We really should just start planning our trips the morning we leave for our weekend adventures. Weather seems to have a knack of changing last minute this winter. Plan A was to attempt to climb Helena Peak and Bald Mountain on the Mountain Loop Hwy. It was supposed to rain, but the avalanche danger was predicted to stay moderate. Alas, when we woke up Saturday morning the forecast was updated to High for Sunday at and above treeline. With that new information we changed directions and headed to Leavenworth through heavy rain. We figured maybe we could recreate our rainy first date to Snow Lakes almost a year ago.

We were greeted by blue skies, but with grey clouds lurking down the canyon as we pulled into the Trailhead lot. There was snow on the ground so we put our out snowshoes and started out. A beautiful mist had settled into the canyon floor and as we ascended the first switchbacks views of Mt Cashmere opened before us. We crossed a large section of avalanche debris about .75 miles up the trail. It seemed pretty old though and the terrain trap had already been triggered leaving no further danger so we pressed on. The distant grey clouds concealed the blue sky and a very light rain fell as we finished the final switchback and we began the traverse beside Snow Creek. It was here that we began to notice more avalanche debris and the slides on the trail increased the further we walked. About 1.75 miles from the trailhead we stopped again to evaluate the situation. I wasn’t concerned to much because it seemed almost every possible terrain trap had already  avalanche. However, Damien pointed out that some areas had not been triggered yet and with heavy rain predicted the following the day the rocks under the snow would be lubricated and could create hazardous conditions. We backed off and headed back down to the parking lot.

It was late in the day, about 12:45pm, we were began walking up Eightmile Rd, which was our safest, albeit least backcountry, option in the area. The Rd was full of snowshoers and several skiers, many with their dogs. This lack ofd solitude drove me kind of crazy. Luckily the crowds thinned out after about 2 miles. There were two section of avanche debris on the road. But we didn’t see potential for more slides. We noted that there was some ice on the Millennium Wall, but it did seem to be more like narrow pillar than large flows. Hubba Hubba seemed to be in, but appeared very white. Too much sun?

We received a mix of snow and overcast skies for the first while, but at 3:00pm the clouds began to shower us with snow. First tiny, wet flakes and then big fluffy ones. It transformed the slushy landscape into beauty and provided a more backcountry feel even though we were eon a road. We were delighted it wasn’t rain too!

At the end the road we began walking on the Stuart Lake Trail. We thought maybe we could get at least to the junction, but hopefully Stuart Meadows to camp. The trail was well broken, but the going slowed down significantly as we scuttled around trees and moved up and down snowbanks. Progress being so slow, we ended up at the large creek crossing bridge at about 5pm. There is a large open area there offering protection from tree bombs and a supply of clean snow. We decided to set up camp there… and I forgot to take a picture!

Instead of the freezing level dropping as the sun went down it rose. The heavy snow turned to rain as we cooked of Mountain House dinners. I tried Damien’s favorite: Chili Mac, to see what all the hype was about. Not to shabby.

We got a late start in the morning. Heavy rain made us hesitate to head back, but we managed to pack up during a period of lighter precip. The sun peaked one once or twice on the descent but mostly it rained and felt much more like April then Feb. Still, there is no place else I’d rather be a Valentine’s Day: in the mountains.

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