(Scroll down for trail conditions for Skyline Lake and a short section of the PCT north from Stevens Pass)
One of the really fun parts of prepping for the White Mountains is thinking about what gear I’ll bring, and how I’ll carry everything. I’m not sure if I’ll use a sled or a pack, and probably won’t decide until the last minute, when I have a good sense of race-day conditions. Therefore I’m training with both a sled and a pack this winter. On Monday I took the sled for its first test run, and it was SO FUN!
The main reason that my first run with the sled was fun (and not frustrating) is because I got a ton of help from some people with extensive winter travel experience. Chris and Marty Fagan very generously loaned me their awesome Northern Sled Works Siglin pulk, while Shawn McTaggart and Tony Covarrubias spent a ton of time photographing and describing their sled set-ups so that I could shamelessly copy them. Both couples patiently answered all of my questions. Thank you guys!!!
Here’s what I used on Monday:
- Small Osprey hydration pack to carry water
- Siglin pulk
- Osprey hip belt
- Nylon rope and PVC poles to attach the pulk to the hip belt. The poles slide over the rope and keep the sled from ramming into my heels on the downhills. Crossing the poles adds stability.
- Tigger. Because when your 5-yr old daughter asks you to carry one of her stuffies on the sled “so you can think of me while you run,” you do it.
It all worked like a charm and I had a blast running around with the sled. So far, I prefer the sled to a backpack, but of course that might change depending on the weight I’m carrying, snow conditions, etc.
I parked in the northern lot at Stevens Pass and did a few miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, and then another few miles up to Skyline Lake and back. Skyline Lake has some reasonably steep sections, but hauling the sled up there wasn’t as bad as I expected. Coming down, the sled was a bit pushy but the PVC poles did their job and kept the sled from overtaking me.
There was a considerable inversion layer: foggy, windy and 8 degrees F at the pass, and in the low 40s and sunny up at Skyline Lake. It was a great chance to practice loading/unloading the sled as I removed/added layers.
The PCT northbound from Stevens Pass is packed snow with a few bare spots. Approximately 1 mile in there’s a partially frozen stream crossing. Be prepared for wet and cold feet if you want to go further. No need for snowshoes or traction on the PCT, except for the frozen stream crossing for which you will want spikes.
Skyline Lake trail was in good condition with packed snow. Some folks had snowshoes, but I did just fine in Cascadias without snowshoes or microspikes. One note about the Skyline trail: following the road will take you all the way to the top, where there is a cell tower and some nice views of the surrounding mountains. If you want to find the lake, you need to take a left on a (currently) well-trodden trail approximately 1/4 mile before the top of the road. This will make sense once you’re up there, and is pretty easy to figure out if you have a map/GPS.