John Guilford's Hikes
Cave Ridge on 2000-06-03
Location: Cave Ridge
People: (including myself): Joe Tarantino, Jay Wardle
My Alt. Real Alt. Miles
Start: 10:40 2920
Commonwealth Basin: 11:50 3380
Saddle: 1:35 4500
Cave Ridge: 3:00 5100
Leave: 3:30 5100
Saddle: 4:15 4520
Commonwealth Basin: 4:45 3700
Bottom of Basin: 5:05 3540
Out: 5:40 3000
This weekend had real summer weather, sunny and almost hot. Though I was
still training for my Rainier climb, I decided to take it a bit easier and
only packed an extra 2 gallons of water. It weighed in at 32 pounds before
Our intended route was up Snoqualmie Peak via Commonwealth Basin and Cave
Ridge. From the PCT parking lot near Alpental we followed the trail for
only about 100 feet to where it crosses an old road (?). Here we turned
left following the road that was being overgrown. Soon the "road" narrowed
to a path and the brush was really encroaching. The path also became a
small creek. The snow was patchy. Sometimes you were on thin snow
(sometimes punching through), and sometimes on the earth. At some point,
the trail turns right up the hillside and into Commonwealth Basin. We
missed where the real trail diverged from the path we were on and our path
petered out to brush. We did some bushwhacking up the hillside looking for
patches of snow to make it easier. We ran into another climber who seemed
to know as little as we did about where the real trail was. We knew we
had passed the trail when we neared Commonwealth creek. We debated
retreating and trying the Crest Trail approach. This is longer and Joe
thought it might be in even worse shape. We continued up and finally came
across the real trail (which wasn't in that great of shape, but which was
better than bushwhacking). We soon gained the basin proper though it had
taken us longer than it should have.
Soon after entering the basin, we crossed Commonwealth Creek (which was
running rather fast and which was much too wide to jump) on a log. The ski
poles that Joe and I had came in very useful here. Almost immediately we
had to cross another small stream. Here the snow was about 3-4 feet deep.
Joe threw his pack across and then jumped from snow bank to snow back. I
didn't feel like doing that and went a bit further upstream where I found a
relatively narrow spot. Here I could basically step across from the
streams bank to a relatively shallow part of the stream. Jay didn't like
either option and went further upstream where he found a snow bridge that
he used to cross the stream.
The route follows the south side of the stream around the north side of Guye
Peak. When the creek turns left up hill, the route climbs up to a saddle
between Guye Peak and Cave Ridge. Here the ground was about 80% snow. For
the most part we stayed on the snow as it gave better traction even if one
did fall through occasionally. Most of the way up the hill side we
encountered a part of the trail indicating we were at the right place.
However, when we finally reached the ridge, we found that we were a couple
hundred feet to the right of the actual saddle. We should have bore more
to the left on our rising ascent. If you go too far to the left, you run
into cliffs leading up Guye Peak. From the ridge (saddle) you get a good
view (on a clear day) of Mt. Rainier to the south. We put on some more
sunscreen and Joe and Jay put on their sunglasses as we were out in the
From the saddle we did a rising traverse of the south side of Cave Ridge.
We saw a set of foot prints in the snow leading more to the left of our
route, but we believed the correct route lay straight towards Snoqualmie
Peak. At the far side of Cave Ridge we ran into a large gully between
where we were and Snoqualmie Peak. It turns out that we had climbed higher
on the ridge than we should have. The correct way to ascend Snoqualmie is
to stay lower on Cave Ridge to avoid having to climb up Cave Ridge and back
down the other side. At this time we could see how much was left to go and
realized we didn't have time to summit Snoqualmie Peak, and we didn't feel
like climbing down into gully and then up the far side (which looked
non-trivial though it probably wasn't really as steep as it looked). We
were getting tired and decided to just do some exploring on Cave Ridge.
We climbed up to the high point on Cave Ridge (Cave Ridge's "summit")
and stopped for a late lunch. Along the way we checked out the location of
some of the caves that give Cave Ridge its name. They were under the snow
now. After lunch we headed down. Initially we started off more or less
straight towards Guye Peak. However, after a while the route got steep and
we were concerned that we might run into cliffs or more difficult terrain
further. We decided to go back and go out the way we had gone in.
That way still involved some steep snow, but at least we knew there would
be no surprises along the way. Before we got very far off of the ridge
top, Jay discovered one small cave (which later proved to be called Cascade
Cave) that was exposed through the snow. He checked it out, but didn't go
in very far at all (not wanting to take the time or get muddy).
As it typical on going down hill on snow, the return trip into Commonwealth
Basin was rapid. We all crossed the first creek via the snow bridge that
Jay had found. Crossing Commonwealth Creek was trickier. Instead of
walking across using my ski poles for balance like I had on the way in, I
thought that crossing on hands and knees might be more stable. Wrong! I
got about 5-6 feet into the crossing and decided that that wasn't going to
work. Unfortunately I was too far to try and go back (in the position I was
in) and I didn't want to try standing up in the middle of the log. I ended
up more or less sitting side saddle on the log and slid along it till I was
most of the way across where I managed to stand and finish the crossing.
It was *not* the most graceful river crossing I've made. Joe and Jay
merely walked across.
On the way out of the basin we wanted to try and follow the trail and see
where we lost it on the way in. In this we were successful. We followed
the trail out (and the going was *much* easier on the trail than off of it
:-). The mistake was made at a place where the real trail takes a turn.
There was a downed tree that covers the correct trail so that it is far
from obvious that the trail goes to the right. Instead the trail appears
to continue going straight, though if you do go straight (as we did on the
way in), then the trail soon peters out to brush.
Joe in front of Snoqualmie Peak.
Snoqualmie Peak from the top of Cave Ridge.
Keechelus Lake (a.k.a. "Stump" Lake) from the top of Cave Ridge.
Snoqualmie Peak from the top of Cave Ridge.
Mount Rainier from Cave Ridge.
Jay climbing out of Cascade Cave.
Jay descending slope on Cave Ridge, big gully in background.
Jay with Mount Rainier in background.
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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015