Snow has fallen over the peaks of many of the mountains in the Cascade range. Hikes without snow are becoming more and more scarce. We decided to go all out this weekend and headed to Stevens Pass for a short snowshoeing trip! Skyline Lake is a short and sweet snowshoe with some pretty amazing views of the pass throughout the trek up.
At only 3 miles and 1100 feet in elevation gain it is a brief but difficult snowshoe. It never ceases to amaze me how inadequately prepared we are for our first snowshoeing trip of the season. Not in gear or food or water but in muscle strength. Snowshoeing uses leg muscles that hiking just doesn’t use. Espectially when you are faced with the daunting task of blazing the trail.
There was a skier and a snowshoer ahead of us, ski tracks had been made by previous users but there was, as yet, no trail for snowshoers. The snowshoer ahead of us was blazing the way for us. Due to the incline of the trail and the difficulty of trail blazing we soon caught up with the duo and Bobby volunteered to blaze trail for awhile, thereby giving her a break from the tedious and difficult task. Bobby has never been very good at setting an appropriate pace for the task placed in front of him and today proved no different. He pushed himself extremely hard, attempting to maintain an unattainable blazing pace. Sweat dripped from his brow, fog engulfed his glasses, and his lungs were soon struggling to keep up with the rest of his body. He began taking incredibly frequent breaks and they were getting longer and longer in duration. The other couple was immediately behind us. After only two switchbacks the other snowshoer offered to take over the task of trailblazing. Bobby gratefully let them pass. We took a long break, letting Bobby fully catch his breath and rest for a moment before continuing on. We kept a good distance from the other group and it was soon past lunchtime.
We had gotten a late start that morning and hadn’t begun to snowshoe until past 11:00. We were both pretty shaky and required sustenance sooner rather then later in order to continue along such a steep and snow-covered trail. We flattened out a circle of snow just off the trail at a pretty incredible viewpoint, sat and supped on turkey and cheese sandwiches.
One of the great things about winter hiking is that we aren’t worried about food spoiling due to heat so we have tastier sandwiches then our staple of PB&J. We didn’t break for long because of how cold we were getting and we soon set off again following the trail of the snowshoer ahead of us.
We continued to follow the trail of the duo ahead of us until we came to a viewpoint next to a cellular tower of some sort. We got out our GPS app, GAIA, to check on our location. To our dismay we had gone pretty far off trail. We had seen some ski tracks through the trees at one point along the trail and we now realized that that was the trail we should’ve been following. The two ahead of us had continued up another switchback and we decided to follow their trail in the hopes it would eventually lead us to our final destination of Skyline Lake. We began checking our GPS with greater frequency and soon realized that the trail we were on would surely lead us higher up and possibly to the ridge line. Our goal for the day was much less lofty and we discussed what we should do. We considered going back the way we had come and take the side trail through the trees that we had seen the ski tracks on. Or, we could use our map and GPS and cut through the trees from where we were to make our way to the lake faster. We opted for blazing our own trail through the trees and were glad we did. In no time at all we found the lake!
The views here weren’t that incredible due to the low cloud cover that had been slowly moving in all day and we decided not to linger. There were two backcountry skiers there, removing their skins, and preparing for their descent. We passed them and followed previous skiers trails through the trees and back to the trail we had originally come up.
Overall this snowshoe was difficult, probably because it was our first of the season and we were pretty out of shape! But it’s a lot of elevation gain in a short spurt. It ended up taking us several hours to go the three miles. Without the aide of snowshoes you wouldn’t get far on this trail. There is no way we could have successfully walked along this trail. Even with snowshoes on, I sank to my waist in the snow at one point.