Lake Valhalla - 4830' Miles: 10 Gain: 2000' GT Benchmark Mtn. # 144
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December 26 , 2009

It's been nearly three months since I last got up early on a weekend and set out to put a foot on trail. I'd hoped that an extended rest break would allow my knees time to recover from a busy year and that I would be able to look forward to some mostly pain free winter trips.  Not sure that the rest had that positive an effect, but I did feel pretty good both during and after.

Carrie organized the trip.  She would normally be off skiing this time of year, but the snow conditions weren't all that good.  She has also posted a TR (WTA) and you can find it here.

Owing to it's easy access, moderate avy risk (under most conditions) and multiple destinations for snowshoers and scramblers alike, the consensus was to drive east to Smith Brook Road and see what struck our fancy once we got going.   More than a few options are available as trips out to Lichtenwasser and Valhalla Lakes, Union, Jove, Lichtenberg and McCausland peaks all typically start here.

We parked at the plowed turn out / parking area just to the east of Smith Brook Road (in the west bound lanes), climbed the berm and started walking.  The road walk is long; 3+ miles.  It goes pretty fast though and the views do improve after you cut the first switchback.

At the apex of the second major switchback look for a path leading off the

road and into the woods on your left. In general going straight ahead on a rising traverse above the creek you'll find Lake Valhalla (1.8 miles) beyond the saddle at the head of the valley.  To the left, down and across the stream starts the climb to Lichtenwasser and up to the right lies Union Gap. Don't expect to find much of a defined path in the snow, even though it's a popular area. Most people stay to the road.

We had decided that we'd go up to the saddle between Lichtenberg and McCausland to have lunch.  If the mood struck and we had time, we could scramble up McCausland from there.

It took us about 3.5 hours to reach the 5100' saddle above the lake from the cars.  We found a nice spot on the lake side of the saddle to stop and eat lunch. Nice but dangerous as it turns out, for we had unwittingly stumbled on a spot (and there are many) where the combination of views and warm sun cause inertia to grow until it buries any plans you may have had for further adventures that day.  By the end of lunch I was quite satisfied to call it a day right there.   :)

Uneventful return to the cars and drive out to Sultan for dinner. We ended up eating at Ixtapa because Dan's Pizza at the edge of town is no longer.  Really too bad as the food was good and they never had a problem with groups of smelly people arriving just before closing.
Smith Brook Road/Lake Valhalla: From Stevens Pass drive six miles east on U.S. 2 to the Mill Creek exit and make a U-turn to get onto the westbound lanes. Drive less than 1 1/2 miles to a sno-park a little to the east of Smith Brook Road, elevation 3,187 feet.  No facilities.
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