Two years ago I took my first winter trip up Smithbrook
Road, just east of Stevens Pass. Gary and I had a great time skiing and
snowshoeing up Mt. McCausland. We chose a return trip for this day. Trail
Pair had already planned this trip so we all agreed to meet at the trailhead.
Gary and I met in Bothell at 7:00 am. We were all together and on the
trail by about 9:00 am. The way begins by climbing up a gap dug in the
high snow wall along the highway. We then had to hike along the top of
the snow wall a good ways until we reached Smithbrook Road.
As has been the case for the last two months, the forecast was
overly pessimistic. The partly cloudy skies turned out to be nearly entirely
clear, at least over us. Moderate wind was only on the summit. The high
temperature was more like mid 40s than the mid 30s forecast. All in all,
it was a really beautiful day. Trail Pair got out ahead with just boots.
The road was mostly snow with a snowshoe trench. The trench was rock hard.
They did not need snowshoes until leaving the road after 2 1/2 miles.
Gary and I carried snowshoes and used skis to begin. We avoided
the icy trench and set a track in the snow. Smithbrook Road gains elevation
at a very moderate grade. After so many gray days this winter the colors
were outstanding. Because of that we stopped often to take photos. Shortly
before the first big switchback there was an igloo along the road. It
looked to be very nicely done. We saw two cars at the trailhead. One was
icy from an overnight stay and one had arrived that morning. It didn't
appear that anyone was at the igloo.
Trail Pair were well ahead of us although we heard voices near
the switchback. Rather than skiing up the switchbacks we chose to ski
up through the trees along the creek. The route was easy, even for me.
We soon popped back out on the road beyond the switchbacks. The views
kept getting better as we gained elevation. Most of the rest of the road
was gently up then down until the next switchback. At that point we caught
up with Kolleen and Bob.
On our previous trip we skied along the creek to the left of a
cliffy knoll. This time we saw snowshoe trench heading above the valley
floor. I stashed my skis, Gary put his on his pack, and all four of us
donned snowshoes. The route was easy to follow as it headed in the direction
of Mt. McCausland gaining elevation at a consistent rate. When we reached
a gully the route switchbacked up along side it. We entered the gully
and could now see a ridge just above us.
This route went to the right of the knoll which our previous trip
passed on the left. We soon came out of the thick forest into a more
open forest and meadow area. We had good views of Lichtenberg Mountain
and could soon see the left ridge and summit of Mt. McCausland. Kolleen
and Bob were quickly back on the move while Gary and I lagged to take
more photos. At the end of the road where we put on snowshoes I sank to
my knees in the soft snow. The existing snowshoe trench really saved us
a lot of time and effort.
There was still not a single cloud in the sky. It felt like 50
degrees. I was sweating like crazy. It was the last day of winter and
it felt like late spring. The route wound around trees, went up and down,
and generally was a lot of fun. The grade became steeper when we began
the final 900' climb to the summit. Gary and I reached a point where the
trench continued straight ahead but fresh tracks turned right. Kolleen
and Bob were now making there own trail. I'm sure the other route went over
to the Lake Valhalla overlook and likely down to the lake.
The snow was soft with a harder crust down 6 to 10 inches. It
was just about perfect for snowshoeing. Especially when someone else
was making the track. Thanks again Kolleen and Bob! As we climbed the
views became better and better. Soon we could see Rock Mountain and Mt.
Howard. The Chiwaukum Range came into view with Arrowhead Mountain a tiny
bump below them. Mt. Stuart was in the clouds but Mts. Daniel and Hinman
were cloaked in white. Nearer the summit we could see part of Lake Valhalla
and then Glacier Peak. Glacier has been so bare the last few years. It was
nice to see it all white.
At 12:15 we topped out on the 5747' summit. Only a cold wind kept
it from being perfect. There are trees along the summit ridge but we
could move to views of Sloan Peak and the Monte Cristo peaks. We were
all ready for lunch at this point. It was about 4 1/2 miles to the top.
After a nice stay on top Bob and Kolleen were the first to head down. Gary
and I stayed a little longer. By about 1:30 we were ready to leave. The
view was so nice I could have spent more time up there. Unfortunately,
we had to get moving.
Gary switched to skis for the descent. I had the nicely packed
snowhoe trench to speed my descent. Even out of the trench the going
was easy. In places I sped past Gary and at times he zoomed by me. After
dropping about 500' we met a lone snowshoer coming up our track. Back near
the top of the gully I saw a couple with a dog at the top of the knoll.
They were the only people we saw until the last couple miles of road.
I thought Gary might switch back to snowshoes for the forest section
down to the road but he chose to ski all the way. It was an interesting
descent on non metal edged touring skis. Back down at the road I switched
back to skis for the descent. The trench was narrow and icy so I stuck
to our morning track. We chose the road for the swichbacks instead of
the forest we ascended. Back at the igloo a family was playing in the snow.
We passed a couple more groups who were coming up. The descent was slow
and steady but much better than slogging with snowshoes. Just what my tired
This was an excellent ski and snowshoe tour. The weather was nearly
perfect. The snow was great. The summit view was well worth the effort.
The crowds were non existent. What more could you ask for? The distance
was 9 miles with about 2800' of gain counting ups and down. I'm sure
I'll be back in another few years.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Gary On Road
Near End Of Road
Trail Pair's Tracks
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2006