Caroline Peak by Preacher Mountain / 靠牧師山的卡羅琳峯

Caroline Peak has been on the radar since I first saw it from Preacher Mountain. The pup and I attempted the peak in 2014. But then we turned around at Upper Wildcat Lake after going off route. I hoped to get some views this weekend since we couldn’t see much last week.

One step closer to Caroline Peak
Caroline Peak up ahead

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Caroline Peak at a Glance

Access: Snow Lake Trailhead
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 3120′-5885′
Gear: snowshoes
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on the trail

Caroline Peak

Nearly three weeks into the fall and I’m still catching up on summer posts. But hopefully, by posting fall trips in real-time will be a constant reminder to speed up the process. Winter is fastly approaching!

An overnight trip to Caroline Peak would make the long hike worthwhile. But I continued to put the plan on hold. The popularity of Alpine Lakes Wilderness during the high season doesn’t seem appealing.

Caroline Peak in the clouds
Caroline Peak in the clouds

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Snow Lake Trailhead

The forecast had a small chance of rain and snow in the late morning. So the pup and I started hiking later. There was some snow on the way to Snow Lake and down the north side of the wilderness boundary. But nothing to pose real issues. Snow Lake Trail ended at the junction. So we got on High Lakes Trail and crossed the outlet on the bridge. I saw a tent above the cliffs.

It turned wintry halfway to Gem Lake. We passed five hikers along the muddy trail as they exited. The path then made its way around the north shore. Then it crossed the steep west face of Wright Mountain before going into Lower Wildcat Lake Basin on switchbacks. Later, the terrain became mostly snow-free. The sky began to clear up at one point. Then we went through a stream among the talus.

The other basin
The other basin

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Wildcat Lakes Basin

An elevation loss of 1000′ put us at the lowest point in the basin. Then we went up 300′ through some brush to Upper Wildcat Lake. I briefly chatted with two hikers below the lake outlet as they hiked out. From the end of the official trail, we continued through to the north end of the lake. There a steep talus and wet heather slopes gave access to the 4640′ saddle. Three noticeable cairns along the way proved that we were still on route.

Going through the southwest ridge was initially cumbersome. There wasn’t enough snow coverage to make things go smoothly. At times, the heavily timbered ridge crest and outcrops forced us onto the north slopes. But it would have been considerably easier to sidestep across minus the snow. We sometimes followed what looked like a game trail. So we try to stay on the path until it eventually dwindled out.

The elusive
The elusive Caroline Peak

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Caroline Peak Summit

The ridgeline went south at 5000′. Then the tall trees began to thin out. There was more snow as we went up higher. I put on snowshoes at some point. And it made getting through this part with much less effort. I was incredibly happy to have decided to bring them.

Below the north buttress was a massive talus. It spanned from the northeast to the northwest side of the peak. So we made a right and continued with the northwest face option. From 5600′, we moved southwest and went up the rocky terrain. Then that put us up on the west ridge at 5900′. A short scramble east on the ridgeline then put us on top.

Northeast view
Northeast view with Wildcat Lakes

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Glad that the summit wasn’t too windy. The afternoon snow plus rain forecast never happened. But knowing we wouldn’t make it back before dark, we enjoyed 45 minutes on top. Then we savored the views as clouds shifted around the area. We followed our tracks to go back down to the talus afterward.

From the talus, we used our route to go back down to Wildcat Lakes. There we followed the trail up to Gem Lake and then back to Snow Lake. Then we climbed up for the last time to the wilderness boundary. From there, it was just walking the last 2.5 miles out to the car. A long day it was!

Thank you for another safe weekend
Thank you for another safe weekend

See more trip photos here.

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