Adam Vognild at Lake Victoria with the gulley to be skied directly above his head.
Cashmere Mountain: Victoria’s Secret S&M Tour
by Adam Vognild
It had been a few weeks since I had been on snow and I was curious about the recent new accumulation, so I went up solo early Saturday to explore in our local hills. What I found in the north-facing bowls surrounding the Mission Ridge Ski Area was great. After the morning laps, I knew my tour with Tom the next day (Sunday) would need to be on the north side of the world.
Tom and I hadn’t solidified our plans for Sunday yet and when I called him Saturday afternoon I was high on Burch Mountain with a friend. We were enjoying the sun and spectacular views to the west of the Enchantments and the peaks around Icicle Creek. Intoxicated by our surroundings and looking right at the white pyramid, I suggested Mount Cashmere via the little visited Victoria Creek drainage on its north side.
On my part, there was some hesitation, knowing this would require about 10 miles of round-trip; road slogging before the day was over. Like all good plans hatched while intoxicated, I knew I would pay the price later. I’d visited this zone on a three-day tour utilizing a snowmobile for the road work years before. Despite the slog ahead, I was itching to get back – especially now that I knew this could be the perfect aspect given the current snow conditions. Tom, just like an under-exercised dog when the leash comes out, was game.
Photo Right: Tom Janisch likes what he’s seeing on the approach to Victoria Lake. Photo by Adam Vognild.
We left the car at 7 a.m. and hit the road with fresh legs. By 8:30 we had crossed the bridge over the Icicle River on FS Road 7605 (the road used to access the Bob Creek area). Across the bridge, we hooked left and started climbing the north-facing slopes leading toward Victoria Creek. Around the 4000-foot-level, we were breaking incredible low-density snow. The views to the north and west kept improving as we climbed higher out of the Icicle. Multi-day tours were discussed. Great ski lines on Jay Peak came into view. At the 5,200-foot level, we traversed into the Victoria Creek drainage.
Around noon we arrived at Lake Victoria and were greeted with more options for 1,500- to 2000-vertical-foot ski descents than we had time to enjoy. I had in mind the main drainage that feeds the lake from the south. We climbed on skis until the slope was too steep and the snow too firm. Skis went on the pack and I started the methodical gait of kicking steps and pole planting.
Photo Left: Is this guy Victoria’s Secret? Nah. Adam with Tom below.
I laughed to myself thinking about Tom dubbing this, “Victoria’s Secret S&M Tour.” Secret? Not really — this is an obvious line if you can read a topo map and if you’ve ever looked up at the peak from the Icicle Road. S and M? More often than not on ski tours covering long distances in less than ideal conditions, there’s a healthy measure of sadism (doled out by those who are stronger) and masochism (needed by everyone). Given the day’s conditions, however, I wondered whether we should rename the effort, Victoria’s Secret Pleasure Tour.
We arrived at our high point (7600’), around 2:00 p.m., refueled, rehydrated, and took in the views for 20 minutes. The sun poked out for our descent down the gut, giving us precious shadows for better visibility in this high alpine environment. We turned and grinned over 5000 vertical feet back down to the road.
After the 40-minute soft-snow skate back to the car (it’s slightly downhill), and a total of 6,300 feet of accumulated vertical, Tom joked that hewould sleep well tonight. Isn’t that the way a trip to Victoria’s Secret should be?
Details, Details: Cashmere Mountain via Victoria Lake
Skill: 3 (advanced). Fitness Level: 3 (advanced)
Access. From Icicle Junction at the west end of Leavenworth, drive the Icicle River Road about 8.5 miles to the end of the plowed road immediately past the turn off to the Bridge Creek Campground. A fairly large parking area is plowed here (no permits needed).
Photos below: Working on penmanship — the start and the end of the gulley above Victoria Lake.
- Ski up the Icicle Road about 4.5 miles and then turn left on Road 7605 (this is about a mile past Johnny Creek).
- After crossing the Icicle River on the bridge, Road 7605-100 splits off on your left. This road is gated because it crosses private land but the Recreation Resource Manager with the Forest Service reports, “The Forest Service has an easement for this road across the private lots that the public can utilize — people need to stay on the road until it reaches the adjoining National Forest.” If parking here later in the year the when low snow has melted off, park at the Y before the gate in a manner that will not hinder traffic going in either direction.
- Follow Road 7605 -100 to public land; then follow one of the bearings noted on our map upward. See map.
- At the 5100 to 5200 foot level, traverse from the ridge flanking Victoria Creek to the north on a downward traverse to the creek. This is a steep traverse and can be avalanche prone. Some skiers will find it worth their time to strip the skins and lock down the heels so they can glide across the traverse quickly and with good edge control.
- Head up the drainage to the lake, cross the lake, and then skin up to the base of the steep gulley.
- You’ll probably do better booting up the gulley itself.
- Beyond the gulley, decide whether you’ll head up to the col west of Cashmere Mountain, to the West Peak (8,219′), or to the actual summit of Cashmere (if the snow stability is good, booting up the north-facing slopes is feasible–ice axe and crampons are recommended). Note: the upper portion of the gulley leading to col west of Cashmere is often quite wind affected — sometimes slabby snow is deposited in here, sometimes the area is very scoured.
Hazards. None of this terrain is incredibly steep, but parts of it are in the prime zone for avalanches (between 35 and 40 degrees). Make sure the snow stability is good. There’s also lots of tree skiing between the lake and road so helmets aren’t a bad idea.
Leave It Better than You Found It. This should be every user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, etc.
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.