Avalanche Danger was considerable and a winter weather advisory was in effect for the weekend. Not going outside is not exactly an option for Damien and I. We planned a conservative ski trip off of Smithbrook Rd. to Lake Valhalla.

We arrived at the pullout along Highway 2 just as snowflakes began to fall from the ski. Luckily we had just missed driving through the winter advisory. I’d rather camp in heavy snow than drive in it! Smithbrook was well groomed back the many snowmobiles that had headed up the road previously and the snow-cover was consistent. We did have get go under a fallen tree which proved very awkward with a heavy pack on skis! The snow grew heavier as we climbed the gradual switchbacks of the roads. We were passed by another skier who was on his way to Jove Mountain. We had discussed this open the previous night and Damien now felt compelled to make that our destination instead. He thought he saw the turnoff for it on the map soon after the Lake Valhalla Trail.

We passed the turnoff for Valhalla and continued up an endless switchback. After an hour of not hitting a turnoff we looked at the map again. It appeared we had gone way to far. We decided that we would go back and looked for the turnoff. If we missed it again we would just go to Valhalla as originally planned.

We ended up back at the Trailhead for Valhalla. The heavy snow was causing avy concern for Jove anyway so we weren’t feeling as strongly about going up the peak. There was a trail already broken and we began to follow it through the forested switchbacks. The forest is always amazingly gorgeous in falling snow and we reveled in the beauty of the winter wonderland.

We reached a Junction labeled with a sign that simple said “Smithbrook trail” and pointed in the direction we had come. To get to Vallalla we needed to turn left onto unbroken trail. If we headed straight o the broken trail we would arrive at lake Janis. We turned left and began to break trail through deep powder often above our knees. We fought drifts of snow where our skis got hopelessly buried and  sank to our hips at times. After 45-60 minutes of struggle we decided that we would turn back and head toward Janis instead. As it turned out, that broken trail dead ended at the downward switchbacks. It was getting late now and we opted to ski back to the sign at Union Gap. The snow was falling heavily and we wanted to be at a distinct destination we could find on a map since we expected the broken trail to be gone in the morning.

As expected the trail was gone in the morning. About two feet of snow fell overnight! We had bangs on the walls at night, but a far amount had piled up around us anyway. Every now and then we hear a giant “boom” sound (and feel the vibration too. It was snow dumping out of trees. This caused some concern,  but there wasn’t much we could do other than out on our helmets, travel with distance between us and wear our avy trackers.

We packed up camp did our best break a new trail in the right direction. We could follow a faint hint of the old track in section, but other times we just had to go where we thought the trail might be by examining the terrain. We had a few missteps, but ended up finding our way down the Smithbrook Rd without too much difficulty.

The road grade is very gradual and with only a few snowmobile tracks in the fresh powder it was difficult to gather speed to glide all the way down. Damien left one heel free which worked well for him. I’m a xc skier so i just left both heels free. When we arrived back at Highway 2 we discovered that our car was plowed in a concealed under a very thick layer of snow. It took about an hour to dig the whole thing out, but to be honest it was kind of fun!

 

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