met by fog and snow showers.  Frosted vegetation gave a sublime beauty to the landscape.

Hiking Toward West Ridge

The weather looked unpromising, but Kevin K, George, Eileen and I were game to continue onward.  The four of us roped up and climbed along Mt. Cashmere’s west ridge.  In the summertime, this route would be a Class 2-3 scramble; with the snow and rime covered rock, it became an interesting Class 4 climb.

Climbing West Ridge

We got a nice mixture of rock and hard snow on the northern side of the ridge.  Numerous slings and several chocks provided adequate protection along the way.  The southern side was all bare rock and easier climbing.

George High On West Ridge

The fog and wintry conditions gave a wonderful “big mountain” feel to the ascent.  George remarked that he’s had many winter climbs that were warmer than this one!  After a long series of running belays, we hit the rimey summit shortly before noon (4.4 hours from camp).

George, Kevin, and Eileen On Summit

Rather than retracing our up-route back along the west ridge, we descended via the northwest face.  This featured moderately steep and crusty snowfields between rock outcrops.  We used running belays with several snow pickets on the steepest snowfields.

Descending NW Face

A blizzard passed through during our descent, but the weather gradually cleared throughout the evening.

Day 3 – Windy Basin to Trailhead:

We awoke to cold blue skies on Sunday and hiked out, passing 50 or so day hikers heading up to Eightmile Lake.


——————– Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————–