Cascade Mountain the Elusive One / 難以捉摸的喀斯喀特山

Cascade Mountain above Gouging Lake
Cascade Mountain above Gouging Lake

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Cascade Mountain was a dramatic scenery change from yesterday’s outing. The first time we hiked on the Miller River Road was seven years ago on our way to Lennox Mountain. Then four years ago we got a late start and got as far as Gouging Lake before calling it quits. This time I wanted to see the mountain up close.

The Lowdown on Cascade Mountain

Access: West Fork Miller River Road
Round Trip: 14.6 miles
Elevation Range: 1280′-5591′
Gear: snowshoes, ice ax, microspikes
GPS Track: available

Miller River Road to Coney Creek Crossing

Road conditions hadn’t changed much since our last visit. However, there was a new pile of down trees in the first mile. Then we bypassed a short section of washed out trail in mile 2. Otherwise, the hike to Coney Creek crossing at mile 3 was at times rocky but overall smooth sailing.

I couldn’t remember where the heck we crossed the raging Coney Creek the last time. So this time we first went upstream but couldn’t find a safe place to cross. Then we headed 250′ downstream from the trail and found log debris with rocks to hop to the other side.

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Coney Creek to Miller River Crossing

Despite the occasional postholing after the crossing, there still wasn’t enough snow on the ground to put on snowshoes. Since the section beyond the creek doesn’t get nearly as much foot traffic, it was naturally brushier. Even so, the 1.5-mile hike to Miller Creek was a breeze.

Glad I had marked the log crossing on my GPS and located it even before we got off the trail. The big log in full body-width wasn’t too wet, but it was a bit slippery. So I used microspikes to avoid sliding into the raging river at six feet below.

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Final Creek Crossing to Gouging Lake

Our third and the least time-consuming creek crossing took place at 2400′. It got us to the south side of the unnamed creek flowing out of Gouging Lake. For the next 1500′ we headed southeast on steep slopes toward the lake basin. The terrain was mostly brushy until we had full snow coverage.

I put on snowshoes in the last 600′ up to the lake. The terrain steepened, but then it gradually flattened once closer to the outlet. After taking a quick break, we continued snowshoeing clockwise around the lake to the southwest end.

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Water Gully to West Slopes

The lower section of the gully was steep with broken snow in the center. We stayed to the left below the cliffs and got above the drainage using exposed rocks and small trees. Above the waterfall, we were back on full snow and continued uphill.

In the upper basin, we stayed on the right to avoid potential slide directly ahead. Once on the west ridge at 4700′, we then headed east through rolling hills to the base of the mountain. The 300′ leading to the craggy north shoulder was steep despite what the moderate contour lines on the map indicated.

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Snowing on Cascade Mountain

It started to snow after we got up to the north shoulder. I then changed out my wet layers, and we rested for a bit. From what I could tell, a snow arête with cornices covered what looked like a narrow summit ridge. The unanticipated snowfall further complicated things on the steep terrain.

So, I asked the pup to keep an eye on the snowshoes and stay in the trees. Meanwhile, I went to tag the summit by myself. I wish I had packed crampons, but microspikes worked out fine on semi-soft, steep snow. The rocks on the west face looked much friendlier than approaching the arête from the north.

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Quick Summit Stay Plus Descent

It was hard to tell how much of the arête was part of the cornices. Or how much of it was on top of the ground. So I took just a few steps onto the snow with ice ax dug in deep. At the same time, I tried not to lean into anything. I took a quick video clip and then downclimbed to reunite with the pup.

Due to poor visibility, we waited around for a while until the clouds began to dissipate. Then we moved fast to get back down into the upper basin when the ridgeline reappeared. Even though I was still sliding in places with snowshoes, I needed them for the soft snow.

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Back to Gouging Lake and out

It was still snowing after we got back to the lake basin. But of course, all of the precipitation higher up would result in rain and wet vegetation lower down the mountain.

We reversed our route and repeated the three creek crossings. I picked up a dead plastic balloon on the way down to Miller River. It was much faster to cross Coney Creek on the way out.

Back to Gouging Lake
Back to Gouging Lake

See more trip photos here.

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