After a ridiculous day at Lake Ingalls two days prior, I was on my way back to the Teanaway region again on 4/1/2015 – Wednesday morning. It’s like I’ve discovered a secret beautiful area that’s always sunny with amazing views. Don’t tell anyone. There’s something special about going for a hike and knowing you’re the only people for miles. Anyway, Navaho Peak ended up being far more doable than I expected after seeing the Ingalls basin, and damn, did those views take my breath away.
- Distance: 12 miles round trip (12.3 for us)
- Elevation: 4200ft gain, 7220 highest point
- Weather: 50’s and sunny at the bottom, freaking cold and windy at the top (maybe low 30’s?)
- Commute from Seattle: 2:15, longer if you get stuck in Snoqualmie Blizzard
Snoqualmie Pass was the hardest part of the drive. Heavy snow, limited visibility, and trucks using their chains. It felt like playing frogger, except in a car, and more stressful. I wasn’t driving. I just resigned myself to my fate that maybe it was my time and Ingalls was just a good way to end my hiking career on a good note. The weird part? It made me a little homesick for the east coast. Yeah, that’s what I miss. Spinning my wheels on hill starts because there was 6 inches of snow on the ground and tire chains were unheard of. Or that one time a BMW in Chicago spun into a snow bank as I smirked behind him. Don’t worry, I helped dig him out, I’m nice. But we made it, thanks to Kyle, and about 5 miles from our exit, the skies started to clear. The light at the end of the tunnel! Yes!
The road to the trailhead was a piece of cake. A few potholes, but nothing too rutted, no washouts, no snow or ice patches besides a light dusting of fresh snow twinkling in the sun. Gorgeous. We got started right away and followed the summer trail for the first 2 miles, stopping to take pictures along the river. Little Navaho and Navaho were both covered in snow, but it didn’t look deep. I started to think this might not be as tricky as I expected. Hell, it was already easier than Lake Ingalls. And the first few miles of the trail are pretty much flat.
We did lose the trail at one point. I blame the fresh snow. We went off trail for a bit aiming for Navaho Pass (more on this later) and eventually ran into the trail as it started to switchback up the slope. It went in and out of snowy patches, and we finally lost it for good about two miles from the top. At that point, we just started trekking straight up the snow to the ridge. Steep, but snow conditions were fantastic. Far less concerning than the conditions getting to Lake Ingalls. Fully consolidated, no slushy layer, just nice firm snow with a bit of powder on top. A few of my buddies put on microspikes, I found that kicking steps was more than enough.
Earl grew smaller and smaller as we got higher and higher, and finally we gained the ridge. Boom. Stuart! From the other side! Damn, the Stuart range is photogenic. We were still in a sparsely forested area, so trees occasionally got in the way, but the views were unbelievable. Just don’t look back towards i90. It’s still nice, but it’s a highway. Looking at the snow covered peaks makes you feel like a bad ass in the middle of the wilderness. And I bet Earl doesn’t look half as good once all of the snow has melted.
We turned right to head up towards the true summit. Behind us was Earl, to the left was Ingalls (in the clouds), Stuart, Sherpa, Argonaut, Colchuck, Dragontail, Little Annapurna, and McClellan Peak. Straight ahead was Navaho, and beyond that, Little Navaho. Snow conditions were still great, and staying to the right of the trees blocked some of the wind that was whipping around us. It was steep going, but that doesn’t matter. When you’re somewhere that beautiful, you want to stop every 20 feet to get pictures of everything. The peaks, the ridge behind you, the valley, every step is amazing. Or maybe that was just our excuse to take breaks, you’ll never know.
Finally we came out of the trees, and the summit was just above us. Hey guys! I found the trail! I laughed running up the last clear 15 feet to the rocky summit. What I didn’t realize is that Three Brothers was right beyond where we were. I didn’t even get a picture! How did I miss?! We snapped pictures of everyone at the top, until I couldn’t feel my fingers or feet anymore. Dammit. Three socks isn’t enough, apparently. We trekked back down the ridge a ways until we found a spot secluded from the wind by a cluster of trees (but in the sun!) and settled down there for snacks. I had a valiant attempt at getting a time-lapse, but my camera fell over just as clouds brushed the peak of Stuart. Because I don’t have a tripod. I prop it up on a rock or two and hope for the best. The plebeian photographer. But here’s what I got, a slightly less exciting version of what I saw.
Stuart is one dramatic peak. The dark stone (all granite, I was told) contrasts amazingly with the snow, and it just looks so sharp from this angle. I’ll climb that someday.
After making sure everyone knew how to self arrest, we glissaded most of the way down. That made the trip back down the ridge much easier than the way up. And glissading is a blast. It’s like sledding for adults. I’d recommend bringing microspikes and an axe, though I never felt like I would be relying on the axe at any point like I did occasionally at Ingalls. It was just a fun tool to steer and brake when glissading.
We followed our own steps down from the ridge, and eventually met up with the summer trail again, which we followed all the way to the parking lot. The snow had mostly melted, leaving the trail dry and sunny. An entirely different day. Oh, and it turned out our “off-trail navigation” around miles 2-3 was a hilarious 15-30ft from the trail at any given point. Oops.
I’m too lucky. Two spectacular hikes in a row. I came back down to earth on Thursday – it had to happen eventually. Here’s to hoping the snow will stick around just a little bit longer, or I’ll be forced to chase it up high.
Here’s a strava map if you’d like to see where we went. I imagine we left a pretty good boot path between the five of us. Highly recommend checking it out now if you have the chance. I’m a newbie out here and don’t know how long those peaks will be snow capped. All I know is that the title picture on the WTA trip page doesn’t do it justice. It’s an incredible horizon to look across. And knowing that the enchantments (allegedly the best hikes in the entire state) are on the other side is intriguing. It’s like a secret within a secret, blocked by peaks on all sides. I’d love to do those in shoulder season with some snow someday.