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Snoqualmie to Stevens on Skis

by Tom Janisch & Adam Vognild

Stats from the trip, courtesy of Adam Vognild.

Adam & Coron savoring views.

I believe the idea came during a hike between Stevens and Snoqualmie in June of 1973. I joined two of my ninth-grade classmates to hike from the Stevens Pass region to Snoqualmie Pass. One of our parents kindly dropped us off at Scenic, with a plan to pick us up at Snoqualmie Pass. We entered via Surprise Creek, hiked over Mount Daniel, stayed at the old shelter near Dutch Miller Gap, went down the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River, up to Snow Lake and out to Snoqualmie Pass. We were on snow most of the way, which planted a seed to one day ski between the two corridors.

On April 27 (2019), I joined Coron Polley and Adam Vognild my backcountry ski friends, on a five-day ski outing from I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass to the HY 2 Stevens Pass corridor. Much of the trip is called the Snoqualmie Haute Route although this trip deviates from it a bit.

One good turn deserves another.

I was fortunate on many levels that we were to be able to do this trip. Adam has also wanted to do this trip for a long time (not as long as me, as he wasn’t born yet on my much earlier trip). Adam Vognild is an engineer. He also owns and runs the Inner Circle Gym. He is incredibly fit and very capable in the mountains; perfect to be able tag along with. His long-time friend and business partner died of brain cancer the day before we left. Coron owns and operates his own business and is busy with his family. He has two active school age daughters who participate in things like track, dance and do fun things that kids growing up on Lake Chelan do. Coron ski raced in his youth and is an excellent skier. My Dad died the prior month, and Coron’s Dad had also died not long ago. Needless to say, we were all ready for several days of just skiing and travelling on snow and being in the mountains.

The beauty of a ski traverse in new terrain are the constant unknown aspects that force presence and the space (both physical and mental) that we put ourselves in. Your perspective is forever changing, on the slopes we are on, and the ones that are in front of us. Will there be a cornice on the other side once we top out?  Is that the correct spot to aim for?  What is below us where we can’t see? Will there be snow in the valley floor?  You have these “route thoughts” while traveling toward the next unknown point on the earth.  But there are also many times where you slog for hours, alone in your own headspace.  These are the times when your mind has space, to go deeper into things that normal life will often distract us from. Some events in life take months and years to process – like the loss of a loved one, which all us had happen recently. This sort of trip can allow for time to process and be present, which is often challenging in our distracted day to day living.

It was snowing when we left Snoqualmie Pass. On Day One we skinned up through Commonwealth Basin and met our first challenge at the Kendall Catwalk. We encountered the Pacific Coast Trail covered in snow but steep with bare rock spots. So, we put the skis on our packs and climbed steep snow and rock to the west and around to the top of the ridge above the Kendall Catwalk. From here we enjoyed a pleasant ski traverse and then a nice, gliding run to Alaska Lake, our first night’s camp.

Coron Polley & the art of the turn.

We awoke to brilliant sunshine on Day Two. We went up to Alaska Mountain and enjoyed a fun ski descent to Joe Lake. We ascended to point 6926, east of Chikamin Peak. This was a steep climb. From here we skied to a notch northwest of Chikamin Lake and then a spectacular traverse and ski to Iceberg Lake. From here we skinned to a bench just west of Overcoat Col for our second night. As we finished setting up camp it was snowing and blowing: This was perfect sleeping weather snug in the tent.

Tom Janisch below Overcoat Col.

On Day Three we again awoke to clear skies. We climbed to the Overcoat Col, marveled at the view and then had a fun trip down to the Overcoat Glacier to the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. From there we skinned beautiful country to La Bohn Gap and posted a marvelous high camp on the Hinman Glacier. We talked about life and were treated to a spectacular red glowing sunset. In the fading light I could see the silhouette of the Olympic Mountains. My Dad told stories of spending his summers in the Olympics acting as hike and climb leader at Camp Parsons, a Boy Scout Camp on Hood Canal in the decade before I was born. In June 2018 I went with my Dad to a 100 year celebration of the camp. I thought of him as I fell asleep that night.

Coron & Adam en route.

Day Four awoke gloriously. We skinned up to the top of Mount Hinman and skied easterly to south of Mount Daniel and then up to the Lynch Glacier. The north-facing Lynch Glacier held the new snow that had fallen while we camped near Overcoat Col. We enjoyed a delightful ski run to Pea Soup Lake. It was frozen over: It is magical to ski across a frozen lake. From here we skinned north to a col above Jade Lake and had a good run down to the lake. We continued to Marmot Lake and were able to ski across it as well. From the lake drainage it was down and a traverse to Lake Clarice, where we spent our final night.

Adam Vognild at the Overcoat Col.

We awoke on the last day to another sunny morning. Coron lead us to point 5382 north of Lake Clarice, a nice viewpoint. From here we skied on the ridge north to Fisher Creek to our last great adventure for the trip. Anold bridge had collapsed so we donned foot crampons and used an ice axe to climb up it to an old road, where we skied literally to the end of the snow on our trip to the end of the Deception Creek Trail. We then all walked out the Deception Creek Trail to Highway 2.

Just as it was decades ago, a very nice Mom picked up three people who had a great trip in our backyard.

Skill & Ability Level. 3

Map. Snoqualmie to Stevens ski over view map

Leave It Better than You Found It. This should be every user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, etc.

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