Attention! As you were. Listen up climbing cadets. You are now going to learn about Cadet Peak. I want all eyes forward...and spit that Power Bar out, Private Peakbagger!
Cadet Peak is the second-highest point in the Monte Cristo Group (third-highest if you want to count Sloan Peak). The highest point is Kyes Peak 1.5 miles to the SSE. Cadet forms the northern arc of beautiful Glacier Basin--a popular hiker destination two miles by trail beyond the old mining townsite of Monte Cristo. The eastern arc of the basin is comprised of The Cadets (a ridge of crags). The southeastern arc is buttressed by Monte Cristo Peak (7,136 ft), while on the south, southwest, and west Wilmans Peaks and Wilmans Spires hem in the basin. Diminutive Mystery Hill makes up the final northwestern arc.
As to Cadet Peak itself, it is characterized by steep but manageable western slopes, a precipitous south side, and ice-contoured east and northeast sides. The rapidly dying Mayflower Glacier is tucked under the East Face, while a segment of the New York Glacier lies on the north side of the North Summit. There are three summits to Cadet Peak. Contrary to what maps might have you believe, the North Summit is not the highest. Maps say it is 7,197 ft, while the South Summit is only 7,186 ft. One or both of these elevations are incorrect. For sure, the South Summit is the high-point. Meanwhile, the Northwest Summit is definitely lower (it is triangulated at 7,073 ft). For a visual proof, see this picture.
The mountain was named in 1896 after the Cadet mine on its lower West side.
The easiest approach is by way of the Glacier Basin Trail. Another possible approach is by way of Goat Lake on the north. Each of these will be treated below.
Glacier Basin Route
Take the Mountain Loop Highway to Barlow Pass. Park at the pass (2,360 ft). Note: car prowls are very common here, so DO NOT leave valuables in your car. The road to Monte Cristo is not drivable to the general public and washouts from the October 20, 2003 Seattle rainstorm make this even more the case. A bicycle is nice to have and probably even recommended. The road to Monte Cristo is 4.2 miles long and gains 400 feet to the townsite (2,760 ft). Locate the trail at the far left side of the town clearing. The Glacier Basin Trail leads to Glacier Falls in about 1.2 miles. From there, the trail climbs moderately up through an annoying section of slick rocks and roots until finally leveling off. At this point the creek and trail turn sharply right to ascend past the back side of Mystery Hill. Cadet Peak will now feature prominently up and to the left. This side of the peak is characterized by steep, slabby watercourses fanning out below moderate, open slopes above. When the creek coming out of Glacier Basin flattens out amidst house-sized boulders (4,400 ft; about 1.8 miles from Monte Cristo), look for the ecru and rust streak of an old mine tailing across the creek. Just beyond this mine is where you want to go up or you can go up the talus acclivity slightly farther up-valley. There is another tailings pile above. You can bear toward this one.
Take the most accessible slope eastward up to the mine, peer into the mine adit, speak into its maw (maybe a bear will growl back). Nothing to see here, nothing to see here. Carry on. Scramble into the trees directly above the adit and keep on the rib that forms between two ravines (minor bushwhacking). The rib melds into a slope and eventually comes to a shallow crest above the leftward ravine. Contour slightly over to the left side of the crest then bear upslope on obvious terrain. Depending on the season, either snow or talus patches will be encountered amongst low angle cliffs. It is generally a no-brainer to get up through these to the summit. On the return, go down the way you came. Do not do as I did and bear westward trying to cutt-off the distance back to Monte Cristo. This led me down to the aforementioned watercourses whereupon I had to downclimb some class 4 rock. Negotiating these difficulties won't save you any time.
