Remote and rugged, yet still very manageable, Napeequa Peak offers some of the best views a mountaineer could ask for. Scrambling class 3/4 rock near the summit will also make for a fun and rewarding challenge.
Buck Creek Trail begins at the Trinity Trailhead, which is located at the end of the Chiwawa Valley Road 6200.
From US-2 turn onto WA-207 North and go 4.4 miles. Go right on Chiwawa Loop Road and stay right at the intersection. Then take the second left onto Chiwawa River Road/Forest Road 6200 and follow it for about 23 miles. Road becomes gravel/dirt at 11 mile point. Continue another 12 miles on very rough road. '
Trail Cat Jim describes the two most common approaches to High Pass, the starting point of the actual climb:
The easiest and most common access route is via the Buck Creek Pass Trail and High Pass Trail. The Buck Creek Pass Trailhead is located near the old mining village of Trinity, approximately 25 miles up the Chiwawa River Road from Lake Wenatchee. A well-maintained trail leads to Buck Creek Pass and many good campsites in approximately 11 miles. From the lowest point of the pass, an unmarked and unmaintained trail switchbacks in a southerly direction around the side of Liberty Cap and ascends to the rolling hills of High Pass after approximately 3 miles. In early and mid season, expect to cross several steep snow chutes between Liberty Cap and High Pass; have an ice axe and possibly crampons ready.
A longer and more adventurous approach to High Pass is via the Little Giant Trail and Napeequa Valley Trail. The Little Giant Trailhead is located on the Chiwawa River Road approximately 4 miles before reaching Trinity. This approach begins with a ford of the Chiwawa River, so it is not recommended in early season, when the river is running high. Well-maintained trail leads to Little Giant Pass in 5 miles, and then an unmaintained, overgrown trail leads steeply downhill into the Napeequa Valley. Once in the valley bottom, hike approximately 5 miles up-river, past Louis Creek, to an unnamed creek flowing down from High Pass. A combination of game trails and cross-country slopes deliver climbers to High Pass.
For climbers looking to ascend the east face of Napeequa Peak from High Pass, the following description should be fairly typical. Keep in mind that this route description assumes ideal weather conditions. Napeequa in bad weather or poor visibility would be a very different expernence.
Climbers descend to a saddle south of Triad Lake. This saddle is ideal for a lunch break and gives you a chance to drop your backpacking gear and switch to a lighter summit pack.
From there it is an easy hike up the ridge before crossing rock and snow (climber’s left) towards the main summit block of Napeequa. This east face is a Class 3 scramble but depending on weather, precipitation, snow, and visibility could be very dangerous. The loose rock is worse than you might expect based on Beckey's description but not unmanageble. Be very careful!
That said, ascending out of the bad rock of the lower east face it transitions to somewhat better, though very exposed, Class 3 rock higher up.
The total climbing time from camp was just under six hours (which included a side trip to the top of Liberty Cap), a total gain of 3150 feet from Buck Creek Pass. As of 2020 there was no summit register on Napeequa. The view however, is fabulous.
The descent is the same route, over the same good blocks (higher up) and loose rock (down below).
Normal trailhead parking permits (i.e. Northwest Forest Pass) are required. Wilderness permits were required (in 2020) to camp at Buck Creek Pass or High Pass but there was no fee. For more information about permits, visit the Forest Service website.
Summer. There was a surprising amount of snow on the route and kicking steps was a must since we didn't have crampons. In 2020, there was still a snow patch on the valley floor (near the Napeequa River) in August!
Camping at Buck Creek Pass was excellent but there were also amazing camping opportunities at High Pass. We camped in bivy sacks, but due to bugs, a light-weight tent might have been a better option.
Trail Cat Jim is the best post-Beckey resource for these mountains --- http://trailcatjim.com/buck-mtn-napeequa-mtn-high-giant-traverse/
Fred Beckey didn't have much to say about Napeequa Peak specifically, but his books are always a must-have for any climber in the Pacific Northwest.
Washington Trails Association has a good page about getting to and camping at Buck Creek Pass --- https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/buck-creek-pass
NOAA Weather Report for Trinity, Washington (which might be about as close as you can get) --- https://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?textField1=48.0770691&textField2=-120.8578772#.Xy7v0kl7ndQ