Cascade Mountain North Peak / 喀斯喀特山北峯

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

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Cascade Mountain was a lot of work that resulted in minimal summit views. But without moping about what we couldn’t see on top, we visited its northern neighbor for a view do-over. For context, Cascade Mountain North Peak sat 1.5 miles north of the main summit.

The Lowdown on Cascade Mountain North Peak

Access: West Fork Miller River Road
Round Trip: 10 miles
Elevation Range: 1280′-5553′
Gear: helmet, snowshoes, ice ax, crampons
GPS Track: available

Miller River Road to Miller River Crossing

Just like last weekend, we hiked through the same tree debris and a washout section in the first 2.5 miles. We overshot the turnoff by a quarter of a mile before turning around to the big log over the trail. And thanks to puzzlr‘s detailed report, I located the Miller River crossing shortly after leaving the trail.

Due to the higher level of spring water, I had to ford the frigid river. So with boots and gaiters in hands, I wobbled through pebbles in knee-high water to the other side. The cold feeling was similar to a brain freeze but for the feet! In the meantime, the pup enjoyed a good swim and did two laps. Burr!

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North Slopes Approach

From the south, we crossed the stream flowing out of Francis Lake to its east. Another report advised staying within earshot of the stream, so we did just that. As the terrain steepened, we got atop a boulder-stacked feature and then unexpectedly found the faint climbers’ trail. We traveled straight south from 3,400′ onward.

Slide alder had buried several sections of the trail. At times, it was tempting to bypass the brush by moving farther away from the stream and lose the trail. But I stuck to my instinct and fought through to find the path reappear on the other side. We continued to follow the trail until snow took over at 3800′.

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Getting Around Francis Lake

After another 500′ of steep snowshoeing, we got up into Francis Lake Basin. The snow-covered lake was three times the size of Gouging Lake. It also had a peninsula on the north end. The only sound we heard in the basin was the occasional cawing of the two ravens swirling overhead. I almost felt guilty for disturbing the serenity of this place.

I took a moment to admire the beauty of the lake before continuing. Then we walked counterclockwise along the western shore through old avalanche debris. Snow on the slopes had just the right amount of consistency to sidestep comfortably at 20-25′ above water level. We got to the south end and then took a short break in the forest.

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Upper Basin Plus North Ridge

Even with the cliff bands above the lake, we were able to bypass them on a steep snow ramp. From there we climbed up a narrow gully and continued through open forest. Then at 5000′ we broke out of the trees into the upper basin. There we got our close-up view of today’s destination.

Despite warm afternoon temperatures, snow stayed firm throughout. From east of the basin, we headed straight south toward the summit. The notch 150′ below the top on the north ridge was a great place to regroup. Later, we climbed up to the ridge crest and got our first look at the steep east face.

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Cascade Mountain North Peak Summit

I switched to crampons and put on my helmet for the ridge traverse. We stayed below the crest on the east slopes while overlooking Tumwater Lake Basin. Along the way, we punched through gaps in places with trees. In the final 20′ I was finally able to walk up to the elongated summit.

Despite having dense forest on the south end of the summit, we could see just about everything. By peering around tree branches, I could also see the dramatic Cascade Mountain main summit to the south. The arête and cornices on top of the mountain were still visible.

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Views Galore on Cascade Mountain North Peak

Even though views to the south were spotty, I could still see many high points in the Snoqualmie Pass area. Snoqualmie Mountain , Chair Peak, Mount Roosevelt, Kaleetan Peak, to name a few. Like always, Mount Rainier was smiling at us in the far south.

Views nearby included Lennox Mountain, Canoe Peak, Dog Mountain, Malachite Peak, plus some Wild Sky Wilderness summits. Farther east were Mount Daniel, Mount Hinman, Bears Breast Mountain, and Summit Chief Mountain. So many places I have yet to climb!

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Back to Francis Lake and out

I checked the west ridge before leaving the summit, and it looked like a better ascent option. Although, earlier in the upper basin I didn’t see whether there were cliffs down that side. So we retraced our steps down the north ridge and retrieved my poles back at the notch.

The 2300′ descent from the lake outlet down to the river crossing went by fast. Back in the forest, we made a pitstop next to the beautiful cascading waterfall we saw on the way up. And I took a few minutes to enjoy the sounds of the running water before heading out.

Thanks for a great day
Thanks for a great day

See more trip photos here.

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