I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I brought in the new year arguing with a dude on the internet. He was seeing some young people and people with imperfect form out in the backcountry. He just wanted to warn an online community that all these folks were at best, going to waste SAR resources when they inevitably got injured, or at worst, they were going to die in avalanche. It seems benevolent on surface level, but it’s not actually steeped in reality. Newer backcountry skiers and less proficient skiers tend to have more fear, and fear is protective. Instead, it’s a narrative crafted by mental gymnastics to help experienced backcountry travelers feel safer about their risk management. I’ve discussed this in prior posts, and shared this correction with Brad. (Of course he was a Brad).
Brad replied with angry comments, and when I didn’t respond, he brought the issue to my DMs where he felt he could be a little more callous.
Now, I should note that he sent me an apology the next morning and some explanation about grieving a friend (insert discount code to BetterHelp.com), but not before other members with developing skills or limited experience were able to take in his message.
And while I agree with Brad that touring in the PNW is really difficult with our slope angles and tree density, I think we can do better than telling people who just dropped over a thousand dollars on gear and education that they don’t belong here. There’s a huge beta shortage for the good intro tours we do have in our backyards, where navigation is simple, terrain is relatively low risk, and runs are open and low angle.
I’m sharing this spot in hopes of filling the gap. I spotted it touring a few weeks ago, and my friend Kaelee was willing to be my guinea pig for her first backcountry, post-AIARE tour. These slopes are triangulated between Mt. McCausland, Lichtenberg Mountain, and a peak labeled “Whiteface” on Caltopo. I figured calling it “Stay Mad, Brad” kept things simpler. And I hope it stays full of progressing skiers in a wedge or defensive positions, having the time of their lives, as a special tributes to all the Brads out there.
Parking: The nearest parking is in the Yodelin lot, just a mile and a half past Stevens Pass Ski Area. The snowbanks are pretty high and I always almost miss it. Don’t slap skins on in the lot; there’s a short road section you can glide down from the start.
Approach: Cross highway 2 and you’ll see signs about private parking. Carry your skis a short distance until the road comes to a T. Head to the right. You should pass a few parked snowcats and snowmobiles. Pop your skis on and glide downhill on Stevens Road through this unplowed vacation home neighborhood. (The people who live there are super chill and nice, so clean up after dogs and stuff). Once you bottom out, slap skins and skin the road until it ends. Total distance here is about a mile.
Skintrack: It’s pretty common for a skintrack to get set quickly back here, but the general directions are mapped in blue, below. Kaelee also clocked her GPX coordinates, and you can find it here on her on Strava. The skintrack rolls, so there’s a fair amount of downhill skinning, but it’s not too steep or sustained. There are also 2 water crossings. As of this week (1/31), one was super mellow, and the other is slightly downhill and stretches for a few feet. Kaelee snapped a quick vid of me going across. Once you cross the creek, you are under avalanche hangfire on Lichtenberg, so skip this one on days where natural avalanches are likely. Pass the deep gully that drops off Lichtenberg and feeds into Nason Creek, and from there, the terrain is fairly low angle.
Terrain: We skied the slope immediately past the gully since it was perfectly open and low angle, but I’ll update this route as I explore further NW and higher elevation. We skied three 250 laps since it was the first outing our for Kaelee and me, and with considerable avy forecasts near and above tree line and low clouds, we wanted to be extra sure that we gave tree line a wide berth. But with better weather and snow stability, we could’ve skinned up to Lake Valhalla or even the summit of McCausland. (Though, note that the former does require a short stretch through denser trees and the latter has some stretches with steeper slopes).
We had great conditions with 3-4 inches of snow on top of a firm but edge-able base. Terrain is mellow enough that kick turns aren’t necessary; we could round out the corners in the switchbacks. Kaelee found the terrain super approachable and already has it in mind to return with a few friends who aren’t far behind her on the progression curve. I’d ballpark that the slope angle’s somewhere around a hard green or easy blue, but with a few trees and unmaintained snow. It was especially nice to do a couple of laps to really get a feel for the snow conditions and terrain and ski it more confidently with each run.
Once 11 hit, we started thinking about the loose wet risk below treeline and started making our exit to avoid being out during the warmest part of the day. We re-traced our steps through the skintrack, back through the neighborhood, landing back at Yodelin about three and a half hours after we left.
Planning to stick it to Brad? I’d love quick comment about how your day went and conditions!