The weather forecast for this weekend looked very bleak earlier in the week. By Marybeth and I crossed our fingers and for once in WA the weather turned from rain and snow predicted to mostly sunny with a few flurries. Happily we geared up for another journey into the Enchantments. This time the Plan was to go up to Little Lake Caroline and set up basecamp. If there was time and weather allowed we would attempt to climb Cashmere Mountain.

Saturday started out sunny and warm. The trail to Little Eightmile Lake is in good condition, but we would have roasted had it been high summer. The area is an old burn an this shade is difficult to come by. We turned right at the junction by Little Eightmile Lake which is really more of a puddle and began the long swtichbacks to the top of the ridge. There are several downed trees here that need to be navigated. Otherwise the going is pretty straightforward and good views abounds as you climb higher. We didn’t hit significant amounts of snow until about 6000 ft. There are easy to follow tracks though and we didn’t find it necessary to bring out the snowshoes. The 200 ft descent to Lake Caroline is very steep, but plunge stepping made it very doable. We walked around the right side of the lake and crossed the log jammed outlet a few yards upstream on a log. From there we put on snowshoes and followed tracks another half mile to the left until we reached the river. We followed that to Little Lake Caroline.

There was a good campsite on the other side of the lake that was melted out and in the trees. Marybeth decided to try crossing the ice away from the river outlet. I waited on the the other side with my hand on my InReach. She made it safely though and I followed.

After setting up a cozy camp we decided to go for Cashmere Mountain or at least Windy Pass. We  used our snowshoes and followed tracks and party melted trail to what seemed like the described ridge in the route. As we climbed thick clouds rolled in and obscured a once clear view of Dragontail and Colchuck in a mere two minutes. Snow fell thickly to almost white out conditions and the while picked up significantly. It had snowed intermittently all day but this by far was the worse. We had a quick discussion and opted to descend. We knew it would probably pass, but didn’t want to take a chance in case it got worse. Of course when we were almost at the lake the sky cleared. So we spent the rest of the evening snowshoeing the flats.

The night was very cold and we awoke to blue skies and a crystallized tent. After finally gathering up the nerve to emerge from our sleeping bags we cooked breakfast and packed up. Marybeth had examined the ridge between us and Lake Caroline on the Topo map and thought it might be a fun cross country detour. We headed toward the trailless ridge with out snowshoes. It was a steep climb, but very doable. There are some cornices on top to be aware of, but they can easily be avoided.

We walked left along the ridge admiring the brilliant views of Asguard Pass, Colchuck, Dragontail and Cashmere. The ridge is broad in most places and narrows in some. We steered clear of the edges do to the cornices. Eventually it becomes a third class scramble over rock and talus. We opted to turn back here and descended by plunge stepped down the way we came up. We contours right along the slope halfway down observing any avy danger above. This led us to the ridge above Lake Caroline. From here we simply followed our tracks from the previous day until we reached the melted out trail. From the snowless burn it was only another 2 hours to the car.

Though we didn’t summit it was a beautiful weekend to be in the backcountry! Another great adventure of a permit camp in early season. 🙂

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