Photo: Views to north while skiing Icicle Ridge
By Chester Marler
In mid-March 2009, Robbie Scott and I could not resist a good weather window (recent new snow followed by a forecast for sunny weather) to get out. We hastily organized a two-day ski tour across the top of Icicle Ridge. Skiing across the eastern portion of the ridge is an interesting trip, not so much for making turns (although there is some good terrain) but for the mountain setting. The entire Stuart Range — from the Temple to Mt. Stuart, plus Mt. Cashmere — wrapped across our southern horizon. To the west were Mt. Daniel, the summits of the upper Icicle, and Grindstone. To the north were Big Jim plus the North Cascades from Glacier Peak to Pyramid Mountain. Just as enjoyable as the scenery was gliding along the top of the ridge with the perfect amount of soft, cold snow.
Photo: The Bibler Hotel and the view south (Stuart to left, Cashmere on right).
Because of the terrain, we chose no-wax skis with telemark boots and bindings so we could make the most of the undulating miles along the crest of the ridge. The landscape on top is varied, with secluded basins, rocky outcrops, burned areas from the ’94 fires, animal tracks, ancient whitebark pines—plus the distant horizon of summits and deep valleys. Tumwater canyon drops steeply to the east.
This time of year access to the Fourth of July trailhead is a bit longer than later in the spring. There’s a little more than a mile of travel from the end of plowing on the Icicle Road to the beginning of the uphill climb. We then carried our skis up the trail for about a half-mile before putting them on—the lower trail was well consolidated for walking.
As one would expect, deer sign were everywhere–these south-facing slopes evidently make good late-winter habitat. As we climbed ,we found deepening soft snow from the previous 10 days of intermittent storms. Because of the new snow, we needed significantly more time than we had anticipated to reach the ridge top where we planned to camp. Windless conditions made our simple dinner chores comfortable, and the continuing clear skies gave us a spectacular night time display of Venus and the Milky Way. It was a joy to be mostly free from light pollution, although the night glow from Leavenworth, Cashmere and even Wenatchee affected the eastern horizon.
Friday’s ski along the top toward the Icicle Ridge trailhead was a pleasure. Every year more snags fall-over from the ’94 fires, improving skiing and making route finding simpler—plus I enjoy the more open landscape. Within two miles of this trailhead on the outskirts of Leavenworth, we finally removed our skis and simply walked on the packed trail down the hill. Leavenworth residents make considerable use of the trail this time of year and walking down the steep hillside made for a relaxing end to very fine ski tour.
Leave It Better Than You Found It: This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…
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.