Damien and I contemplated attempting a summit bid of Cashmere Mountain  for about a week. But as the weekend approached and we studied the weather it appeared that the Cascades were win for a massive dumping of snow! Saturday and Sunday night the freezing level was supposed to drop as low as 4,000ft! Excited for the season’s first major snow accumulation event we prepped to climb Cashmere in light snow (5 inches was predicted) and mentally prepared for this trip to end up being just a backpack due to the weather conditions. Either way the promise of the first snow was exciting. We missed it!

The drive to Leavenworth proved to be an obstacle course of swerving around massive rocks and downed trees on the highway. When we arrived at  the Eightmile Lake Trail-head On Saturday morning rain was cascading out of the grey skies. Fat, cold drops of rain to be exact. The wind was something fierce too though not as horrible as we’d had it on Rainier. Covered in Gore-Tex from head to toe Damien and I braved the storm and entered the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

The first 3 miles of the trail only gains 1000 very gradual feet. By the time we reached the Junction of Little Eightmile Lake we were dripping wet (though the gore-tex was still holding up). But we were still in good spirits. We hoped that maybe as we climbed the rain would turn to snow. However, as we turned onto the Trout Creek trail and began the climb it appeared the rain continued to thrash us for freezing droplets. The wind began the howl through the valley below too making a sounds almost like ghosts which was appropriate since it was Halloween.

We climbed quickly up through the burn anxious to get to camp. From the top of the small pass above Lake Caroline we could see that it was indeed snowing higher up on Windy Pass in the distance. We followed the long switchbacks down to the lake and followed the trail to our first creek crossing. The water was very high and the logs that were supposed to be used for the crossing were fulling submerged. Luckily to the left  a few yards upstream there were few logs and rocks that were not overly submerged and provided a safe crossing. Another 1/2 mile on the trail we were awarded with our second risky crossing, this one more treacherous than the first. The logs, again, were under deep water. To the left there was a log jam. Somehow we managed to cross those logs some of which were floating and not anchored to the creek-bed.

When we arrived at Little Lake Caroline a lot of the tent sites were occupied with massive puddles. We found one that was just muddy though and put up the tent doing our best to mitigate the rain getting inside our little home. Then we waited… and in the early evening the rain turned to snow!

We woke up the next morning to 1.5 feet of snow, much more than predicted. And huge flakes were still cartwheeling in vast numbers through the sky! We assessed that we could make up up to Windy Pass. However, we doubted that we could make up to the summit of Cashmere with this very fluffy new snow, especially through the exposed section. We also had concerns of being able to find the trail out after another few hours of snowfall. We decided that the safest option was to head out.

It was winter wonderland! We decided to walk around Little Lake Caroline instead of attempting the creek crossing again. On the second crossing the water level was a bit lower so we were able to use the direct logs. We lost the faint trail a few times in the deep snow, but luckily we managed to get it back. The snow line ended up being at about 4000ft exactly. But we we got below it the temperature was cold enough for snow to be falling instead of rain which was a very welcome relief from what were were expecting.

We arrived back at the trail-head all too soon, but we were very happy! The season’s first snow!

 

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