Central Cascades, Leavenworth Area
19.5 miles, roundtrip
(This is from what we recorded on a Garmin Epix Pro 2)
Gain: 6245 ft.
Highest Point: 8501 ft.
Cashmere Mountain is a beautiful hike near the Enchantments in Washington State. With about 6200' of elevation gain and nearly 20 miles roundtrip, it makes for a tough day hike for most.
On a hot summer day and limited water sources, there are some logistics to consider when doing this climb later in the season, which I will discuss down below.
If you've ever been to the Enchantments, then you have driven right past the trailhead for Cashmere Mountain. You'll park at the Eightmile Trailhead, and begin your journey there.
You'll follow the Eightmile trail for about 2.8 miles until you reach Little Eightmile lake. There is a trail junction here, and you will want to turn right and follow the Eightmile-Trout Creek Trail 1554.
This trail starts to climb right away. If you started your hike in the daylight, this is where you'll start noticing that there isn't a whole lot of areas to protect you from the sun. This is going to be the same story most of the day, so keep that in mind!
The entire way up to Lake Caroline was beautiful. Lots of wildflowers were in bloom, quite a bit of wildlife, and the views are really pretty.
I've never despised a lake so much in my life! Around 6300' you'll see the first glimpse of Lake Caroline, and you will drop a little bit of elevation to get down to it.
The lake itself is pretty, and it was also extremely quiet. I thought it was a great idea to refill water here and enjoy some of the serenity. But then there is a little buzzz next to my ear, and I knew the silence in the air was about to change.
Next thing I know, I am moving quickly to get out of the area. Mosquitoes were swarming all over me as I was the first fresh meal they've seen in awhile. For 1.5 miles my hands were busy swatting at my arms and legs trying to kill as many mosquitoes as possible, but the army of devilish flyers continued to attack. At one point I set my own personal PR of killing 8 mosquitoes with one swat (hint: records are made to be broken).
Once you break out of the lake basin area and into the meadows leading towards Windy Pass, the skeeters finally gave up their pursuit (for the most part).
Windy Pass (And Potential "Shortcut")
After Lake Caroline you can make a choice: go up towards Windy Pass, or try to pick a shortcut through the meadow and make a straight line towards Cashmere Mountain. Windy Pass adds about 2 extra miles roundtrip.
My goal was to take the Windy Pass route unless I see a great shortcut route that looked more efficient.
About halfway up towards Windy Pass, I saw a cairn that headed in the direction of the potential shortcut area. I decided that I might as well check it out.
In later season (now), the shortcut route is full of plants, wildflowers, soft ground, and is tougher to navigate compared to if there was snow on the ground. Immediately I decided to make my way back to the trail and continue with the more efficient route.
About 400 feet from Windy Pass there is a nice stream with flowing water, I highly recommend refilling here. I will talk about this more later on.
The Ridge Leading to Cashmere Mountain
At the top of Windy Pass, you can now see the ridge leading to Cashmere Mountain. The views from up here are absolutely amazing, but there is a annoying bummer that you realize once you get to this point:
There are 2 "mini mountains" to go over before getting to Cashmere, Point 7555 and Point 8279.
It's like the feeling of a false summit, when you think you are getting close but then reality shows you that you still have a long ways to go. That's the feeling I had once I was on the ridge.
Well, knowing there was no other way to go from here except forward, I continued on with my journey.
Hydration: Massive Deal, Prepare Early
Okay remember that stream I mentioned earlier? Well this is where it comes into play.
The beta I had said that water "wasn't a problem" for this hike. To me, I thought that meant there must be a snow patch on the backside of Cashmere that had flowing water coming off of it, which I thought would be amazing!
However, most reports I read from previous years said that water was limited, so I had it in the back of my mind that I may need to carry extra water. So I had my 1L bottle and an additional 2L bladder that I could fill up.
But since the beta from 2 weeks ago said water was fine, I figured I didn't need to stop at that last creek and fill everything up (even though my gut instinct was to fill up anyways).
That was a terrible call on my part. Once I got to Windy Ridge, I was already mostly through my 1L bottle, and that's all I had. With the sun beating directly on me all day, I also knew my hydration game had been way off.
#1 Problem That Lead to Dehydration
To backtrack just a touch, I knew with the heat I needed to stay on top of my hydration. However, my water bottle isn't the easiest to get to by myself without setting down my camera, taking my backpack off, etc. So I was being lazy about drinking water, trying to beat the heat, and pushed hard so I could minimize my time in the sun.
That didn't work. Once I stopped sweating as much, I knew I was in trouble.
