Wild Dare Peak by Caroline Peak via Upper Wildcat Lake / 野膽峯

  • Reading time:12 mins read

Wild Dare Peak by Caroline Peak overlooks the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. It also perches over Wildcat Lakes in the deep Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Meanwhile, Snow Lake Trail offers one of several ways to this obscure peak.

Wild Dare Peak above Lower Wildcat Lake
Wild Dare Peak above Lower Wildcat Lake

See more trip photos here.

Wild Dare Peak at a Glance

Access: Snow Lake Trailhead
Round Trip: 14.5 miles
Elevation Range: 3120′-5311′
Gear: microspikes, snowshoes, ice ax
Route Info: Scott Rice
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: with guidance

One Hike A Week: The End of Year 13

It’s the final week of 13 years of weekly hiking adventures; woot! It seems only yesterday that I went on my first hike in the summer of 2008. Glad I decided to go on another one months later, even though I was still on the fence.

It’s a long way to Wildcat Lakes Basin, as we had done twice before climbing Caroline Peak. I had hoped for a quick walk to Snow Lake, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. To top it off, I forgot to bring my helmet, sunglasses, and tripod.

Snow Lake Trailhead
Snow Lake Trailhead

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Snow Lake Trail to the Junction

Snow at the trailhead sign soon faded at the top of the staircase. Then it was a mainly dry trail through the first clearing until after re-entering the forest. More snow was in the avalanche chutes, with up to three feet in the trees.

Many thinning snow bridges included the one over the first raging creek. The packed-down trail was decent until the fork where the lake trail took a sharp turn uphill. I had nearly missed it due to the lack of a defined path.

Snow patch below the cliffs
Snow patch below the cliffs

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Through the Cliffs to the Pass

We spotted recent tracks that faded due to the warm weather and were hard to follow. So we made a beeline through the dry rocks to the upper trail. Below the cliffs was still a 20-25 foot stretch of steep snow patch over the path.

I crossed using microspikes and an ice ax, but I would’ve preferred crampons. After going through another patch, it was a dry trail until after the next bend. Then we walked along the wooden staircase, followed by steady snow to the pass.

Snowshoeing along the edge of Snow Lake
Snowshoeing along the edge of Snow Lake

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Snow Lake to Gem Lake by Wright Mountain

The morning inversion offered limited basin views. We dropped to the shore through the would-be summer trail and snowshoed past Snow Lake. The quick melting lake water had a beautiful blue strip lining the rim.

We crossed the exposed log by the outlet and went through several small ridge bumps. As the clouds slowly faded, we soon found ourselves above the inversion. Then we took a break in the shade by the icy Gem Lake as the sun blasted down.

South panorama from Gem Lake
South panorama from Gem Lake

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Wildcat Lakes Basin

We contoured north of the lake before re-entering the trees on the ridge. Parts of the summer trail were visible, but we plunge-stepped through the snow. Then at the bottom, we went past the 4200′ pond plus a raging creek.

We soon passed the lower pond over a minor ridge to reach Lower Wildcat Lake. Then we took in the full view of Wild Dare Peak above the water. Staying south of the creek, we crossed the outlet before reaching the upper lake in 300′.

Dropping into Wildcat Lakes Basin
Dropping into Wildcat Lakes Basin

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Wild Dare Peak Southeast Ridge

I had contemplated taking the northeast ridge for the direct approach. Too bad, since it would’ve shaved off half the mileage, though, with mainly tree views. But I wanted to save the terrible road to Dingford Creek Trail for another trip.

Through trees, we hugged the edge of the rock field en route to the southwest saddle. During this, we picked up a faint trail with some orange flagging. With a pause on the woodsy pass, we continued north after a quick view of the peak.

Upper Wildcat Lake below Caroline Peak
Upper Wildcat Lake below Caroline Peak

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The Final Stretch

It may have been one of the most forested crests we’d ever traversed. The bouldered ridge had forced us below the west most of the time. Glad to have some snowfields to help make a beeline through the otherwise rocky terrain.

The ridge veered north above 5000′, with us on the crest in the final 200′. It could be the steep side traverse, but the steady inline never ended. Finally, we made it up to one of the area’s obscure peaks atop the dense vegetation.

Cooling off on the snow below our destination
Cooling off on the snow below our destination

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Wild Dare Peak Summit Views

Despite the forested top, Wild Dare Peak offered grand vistas to the east and north. There was direct sight of Mount Garfield across the valley. It also showed off many Stone Kingdom peaks, including Chimney Rock and Burnt Boot Peak.

Even with trees, I still peeked through the branches at Mount Roosevelt and Caroline Peak. But Preacher Mountain was only visible down on the crest. Half an hour was all we could spare before making the long way out.

Northwest panorama from Wild Dare Peak
Northwest panorama from Wild Dare Peak

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Leaving Wildcat Lakes Basin

It ended up being a gorgeous day despite possible thunderstorms in the forecast. Without sunglasses, I squinted during most of the trip uncomfortably. Otherwise, it would’ve been a more pleasant trip, even with the heat.

Instead of going back north of Gem Lake, we aimed at the top of the long basin. After reaching the saddle at 5000′, we dropped to the outlet and continued to the other end of Snow Lake. Then came the 400′ (blah) climb back to the pass and out.

Finding our way home
Finding our way home

See more trip photos here.

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