In 2018 I began snowshoeing with the Mountaineers. I love hiking in the mountains and the woods and snowshoeing seemed like a way to keep that up in the winter. I used to be a big skier and always have loved being in the mountains in the snow. Walking in the woods in the snow is one of life’s great pleasures. While snowshoeing itself isn’t rocket science (though there is a lot more to it than people think) it is best to not do it alone. So I signed up for the basic snowshoeing class with the Mountaineers with whom I could learn and practice the techniques and have people to hike with.
Basic Snowshoeing Field Trip
This was a trip from Snoqualmie Pass in the Central Cascades up a short distance on the Pacific Crest Trail. The purpose of this trip was to learn and practice basic snowshoeing techniques, to familiarize ourselves with the standard equipment, to do basic terrain survey and avalanche awareness and of course to get out in the mountains.
After we had completed all of the exercise and practice we hiked back down the trail. I talked with one of the leaders of the Foothills Branch of the Mountaineers and expressed my interest in furthering my skills in snowshoeing. So he invited me to the Backcountry Snowshoeing program. I also during this time took an Avalanche Awareness class, the beginning of a series of increasingly advanced avalanche classes.
Check out my photo album from this trip: Basic Snowshoeing Field trip
Talapus Lake Snowshoe
Once I’d enrolled in Backcountry Snowshoeing and did the classroom component I was officially a Backcountry Snowshoeing Student, which meant I could now enroll in excursions of any difficulty rating as long as I met the other requirements. To pass this course you needed to also take Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness Navigation, AIRE 1 (a more advanced Avalanche course) and complete three treks of an intermediate or higher rating. The first trip I took, before I even did the Backcountry Snowshoeing fieldtrip, was to Talapus Lake.
This trip was a “mentored” trip for a new snowshoe leader. The newly minted leader set a brisk pace both up and down the valley walls we had to climb to get to the lake. One of the advantages of snowshoeing over hiking is that there is no problem to cut switchbacks or go cross country–it is all under the snow. Talapus Lake itself was ringed by a ridge of which there was some avalanche danger so we remained on the edge and had lunch. This trip was primarily in the woods without big views of peaks and valleys but I for one love a winter walk in the woods.
Check out my photo album from this trip: Talapus Lake Snowshoe
Backcountry Snowshoeing field trip
The field trip was up a valley right off of the parking lot for Alpental at Snoqualmie pass. We snowshoed toward Source Lake doing cross country ascents and descents, practicing with our snow axes. We practiced avalanche rescue, self-belay with the axe, arrests with the axe, glissandes and building an emergency shelter. This was a long outing with lots of information, skills and practice. Of course it was also a lovely valley to hike in!
Check out my photo album for this trip: Backcountry Snowshoeing Feildtrip
This was the best trip I did this year, with new snow, sunny skies and really rewarding views. The trail began with just patches of snow and got deeper and deeper as was climbed. There were only a few people ahead of us on the trail and at a fork when we turned toward Granite Lakes we were breaking the trail from this point on. The lakes themselves were in this gorgeous basin with snowy hills and peaks all around. It was so warm that a couple of members of our party laid at the edge of the first lake sunbathing as we made the short trek to the second lake. Just an all around wonderful day in the mountains.
Check out my photo album for this trip: Granite Lakes Snowshoe
Mount Washington Winter Hike
My last trip of the year was late in the season and the snow was patchy, thin at first and as we ascended hard packed and never all that deep. Snowshoes stayed on our backs for this trip, winter boots and micro-spikes being sufficient to make it to the peak. The summit wasn’t much to speak of, not being high enough to afford spectacular views. Plus there was fog and clouds severely limited visibility. But it was a great winter hike and a good capstone to my first season of snowshoeing.
Check out my album from this trip: Mount Washington Winter Hike
The snow fading away, thoughts turning to spring cycling, hikes in snowless forests and trips that require a few less layers. I had geared up this year and now I was ready for any type of snowshoeing trip. I had my other requirements to meet for the course and would work on those over the next year or two. I would be in the mountains in the summer by bicycle and foot, but next winter I’ll be ready for more winter hikes.