Cascade Mountain North Peak via Frances Lake + Miller River / 喀斯喀特山

  • Reading time:10 mins read

Cascade Mountain North Peak by Malachite Peak sits 1.5 miles north of the main summit. Meanwhile, its long ridgeline divides Miller River into east and west forks. Of the route choices, Frances Lake is the most direct and the least challenging way to the peak.

Cascade Mountain North Peak above Francis Lake
Cascade Mountain North Peak above Francis Lake

See more trip photos here.

Cascade Mountain North Peak at a Glance

Access: West Fork Miller River Road
Round Trip: 10 miles
Elevation Range: 1280′-5553′
Gear: helmet, snowshoes, ice ax, crampons
Route Info: Puzzlr
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: with guidance

Miller River Crossing

We hiked over the same debris as last weekend and went through the washout at mile two. Then we walked past the turnoff by mistake and turned back to the big log in .25 mile. Soon, we found the river crossing using Puzzlr‘s detailed report.

Shortly, we forded the knee-high, frigid river. Then with boots and gaiters in my hands, I wobbled over pebbles to the other side. It felt like my feet had a brain freeze! Meanwhile, the pup enjoyed swimming a few laps. Burr!

Miller River crossing
Miller River crossing

See more trip photos here.

Cascade Mountain North Peak North Slopes

We later crossed the stream from Francis Lake to the east. Another report suggested staying within earshot of the water, so we did just that. As terrain steepened, we climbed up a boulder stack and suddenly found a faint trail. Then we moved south at 3400′.

Slide alder had buried parts of the trail. So it was tempting to avoid the brush by moving away from the stream. But we fought through the mess and located the path on the other side. Soon, we found continuous snow at 3800′.

Ridgeside attraction
Ridgeside attraction

See more trip photos here.

Going Around Francis Lake

We later reached Francis Lake after 500′ of steep gain. The snowy lake was three times the size of Gouging Lake, with a peninsula to the north! The only sound here was the cawing of the two ravens swirling above. So I felt guilty for disrupting the calm.

I took a moment to admire the lake, and then we walked along the west shore over old avalanche debris. The snow had the right consistency to step sideways comfortably above the water. Soon, we reached the south end and took a short break in the trees.

Going around Francis Lake
Going around Francis Lake

See more trip photos here.

Cascade Mountain North Peak North Ridge

Past the lake were cliff bands, which we bypassed on a steep snow ramp. Then we climbed up a narrow gully through the open forest. We broke out of the trees at 5000′ into the upper basin and soon saw today’s goal.

Despite a warm afternoon, the snow was still firm. Then we went south toward the summit from the basin’s east. We regrouped by the notch 150′ below the north ridge before climbing onto the crest. There we saw the steep east side.

Cascade Mountain North Peak north ridge
Cascade Mountain North Peak north ridge

See more trip photos here.

Cascade Mountain North Peak Summit Views

Shortly, I put on crampons and the helmet for the final bit. Then we traversed just below the crest above Tumwater Lake Basin. En route, we constantly stepped through the thin snow on krummholz. And only within 20′ of the top was I able to walk comfortably.

Even with dense forest on the south end, we could see everything. By peering around tree branches, I saw Cascade Mountain‘s impressive main summit. The arête and cornices on top of it were still visible.

Cascade Mountain main peak
Cascade Mountain main peak

See more trip photos here.

Cascade Mountain North Peak Summit Views

Views to the south were spotty. But I could see places around Snoqualmie Pass, including Snoqualmie Mountain, Chair Peak, Mount Roosevelt, and Kaleetan Peak. Like always, Mount Rainier loomed in the distant south.

The nearby peaks were Lennox Mountain, Canoe Peak, Dog Mountain, Malachite Peak, plus others in Wild Sky Wilderness. Farther east was Mount Daniel, Mount Hinman, and Bears Breast Mountain. Still, so many places I had yet to visit!

Northern panoramic view
Northern panoramic view

See more trip photos here.

Exiting via Francis Lake

Before leaving, I looked over at the west ridge, and it looked like a better route option. But in the basin, I couldn’t tell if cliffs were on that side. So we retraced our steps down the north ridge to get my poles from the notch.

The 2300′ drop from the lake outlet to Miller River went by fast. Back in the trees, we made a pitstop by the beautiful waterfall in the ravine. Then I took some time to enjoy the sounds of the water before leaving.

Thanks for a great day
Thanks for a great day

See more trip photos here.

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