Adam Vognild: The man who would be goat.
“If I come back as an animal other than a bird, let it be a goat.”
We’ve been following tufts of goat hair stuck to buck brush (ceanothus) up the steep south-facing slopes confining Eightmile Creek when Adam Vognild let’s this little confession escape. It’s a predilection I’ve never heard before and I can’t tell if there’s sincerity or irony in the delivery. “You kidding?”
“Totally serious,” Adam says. “You ever see the way they move through jumbled, mountain terrain? Totally amazing how fast and sure-footed they are?”
I think about the flip side of the coin if you’re a goat-- the windswept, snow-swept haunts where you’ll lick lichen from the rocks throughout the winter--but keep these downers to myself.
We follow the threads of goat paths up our steep ridgelet leading toward the East Pyramid, an 8,055-foot satellite peak of Cashmere Mountain with an 800-vertical-foot north face. As we gain elevation, many threads of trails weave together to form what we call The Goat Highway, a surprisingly well-trodden and direct route into the high alpine slopes below Cashmere Mountain. At the 5,500-foot level, we stop and off-load the byproducts of our early-morning coffee consumption. “Goats will be over here soon lapping up the salt,” Adam says enthusiastically.
“So being an animal whose idea of a treat is to lap up the piss of climbers sounds good to you?” Tom Janisch, the lawyer in our party, is cross examining the depths of Adam’s convictions. Adam is forced to laugh—sheepishly—over this one little hiccup with his next incarnation.
Bill Wicheta photo. Whitebark pine, white snow, white granite.
From our rest stop, we climb diagonally upward toward what Fred Beckey confusingly calls both the East Pyramid and the Northeast Pyramid in the Cascade Alpine Guide. The confusion: If you were trying to be more accurate than ‘East’ Pyramid, you’d really call this the ‘Southeast’ Pyramid of Cashmere Mountain.
We ascend open slopes through glades of whitebark pine, some that were torched by fires around 1994, some that escaped cremation. Soon, we’re alternating between kicking up slopes of steep, firm snow and hopping through inclined boulder fields of white, granite boulders. All the while, the scenery expands before us as if it were being revealed like a pull-down map. At first we can’t see Mt. Stuart; suddenly its hulk emerges from behind the Eightmile Ridge. Mt. Caroline is invisible one moment and looming before us with seductive ski lines the next. Only the crater of Mount Rainier is visible at one pause for breath; at the next the complete snow cone spreads before us.
Descending western col to reach the toe of NW Ridge.
Several hours after leaving the car, we reach the 7,700-foot gap west of the East Pyramid where we cache extra gear and water. Then, relying on a combination of scrambling and cramponing, we drop 300 vertical feet down the other side of the notch to reach the Northwest Ridge. Again, there is some confusion because the rock before us is more of a wide, upward-slanting buttress than a distinct ridge.
Over the next four hours we climb six roped pitches. Slowly, we move out of the shadowed refrigeration of north-facing walls into the oblique sunlight of a June afternoon. Sometimes the route is obvious, the rock solid, the protection good, and we move like goats. Sometimes the options before us are varied, the protection amid the loose blocks questionable, the lichen-covered rock underfoot chaussy, and we move like frightened humans.
The last two pitches reverse any misgivings we might have harbored about whether the route justified the effort. The rock is solid, the exposure dramatic, the ragged skyline spectacular. On the summit Tom Janisch and Bill Wicheta, our fourth climber, verbally relive the exceptional final pitches of climbing while delighting in the great mandala of the horizon. Adam, however, is considerably more down-to-earth in his delight. He’s happy about what this summit represents about possible futures. “Hey guys, check out all the goat droppings here.”
Above: Postcards from the top (photo by Adam Vognild). Below: The final pitch (photo by Bill Wicheta).
Attractions: Rugged, high-alpine scenery. Reasonably good climbing overall with a few excellent pitches capping the climb.
Access: From Leavenworth, take the Icicle River Road up to Bridge Creek Campground turnoff (about 8 miles). Turn left and cross Icicle Creek. Follow the Eightmile Road (Road 7601) about 3 miles to the Eightmile Trailhead,
Elevation Gain. 5,000 vertical feet.
Time. Car to car took us 11.5 hours moving at an unhurried but steady pace.
Skill Level. Rock climbing difficulty of 5.6 or 5.7.
Gear. One 50-meter rope—belay spots are plentiful and you can scramble off the south side. A diverse rack with protection up to 3.5- to 4-inches wide. Early in the summer, bring a lightweight ice axe and crampons for the approach. By late July, the approach is ‘probably’ snow free.
Approaching the Climb. Leave from the Eightmile Trailhead and follow the trail toward Eightmile Lake for 1 mile. Turn right and follow an old, overgrown logging road in a NE direction for .33 miles. Just before the road contours through a small creek drainage (which does not usually have running water but is overgrown with brush), scramble up the steep road cut and climb in a northwesterly direction, following the ridgelet confining the small creek. In places, the buck brush is thick but goat trails usually provide fairly easy passage. Approach the base of the climb from either the western or eastern col, both passes work. See map.
The Climb. Start at the toe of the Northwest Ridge (elevation of 7,400 feet) and climb upward in a SE direction. The ‘ridge’ is rather non-distinct and is really more of a buttress than a ridge. We usually veered toward climber’s right when faced with route choices (consistently veering to climber’s left would have taken us into steeper, more difficult climbing on the upper part of the pyramid). The last pitch can be scrambled by trending right on easier, broken ground. However, by traversing sharply left to the arête and climbing the solid rock here, we enjoyed a spectacular final pitch. Descend by scrambling 3rd class blocks in a southwesterly direction to reach the western col, or in a southeasterly direction to reach the eastern col.
Bill Wicheta photo: Hot, weary feet after a long descent.
Map. See our map. Print in landscape mode on 8.5" X 11" paper. Use your 'print preview' to scale properly before printing.
Fees/Permits. A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the trailhead.
Leave It Better Than You found It. This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull noxious weeds along your route, disperse old fire rings (they encourage more fires), throw branches over spur trails and spurs between switchbacks (make it harder to do the wrong thing than the right thing).
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Things change, conditions change, and those contributing these reports are volunteers--they may make mistakes, fail to give complete information, or may not know all the issues affecting a route. If things go wrong, you are completely responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won't accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.