About a month ago a TNAB buddy and I searched for and eventually found the route from Commonwealth Basin to the Cave Ridge/Guye Peak saddle. It rained on us until it snowed on us until it rained on us again. Still, with very little snow on the ground it wasn't too hard to follow the trail down. Now I was back to finish the trip and tag Cave Ridge. Instead of Matt, I'd have Chris along with me, but Tokul was still there.
Oh, yeah. It was snowing. Not hard, but enough. There was a few inches of sloppy snow on the ground at the trailhead when we arrived at about 6:30pm and pitch dark. Good times.
As we approached the creek crossing we could hear it was up quite a bit. Not as dramatic a change as the South Fork down by the house, but still more than we wanted on the way up. Tokul had no issue charging across and back, but neither Chris nor I wanted to risk getting wet so early in the trip. Especially with the promise of more snow higher up.
So we followed the trail beyond our normal creek crossing and found a couple of logs Chris knew of a few hundred meters upstream. On the other side we pushed through some brush (still not matted down by snow yet) and found the trail we wanted. Learning from the last attempt we headed downstream, back to the crossing we had turned down, and continued for a few feet before the trail turned quickly back to the north where we wanted to go.
I had a track on the GPS showing roughly where the trail was, but we had better luck looking for the smooth stretch of snow in a sea of leaves poking through the white. We lost the trail a couple of times, but always found it. Well, almost always. When coming down Matt and I remarked that the hardest parts to follow the trail was where it went through small talus fields. The trail would disappear on one end and then reappear on the other. Finding the other side was somewhat challenging.
This was a big problem when we hit one of these fields and had to try to find the other side of the trail, but couldn't find it. We looked and looked, but no luck. After a bit of thrashing we just started heading up to get above a band of trees, then traversed the hillside to get back to where the GPS showed the trail. It was a nasty sidehill experience, but there were no real issues. Soon we were back on the trail and then at the saddle.
I told Chris that it was now uncharted territory for me (though Matt had returned and followed the same route to the summit). We broke out of the trees and were able to get some pretty good views when the clouds parted. It's called Cave Ridge and apparently there are some pretty decent caves up there. We found one strange depression, but without gear and time we didn't explore to see if it was just a weird hole or if it was the opening to something more interesting. Shortly after, we consulted watches and GPS and decided it was time to head back. So close (not really) and yet so far. Oh well.
The way down was just like the way up, but we had tracks to follow. Except where we didn't because we thought there was a better way. That generally turned out well, except when we wound up on the nasty hill again. I slipped and slid down the hill about 15 feet only to land on the trail. (We knew it was close, just not how close.) After that we were able to follow it all the way down with no problems, even the spot where we had abandoned the trail.
At the creek crossing we found we could hop across rocks for all but one small spot. That spot we relied on waterproof boots, gaiters, and the fact that we were only a few minutes from the car. I still have all my toes so it must have worked out ok.
In total we didn't do much more than last time. About 2,000 feet of gain over four miles. However, the snow made it a little more difficult. On the upside, we spent less time WAY off trail and more time only a little off trail. Next time, the summit will be mine.