This weekend last year Bob, Kolleen, and I camped
at 6200' on the shoulder of
. This year we set out to camp on the summit of 7223' Navaho Peak.
Suzanne joined us for the backpack and Joanna came along for a day hike
to the summit. The only problem was a deteriorating weather forecast. There
have been virtually no sunny weekends this year, even on the east side of
the Cascade Crest. We all met at 29 Pines at the end of pavement on the North
Fork Teanaway Road. The Stafford Creek Road was almost snow free to about
one mile from the Navaho Pass trailhead. We stopped at a long snow patch
that was about 6-8 inches deep at most. The two four wheel drive vehicles
likely could have gone through.
The road was mostly snow free for another half mile then mostly snow
covered to the trailhead. We parked at the long snow patch and walked
the mile of road. The trail begins on dirt. The first snow was some half
a mile along. Snow and bare ground alternated before becoming mostly snow
covered after about a mile. Glacier lilies are in bloom in places along
the lower trail.
There are some 7 or 8 good sized logs down across the trail. They
will stop horses but not hikers. We removed smaller logs and branches.
We had no trouble going over or around the others. There are only a few
side creeks and we managed to rock hop them with dry boots. I planned to
head up to the saddle between Navaho and Little Navaho. We would climb Little
Navaho first then head up Navaho with the intent to camp just below the
summit. If the weather was getting worse we could drop down to the area
near Navaho Pass to camp.
The weather began better than expected. We started at about 9:30
under a blue sky. At the summer trailhead most of us went to shorts.
It was cool, sunny, and very pleasant hiking weather. We followed faint
tracks on or near the summer trail much of the way. Instead of trying to
say on trail and take the several switchbacks we just angled up towards
where the summer trail crosses the creek coming down from near the Navaho
- Little Navaho saddle.
We actually came upon a short section of dirt trail right before
reaching the creek. We now headed straight uphill. This route gains some
1300' in a short steep distance. The lower section is the steepest. The
snow was great for kicking steps but we had to climb up a section of thin
snow and loose wet scree that was not much fun. The way flattened for a
short distance and we were back on deeper snow here.
With good snow we continued up through thin forest and in the open.
We left the snow and emerged onto dirt within about 100 vertical feet of
the saddle. As we approached the saddle a cold wind began to blow. The
nearer we came the harder it blew. When we reached the saddle we had to
but on jackets even though the sun was out. We could also now see the first
high clouds blowing in.
It was about 1:40 now and Joanna had set a 2:00 turn around time.
We had a discussion on just what we wanted to do for the rest of the weekend.
The consensus was to not carry our heavy winter packs all the way to the
top of Navaho. It was another 1200' above the 6000' pass. With the strong
cold wind and the clouds now coming in more rapidly a summit camp was
looking like a very cold option and perhaps without the sunset photos anyway.
The only problem is that the pass is very wide and has no trees for
a wind block. On the other hand we had four season tents and we could camp
on dirt instead of snow. That would be a lot warmer. Most of the saddle
area was snow free. There was plenty of snow on the edges and above for
snow to melt for water. Although she had not brought a tent or sleeping bag
Joanna was interested in joining us for the night if we camped on dirt.
Since we had all brought two sleeping pads for the snow there would be no
shortage of them.
We finally came to the decision to camp at the saddle. We set up
our two tents and set out for Little Navaho. It is only some 400' above
the pass and we just took ice axes and headed up. The route was lots of
fun. I have done Little Navaho once from the ridge on the other side.
I had not been up this route. The snow was a little soft but we had no problems
on the ascent. It was mostly in snow with a few short sections on rock.
The dogs all made it to the top as well. Very nice views from the top including
Earl across the valley and Mt. Stuart to the left of Navaho Peak. Once
we left the pass the wind died down.
The last trip report I read mentioned a summit register but there
is not one up there now. The descent went very quickly. As we neared the
pass the wind picked up once again. Very cold outside but balmy in the
tents. We hoisted our now somewhat lighter packs for the ascent of Navaho.
The route gains 1200' in just over a mile. The first part is the steepest.
It was on bare dirt and scree. A bit of a boot path exists.
I was feeling awful for some reason. I had no energy at all. Bob had
done some serious leg work at the gym and he too was sub par. We were determined
to reach the summit but it was not pretty. The women zoomed ahead. Once
up the bare part it was all snow to the summit. There is a cornice most
of the way up the ridge on the right side. We stayed well to the left. As
we climbed the clouds grew thicker and the wind blew harder. We had some
trees blocking the wind on the upper ridge.
When we reached the summit the women were ready to head down. It was
a face numbing wind now. No way would I have wanted to camp up there in
those conditions. Bob and I signed the register and were ready to head
down. The clouds were high enough to allow us to see all the peaks but everything
was washed out. Not among the best photos I have taken from Navaho. In fact,
is the only one I have been on with a camera where I had good photos.
Bob and I hightailed it down in 35 minutes. It took us 75 minutes
to get up. Back at camp we set to melting water and cooking dinner. The
wind did not let up at all. The soft snow near the tents was now getting
hard. Soon I had to dig out snow to melt for water. With the high winds
and freezing snow it was seeming more and more like the trip up Earl exactly
one year earlier.
By 8:00 pm we had everything finished and got ready for bed. Bob and
Kolleen took Joanna's big dog Banjo. We took Holly and Sadie. A blue foam
pad in the vestibule made a good bed for the dogs. Or so I thought. A few
hours later the net screen was unzipped and the dogs climbed into the tent.
The Nallo 3 is a good sized backpacking tent but it was not designed for
three adults and two good sized dogs. I'll just day it was "cozy". I did not
sleep much all night. The wind never let up. There was a little flapping of
the tents but not very much. They remained rock solid all night.
I just hoped the 30% chance of snow would not ring true when we got
up. In fact it did not. It was cloudy with a little sun poking through.
We decided to get an early morning start down. As we dropped the tents
the wind strangely seemed to stop. The snow was rock hard. I could poke
my ice axe in an inch at most. We put on crampons for the 1300' drop to
the summer trail. I would not have tried descending without them. The conditions
were very good for crampons. Lower down the snow even began to soften.
In no time at all we were down to the trail. What remained was about
three miles of slogging down the valley and a mile of road walking. Suzanne
managed to follow our tracks all the way back, even in the trees where
we hardly made a mark on the hard snow. Well almost all the way back. We
found ourselves crossing several large blow downs when we realized we were
on the old trail. The new trail is up above avoiding several places where
the old trail was obliterated by the creek. A little uphill bushwhacking
and we were back on route. We were back at the cars before noon.
This turned out to be a bit of an adventure. It was not exactly as
planned but worked out quite well. We did summit two peaks. We did not
see another person either day. The tents had a real workout in the wind
and performed great. I found out what is the maximum capacity of my tent.
We found we had more than enough emergency gear to outfit a person for an
unplanned overnight at 6000' with a low temperature below freezing. With
all those people it was toasty in the tent. Sometimes you just have to take
things as they come. It all worked out fine in the end.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Bare At Start
Another Tree Down
All Snow Now
Suzanne & Joanna
Saddle In Sight
At The Saddle
Scrambling Lil Nav
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2007