Goat Lake Route
Drive the Mountain Loop Highway 3.3 miles past (east of) Barlow Pass and take a right onto Elliot Creek Road No. 4080. Go 0.8 miles up this road to its end (the rest of the road is hiking only). Hike the old puncheon road now overgrown in many places for 4.8 miles to Goat Lake (3,160 ft). Find a trail around the east side of the lake. Curse expletives at the density (and height) of the brush encroaching on the trail. After 0.8 miles of lake skirting, finally arrive at the far end of the lake and cuss some more at what lies ahead: slide alder hell. If it is early enough in the season, a lot of these slide alder will be snowcovered. You will be able to see your objective above (actually, you can only see the North Summit of Cadet). Underneath this summit is the New York Glacier. Hike one mile up to the head of the basin (to the Foggy Mine) then turn sharply right (west) and climb up through a break in the cliffs to the snowfield above. Once high enough up this snowfield, turn back to the left (southeast) and contour up through segments of glacier, rock, and firn to the crest just west of the North Summit. From the North Summit it is an easy 0.4-mile traverse of 10 minutes to the true (South) summit.
The parking lot at Barlow Pass currently requires a Trail Park Pass. I am not sure as per the Goat Lake Trailhead. As mentioned before, please be wary of car prowls at these trailheads. Do not leave valuables in the car. Most of the land within the upper reaches of the Sauk River are privately owned. As such, you should be courteous of buildings and lots.
When To Climb
The Mountain Loop Highway is generally not open to Barlow Pass in the winter. Once the road is open to the pass (maybe by early April), one then has to wonder about access to Monte Cristo and beyond to Glacier Basin. So proabably the best times to climb Cadet Peak would be May to the first significant autumn snowfall.
There are several campgrounds along the road to Monte Cristo. These are on my Topo software. All of these except the Monte Cristo Campground have been abandoned:
2.6 miles from Barlow Pass was Hap's Hill Campground ABANDONED
3.0 miles from Barlow Pass is Silvertip Campground ABANDONED
3.4 miles from Barlow Pass is Sauk Campground (across the river?) ABANDONED
4.2 miles from Barlow Pass just before the townsite is Monte Cristo Campground (an outhouse is available)
The owners of the land around Monte Cristo would prefer you don't camp right in town. Beyond that, there is camping in Glacier Basin, particularly on the 4,680+ ft timbered knoll in the middle of the basin.
As to the Goat Lake approach, there is camping near the outlet of Goat Lake.
Monte Cristo was the most famous mining site in Washington. It was in its heyday in the late 19th Century. Silver was the most prominent metal sought after--it being bound in the mineral galena (the silver thus extracted being of low grade). The town reached its largest size in 1894-1897 when it boasted a population of roughly 1,000 miners and support personnel, six saloons, four hotels, four restaurants, three barber shops, two churches, two butcher shops, a school, a hospital (with doctor), a drugstore, a real estate office, a clothing store, one newspaper, and the usual assortment of mine buildings and mining camp brothels. There were also buildings dedicated to the Everett and Monte Cristo Railroad--a railroad that started in Everett and ended here. The first train came to Monte Cristo in August 1893. From then on, the railway was subjected to washouts (the worst occurring in December 1896). 95 percent of this former railway is now occupied by the Mountain Loop Highway.
Over 200 claims were staked in the various drainages around the town. Some mines such as those in Mystery Hill operated on multiple levels. Still other mines bore all the way through their mountains, having adits on both sides. Two of the more famous mines were the Pride of the Woods and the Pride of the Mountains. An 8,000-ft overhead tramway connected the latter of these at the base of Cadet Peak to the town of Monte Cristo. The gravity-powered tramway (the longer of two in the area) carried ore over Mystery Hill and down to the concentrator located in town. Some old rusted artifacts can still be found. Also, in town, the old railway turntable still rests immobile in its hollow.
In the end, with the ensuing devaluation of silver after the repeal of the Silver Purchase Act in 1893, mining silver became a much less profitable venture. Now Monte Cristo is merely a ghost town. Well, not really a ghost town. People do still live up there. They even have electricity available to them.