Surprise Mountain - Winter Wading in Surprise Creek

About a mile and third up the trail, the trail crosses Surprise Creek on a log. Half of us made it across without incident.
David Shema David Shema
Safety Committee Chair
November 12, 2017

Surprise Mountain - West of Stevens Pass, January 1

Winter Scramble Leader Report

This is a classic winter scramble up a scenic valley, past two mountain lakes, to a summit with outstanding views.


About a mile and third up the trail, the trail crosses Surprise Creek on a log. The snow was piled about 4 feet high on the log and had been crossed by many people.

I considered halting the group and spending a few minutes using our shovels to reduce the amount of snow on the log and to provide a firmer, wider platform to cross. Instead, we started across.

Half of us made it across without incident. When the fifth person was about a third of the way across, the snow underfoot collapsed to one side and he slid into the creek.

The water was about knee deep. He landed on his feet and was able to maintain his balance. He waded across the creek and was able to climb up the far bank with help from those of us on the far shore.

His boots were completely water logged. He took off his boots, poured the excess water out, and wrung out his socks.

Several people offered him dry socks from their emergency clothing stash in their packs, but our creek wader opted to use his own socks, knowing that he had available several dry socks from the group should his feet get cold.

Meanwhile, we took out our shovels and removed the top 2 to 3 feet of snow on the log to create a firmer and wider platform for the rest of the party to cross on. The rest of the trip proceeded without incident.

Lessons Learned


When the snow is piled high on a log crossing of a creek, I recommend spending a few minutes to shovel off much of the snow, leaving a flatter, firmer, wider platform to cross on. It is also helpful if you leave the outer edge a few inches higher than the center to reduce the chances of slipping off.


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Mike Kretzler
Mike Kretzler says:
Nov 22, 2017 07:31 PM

Another lesson: Just because one or more people make it across whatever you're crossing, doesn't mean the whole group will -- or that you will on return!

Michele Ritala
Michele Ritala says:
Jan 28, 2018 05:34 PM

I think the person who fell in should have taken the dry socks. He could have gotten frostbite. It's okay to let people help you.