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Cashmere Mountain Loop (Victoria's Secret Couloir)

4/13/24
WA Cascades East Slopes Central
594
1
Posted by UpperSkagit_JC on 4/16/24 6:37am

The west side that weekend looked wet, so Zach and I drove out to Leavenworth to ski Victoria's Secret Couloir on the north side of Cashmere Mountain. We did not find too much beta on the route, but I had heard from a local that snow up high was too deep to effectively boot up anything so dropping in from the top seemed like a reasonable idea. The goal then was to walk up FS 7601 to either Pioneer Creek, or the summer trail to Cashmere.

 

Despite there being patches of snow on the FS road, starting at 4:30 AM we walked up 8-mile campground realizing a mile in that we were at the wrong road. We turned back, drove to the proper road, and lost 40 minutes. So, we began our journey for the second time- me in chacos and Zach in trail runners- all the way to the summer trail noticing little to no snow on the south-facing slopes of Cashmere. Not surprising given the state Washington's winter, but still a bummer. We continued up the summer trail climbing over occasional snow patches but were able to stay on top of the melt-freeze crust, staying in the chacos until we reached the furthest end of the drainage basin. The summer trail turned uphill towards Caroline Lakes below Cashmere, but from there we lost the trail in the burn area. The snow was patchy and punchy, knee-deep in some areas and non-existent in others. We picked our way through the burn on foot (now in ski boots) and this ate up a lot of our time and energy. It was evident that a storm was coming in from the west as wind picked up and the temperature dropped, but we kept pushing on. As a tourist in this area, I was thankful to have some sort of GPS for guidance albeit a half-downloaded map...

Near the top of the ridge below the lakes at around 5200', we were able to start skinning on very decent snow- the snow we hoped was in the couloir. We skin-skied down to the lake and then decided to stay low in the lake basin with an idea to skin up the SE bowl below Cashmere. It was nearly 11 am by the time we reached a fork in the road to either go right towards the bowl, or left towards Windy Pass. The snow was a mix of breakable crust and heavy snow on melt-freeze crust. Because of this, we decided to head towards Windy Pass and walk the ridge towards the Col. Meanwhile, the storm was overhead and flurries of light snow began to fall...

With little to no visibility, we steadily switched between post-holing through thigh-deep amazing snow, walking on thin firm/icy ridge crests, and punching through dicey wind slabs to finally get past Cashmere West. Visibility opened up and we saw the bowl we had thought about ascending, and (to me) it was clearly the better option for ascent. This bowl also looked like an amazing descent, but visibility closed up again. We climbed to the col below Cashmere thinking it was the entrance and dropped into very firm, nearly icy conditions. Bummer. I should have read weather reports more closely.

Our next mistake here was that we dropped into the wrong col and had to boot up a small moraine to get into the proper drainage which funneled straight into Victoria's Secret Couloir. She looked short and sweet, dropping into Victoria Lake Basin....behold. Time was around 2 pm. We stop to assess and chat briefly about skiing down, and as Z traverses into the col above me, the wind slab with a 2 foot crown breaks and washes down into the basin. This was our worst mistake, one we rarely make but mistakes happen- never ski above your ski partner. We saw fresh ski tracks below us for the first time that day, and are so thankful that we didn't bury anyone (there was no one down there). 

The avy debris was pleasant to ski at least. The exit was a long traverse on the NW side of Victoria Creek drainage with many many transitions between skiing, snowboarding, and booting due to the inconsistent snow depth and varying topography. Finally, we reached a descent through small trees back into the Icicle Creek drainage and this was the best skiing of the day- something between corn and slush. It was nearly 1000' of skiing through a forest of mini trees!

The exit was through private property and out Victoria Street- if we had known this, we would not have gone this way. We quickly walked on the residential road across a bridge, and started our walk back down Icicle Creek Canyon road. 30 minutes later, we hitched a ride from a Leavenworth local who saved us nearly an hour of extra road-walking. 

We got back to our car, having overcome all the obstacles and dealing with all the mistakes we made along the way. It was a lot of walking compared to skiing, but we had a lot of fun touring in a new area nonetheless. 

 

Thanks for the report! I'm planning for Little Annapurna and dragon tail overnight next weekend. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong  but I believe enchantment overnight permit season doesn't begin until May 15th.


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UpperSkagit_JC
2024-04-16 13:37:03