Navaho Peak

This weekend last year Bob, Kolleen, and I camped at 6200' on the shoulder of Earl Peak . 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, this trip 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.

Bare At Start
Glacier Lily
Stafford Creek
First Log
Another Tree Down
All Snow Now
Suzanne & Joanna
Open Forest
Saddle In Sight
At The Saddle
Navaho Ridge
Miller Peak
Little Navaho
Windy Camp
Scrambling Lil Nav
Three Brothers
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2007