I'll be honest. Cave Ridge has been a bit of trouble for me. I nailed it on the first try in the snow, but didn't really follow an established route. More like a brute force attack of try, try again.
Since then, there were a couple of half hearted tries, but nothing too serious.
After this year's TNAB season we were looking for new routes for Thursday night. My suggestion of Denny Mountain tuned out to be not suitable so I turned my attention to Cave Ridge. It could be had from the Alpental side, but TNAB already uses that trail to get to both Guye Peak and Snoqualmie Mountain. Much better to go from the Commonwealth Basin side, even though that trail is used for Red Mountain and Kendall Peak.
So I tried with Matt in the pouring rain. We made progress in that we mapped the trail from the saddle down to the car, but didn't make the summit of Cave Ridge. At least we got some snow at the top.
So I tried with Chris in the snow. We were able to (mostly) follow the trail up and down, but again gave up on the summit just beyond the saddle.
So I decided I'd need to try yet again. This time we had the promise of good weather and more people to accompany me and Tokul to the top. Scott (with Zeus and Athena), Tisha (with Kiefer and Roweena), and Steve were all game. We left the trailhead at about 6:15 and made quick work of the lower trail, crossing the creek on some barely submerged rocks. Thank goodness for waterproof boots and gaiters.
There was a bit of snow left from the previous week (before the rain came and washed it all away), but the trail was significantly easier to follow than when it was under six inches of snow. Even after three trips on the trail there are still spots that are somewhat confusing. However, we were soon at the saddle.
We followed the trail just to the north of the saddle and did our best to follow it as it wound up the hill. We passed the strange pit Chris and I had seen and several more along the way. There was still enough snow to not be sure what was on the bottom of the pits so we steered clear and kept the five dogs away, too.
We lost the trail in a little gully and bushwhacked up the hill until we found it again. Then followed it up to a flat spot where we made a positive sighting of a cave complete with cave register. I'm not sure which it was, but cool anyway. (We didn't go inside.)
Above the cave I had to coax Tokul with the leash before rejoining the group a little higher. From there it was an easy wander to the summit... though it wasn't really well defined. It was, however, pretty cold. The moon was somewhat filtered so the views weren't excellent and the camera didn't focus right, but otherwise it was well worth it.
The route down, as always, was easy, quick, and nothing to speak of. We were back to the cars within the four hour limit required for TNAB trips even with some chilling at the top. It might take a little more organization to make sure there's someone who knows the route, but it certainly seems a winner for TNAB next year.
Total distance was about five miles and the gain was about 2,500 feet.