The ridge walk is what really killed my mojo. Once I knew I was dehydrated, and knew I was screwed when it came to water, then my energy depleted fast.
I had to preserve what little water I had. My mouth was dry as a bone. The sun was scorching my skin. Bugs used me as a walking meal. I couldn't eat anything because I didn't have enough fluids to digest anything. I was pissed off at the "beta" but ultimately at myself for not listening to my gut and instead relying on other's info.
I found some patches of snow which I put into a bottle to slowly melt, but it wasn't melting fast enough to really supply me with that much water.
My saving grace from not completely collapsing or cramping up is because my electrolyte game is always on point. Every bottle of water I had, I used LMNT to replenish my lost electrolytes. It is by far my favorite electrolyte solution!
Climbing to the Summit of Cashmere Mountain
When you finally get over the mini peaks are are on your way to Cashmere, my recommendation is to stay as far left as you possibly can until you are directly north of the summit. Once you are directly north of the summit, you'll see some scramble chutes that go all the way to the summit.
The rock is pretty crappy, lots of scree, lots of sandy soft stuff, so keep your hands on the larger and more stable options as you make your way up. You only have a few hundred feet to go before reaching the summit.
The Buggiest Summit of My Life
Even though I was massively dehydrated, I was so excited to reach the summit and be done with the uphill portion of the day.
My excitement quickly changed to confusion as I looked around and noticed bugs flying everywhere. At first it seemed like it was a million ladybugs, but then I noticed another million of a-hole bugs as well.
I start making my way to the true summit so I can check it off my list and look for the summit register, but all of a sudden the a-hole bugs started swarming my face and body. If you watch the video, you can see just how bad it was. I got my celebratory photo and then immediately went down a ways to get away from the bugs.
I've had buggy summits before, most notable one being Mt Fernow, but this summit far surpassed any buggy place I've ever been to.
Testing Out the "Shortcut"
So right before I climbed up Cashmere, I ran into a couple that was looking at taking the shortcut on the way down. They pointed out that the section we could see was pretty visible, so it shouldn't be too bad.
When I got down and was staring at having to go back up Point 8279, I said F that I will try the shortcut route instead.
Bad idea. Should've listened to my gut again.
The top section was very easy to follow. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking, "what about the next section?" Turns out the next section is a 'pick your own adventure' area that I had looked at previously.
That is not what I wanted to deal with, especially being hot, tired, and dehydrated. But I was committed at this point, there was no going backwards. So across the meadows I went.
The one nice thing about the shortcut is that there were water sources. The first one I got to, I drank 4L of water just to feel alive again. I felt so much better, but there was no 'catching up' with hydration. I was already behind by a few days, so water was basically just to keep me going and then the next few days I would fully recover.
The 'shortcut' ended up taking me longer to go down than the ridge route took me to go up. So I might have saved 1 mile, but lost even more time. I would've much rather stayed on the ridge instead.
Lake Caroline Round 2
I didn't think Lake Caroline could get any worse, but it certainly surprised me. If I thought the mosquitoes were bad before, I think they doubled in numbers since earlier that day.
Remember my PR of killing 8 skeeters in one slap? Yeah, I broke that record. I bumped up my record by 3 mosquitoes making my new PR of 11 in one slap. I hope to never break that record again.
Side note, don't mosquitoes feed on humans to use the blood for their babies? If that's the case, why would they see a ton of other mosquitoes getting absolutely destroyed and think to themselves, "You know, trying the same thing as the rest of my friends is a great parenting strategy!". Mosquitoes make for terrible parents.
When I got home, I had a few hundred bug bites on my arms, legs, and back. I have never been this itchy in my life!
The Rest of the Descent
Overall the rest of the descent went fairly straightforward. Every water source I came across I refilled my waters, and ended up drinking about 10L of water just on the descent. I was still dry as a bone.
I got extremely grumpy down by Little Eightmile Lake as the trail seemed to take FOREVER and my feet hurt. And when you have an entire mile of not descending any elevation, that is really annoying.
I did make it out with plenty of time to get a milkshake at the 59er Diner in Cole's Corner, so that was the only thing keeping me going.
For someone who has only done 1 hike this season because packrafting has taken over my fun time, my legs felt phenomenal the entire day. It must be from the hiking workout series I've been doing on Youtube!
The big thing for a climb like this is hydration, and to stay ahead of it. Once you fall behind, it is over. So I did order another water bottle shoulder strap from Justin's UL, which I already have on other packs but not my daypack. They are simple to use and make drinking water much easier.
Photos From Climbing Cashmere Mountain
Click on images below to see a bigger picture
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