With the better weather come time to head to a better set of hikes and snow climbs. It was finally May and we had been having beautiful spring weather for a while. For me that meant it was time to really start to get a number of mountains that I had been eyeing for a while. The first of these mountains was a Wenatchee Backcourt Favorite improperly named by locals as Icicle Ridge. It is definitely a summit with over 1000 feet of prominence but it is not the highest point on Icicle Ridge. That credit belongs to one of the summit of Big Lou, which has a name controversy of its own. But this peak had been written up on summitpost.org and other online publications as a good mountain for a hike and a good spring snow climb.
We had to leave early for this trip to Icicle Ridge because the drive itself was well over two hours long. I was getting off of work at 11 pm and I needed someone else to help drive to Leavenworth. Luckily Jimbopo was up for the climb and was willing to drive. Having him drive allowed me at least an hour and a half more sleep and made me stronger for this climb. Waking up to see the beautiful shadows in the mountains really made me happy for this climb. The weather forecast for the Leavenworth area was supposed to be sunny with temperatures in the 70’s. We were able to make the trailhead at 8:30 and from there we were able to start the climb up.
The first part of the trip was just a standard steeper switchbacking trail in the Cascades. The trail itself was in good shape and despite its steepness we were making excellent time up the path. We did not hit any snow until 4700 feet where snow started out in shaded patches. Up around 4800 on the trail we ran into a fallen tree onto the trail. This required some careful maneuvering to go across but we made it over this section fairly easily. Once past this section the snow became more consistent. By about 5500 feet the trail up became obscure from the snow so we decided to break out our ice axes and head straight up the mountain. Soon front of the summit rocks appeared in view. Once we saw the summit rocks we decided to head to the right of those rocks because the grade looked much better and we would avoid a lot of the tougher scrambling.
Upon climbing up the snow was in very good condition. The snow was firm enough so that we did not posthole much of the time but soft enough for us to get good traction while heading up. We kept a good pace going until we got up to 6700 feet where we decided to take a nice lunch break. It should be noted by this time the views were really starting to come out towards Cashmere and the Enchantments. After the break we quickly attained the ridge where good views awaited from the north and the south. We still had the last little bit of scrambling to attain the true summit but most of the views were already coming out.
Jimbopo heading up the mountain
Rime ice on the trees
Using slings for the final summit bid
Slings on the final summit block
For the final scramble Jimbopo and I received from another climber in the region who suggested we bring slings for the final scramble in case we run into serious rime ice. There was rime ice on the final rocks but it was not serious. Still we scramble around the rocky area which was once a former lookout tower to find the right way up to the summit rock of the peak named Icicle Ridge. On the last rock there was a great place for us to put a sling to help maneuver us to the very top. Jimbopo setup the sling and once the sling was set we decided to head up the final tricky move. Jimbopo quickly found a good way up and I soon followed him to the summit area.
Victory is ours
Once on the summit area both of us took in some excellent views of the Enchantments and Cashmere to the south and many of the northern mountains. Views on top were striking and very satisfying. Unfortunately on this summit the weather was still quiet cold and it windy toward the very top. Spring still had not hit this summit and though the rime ice was not that bad the fact that it was present made us realize that we were still in winter on this mountain. So because of the cold weather and the stiff winds we only spent about 15 minutes on the summit.
More views Cashmere to the north Looking north Some of the higher peaks on the ridge
Heading down the scramble required some caution. Though there was only one real step to the finally summit scramble one wrong move would have come with quiet a long fall. Jimbopo again lead the way here, taking caution on the one move. The slings yet again help us get down the mountain. Once off the final step the rest of the short scramble down was quiet elementary and soon we were safely off the final summit block. As soon as we were off the summit block we yet again took a short break before heading of the mountain.
The steeper slopes going down
Heading on the down the mountain, Jimbopo and I decided to glissade as much of the mountain as we could. We were able to knock off at least 600 feet of elevation through a series of quick glissades. The glissades had to be short though due to the presents of trees on the slope and rapidly melting snow. Some of the snow was also beginning to posthole which only added to our issues. Because of the post holing issue we tried to stay on our main tracks but that really did not make a difference. We were still having some issues especially near the lower part of the left over snow. The snow at this point was very low and was rapidly disappearing.
We soon though made it back to the trail at about 5500 feet. We noticed that some of the snow that we went up had started to disappear and much of the other snow began to soften up. We still had to take our time at first heading down the mountain. Once though past the last of the fallen trees I knew we were home free heading down the mountain. The last 2000 feet seemed to fly by very quickly and we were back to the car in no time. Though the switchbacks were steep we were glad to have them though on the way down. Yet another beautiful mountain and another Wenatchee Backcourt peak in the books.
I would like to thank the weather gods for making the weather so clear on top and so pleasant heading up and down. The temperatures that day never got as hot as predicted and cooler air made it easier for us to both go up and head down the mountain. Mostly importantly I want to thank Jimbopo for driving much of the way, bringing slings and being a good climbing partner along the way. As some of you know I have done many mountains with him and over the years we have established ourselves as a good team in the mountains.