2017/10/08 – Caroline Peak / 卡羅琳峯

One step closer
One step closer

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Nearly three weeks into the fall and I’m still cathing up on summer trip photos. Hopefully by posting fall trips in real time will serve as a constant reminder to speed up the catch-up process. Winter is fastly approaching…

Caroline Peak had been on the radar since I first took notice on Preacher Mountain back in 2012. An attempt to climb the peak in 2014 had us turn around at Upper Wildcat Lake after getting off route for some time. Although a summer overnight trip would make the long approach worthwhile, popularity of Alpine Lakes Wilderness during high season continued to put the plan on the back burner.

Destination in clouds
Destination in clouds

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Banking on low cloud coverage and lower chance of snow and rain in late morning, pup and I set off on the Snow Lake Trail later than expected. Some snow and slush on the way to Snow Lake and down north side of the wilderness boundary, but nothing to pose real problems. One tent seen atop the cliffs as we crossed the bridge over Snow Lake outlet.

Semi wintry conditions halfway to Gem Lake with more snow and slush. We passed five hikers along the muddy trail as they hiked out. Trail wound its way counterclockwise around north shore of Gem Lake, and descended the Wildcat Lake Trail while hugging steep west face of Wright Mountain, then it became largely snow free. Sky began to clear up a bit with some blue seeping through clouds as the trail crossed a steady stream in the talus-filled basin.

The other basin
The other basin

Photos from this trip can be found here.

An elevation loss of 1,000′ got us down to the lowest point in the basin at Lower Wildcat Lake, followed by a short, 300′ brushy ascent to Upper Wildcat Lake. I briefly chatted with two hikers below the lake outlet as they hiked out. At north end of the lake, a steep talus field followed by wet heather slopes provided access to the 4,640′ saddle. Three noticeable cairns strategically placed along the way proved that we were still on route.

Southwest ridge was initially cumbersome without the aid of full snow coverage or summer hikers trail to Lake Caroline. At times the heavily timbered ridge crest and outcrops forced us onto north slopes, which would have been considerably easier to side step across sans snow. Occasionally we followed what appeared to be parts of the faint Lake Caroline trail and followed it until it eventually dwindled out.

The elusive
The elusive

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Ridge line took a turn due south at 5,000′, where tall trees began to thin out with fuller snow coverage. Snowshoes made getting through this section without much effort, I was extremely happy to have made the decision to pack them.

Directly below the north buttress at 5,400′, a massive talus spanned across both northeast and northwest faces of Caroline Peak. We took the climbers right and proceeded with the northwest face option. From 5,600′ a rising traverse southwestward put us on the west ridge at 5,900′, then a short ridge scramble eastward put us on top.

Northeast view
Northeast view with Wildcat Lakes

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Thankfully summit wasn’t overly windy and the forecasted afternoon snow and rain never materialized. Knowing well we wouldn’t make it back to the trailhead before dark, we enjoyed a good 45-minute break on top, savored the views, and watched clouds moving in and out of the area. We retraced our steps back down to the talus soon after.

From the talus we reversed our route back down to Wildcat Lakes, back up to Gem Lake, down to Snow Lake, up to the wilderness boundary, and down the last 2.5 miles out to the car. ‘Twas a long day…

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

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Access: Snow Lake Trail > Gem Lake Trail > Wildcat Lake Trail
Gear: snowshoes

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