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Trip Report    

Mount McCausland (winter)

12/6/14: We had a delightful and eventful winter scramble up McCausland. None of us had climbed it in winter and only one had climbed it in summer (but from the Stevens Pass side). We started at Smithbrook (with about 4 inches of fresh snow on a 2 foot base) and followed the road 2.5 miles to the switchback at 4000 feet. We discovered that there is now a trail that leaves the road there, but after following it a few hundred yards we concluded it was heading toward Union Gap and so we left it at around 4200, planning to traverse around until we hit Smithbrook creek and then follow it SW to the col between Lichtenberg and McCausland above Lake Valhalla. We apparently crossed the creek without noticing and continued traversing at 4200 until we were on the NE side of Lichtenwasser Lake traversing SE. Ooops. We backtracked and then had no problem resuming our intended route. We made the summit without further mishap. Snow at the summit was about 4 feet deep but firm enough that we did not use snowshoes. Clouds obscured what is supposed to be a fine view. The group was feeling adventurous, and so we opted to take a different route down, following the ridge eastward until we were above Dow Lake and then either dropping south to Smithbrook or following the ridge NE to Union Gap. Unfortunately, in the fog of the summit we forgot to check our compasses and started following the North Ridge off the summit by mistake. We followed the ridge to about 5300 and then turned right and descended into what we thought was Smithbrook. When we realized our mistake, we were at about 4600 feet and north of Dow Lake. Too tired to reverse direction and climb a thousand feet back to the summit, we instead dropped to 4200 feet, went east, then SE and climbed through Union Gap. We finally reached the Smithbrook road at sunset and had a headlamp illuminated slog to the cars. A fun time was had by all.
Crossing a small creek in the flat area at around 4450 NW of Union Gap, the snowbank collapsed under one member, sending her into the creek. Although the water was only 2 feet deep, she landed in a sitting position and completely soaked her clothes from the waist down. Fortunately she had plenty of dry clothes in a waterproof bag in her pack to change into. Otherwise, we might have had a problem. Winter scramblers should always carry extra clothes in a waterproof bag.


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