This is a fun alpine ridge traverse to the northeast ridge and face of Cadet Peak, and then upwards to the north summit of Cadet. It travels though some surprisingly wild-feeling country, using the high ridge that runs above timberline between Sloan Peak and Cadet. In fact, a climb of one of Sloan’s south face or west face routes could be conveniently included to create a multi-summit adventure if desired.
From Barlow pass, drive north approximately 4 or 5 miles? on the gravel portion of the Mountain Loop “Highway” to the sometimes marked, sometimes not, Forest Service road 4096 on the east side of the road. This turn off is also about a mile south of the Bedal car campground in case you are coming in from Darrington. Travel steeply uphill on rough but drivable gravel about 3 miles to the road end and marked trailhead for Bedal Basin. Hike this to the basin. A recent major flood obliterated this trail partway up; just continue into the debris and follow the boulders uphill. When the wash forms into a ravine, watch for boot tread climbing out on the right side. This will take you back into woods on trail and then into the opening flat of Bedal Basin where the trail ends. The west face of Sloan peak towers above. Continue cross-country southbound through invitingly open sub-alpine terrain. You are aiming for the ridge coming off Sloan’s west face, to cross at about 5640+ (see photo). Then traverse to the next ridge top to the south. You can either aim left of point 6619 (recommended if also climbing a Sloan south side route… there is a nice flat spot with a large built-up rock wall right on the point) or stay lower toward point 6563 (recommended if heading straight for Cadet’s north face). This sets you up nicely to make it in a day to idyllic Cadet Lake, which sits just off the ridgetop in a basin under 5560 feet, a perfect campsite.
Follow the ridgetop southbound, right on top where possible, side-hilling where needed. There are a few tricky bits; steep grassy chutes, scrambles over rock formations, but generally passable as mostly unroped scrambling. As always, a rope should be available for perhaps an occasional belay. Mid-way, the ridge flattens into a high meadow, then narrows again and merges with Cadet’s northeast face. Some class 3 rock mixed with snow and small glacier segments are to be expected. The way up is usually pretty obvious, end-running cliffs where needed then back around on snow. One buttress near the top massively overhangs, seeming to end any possible ascent; bear left and go around a corner, some exposure may prompt a belay for just a few feet here. A few more feet of weaving upwards brings one to a final short vertical rock tower, but there is room to scramble up between it and snow to the right. You then arrive on the flat summit area, really a tilted plateau, next to the north summit. A few feet below this summit there is actually a decent flat tent-sized spot and tiny snowmelt tarn; I spent a night here after doing the climb. The true south summit is a short walk away. This all sounds complicated, but the route reveals itself plainly as you ascend. (See photo with red line showing approx route).
Ice axe, crampons, helmet, short rope for possibly a couple of brief belays.
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