Navaho Peak and Freedom Peak 4-27-2013
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Automahn and I arrived at the Trailhead at 6:45am as a pair of turkey hunters were gearing up for the day. We shared our plans in the interest of safety and went our separate ways. The gate at Stafford Creek was closed with a sign that read "Road closed until further notice", but the chain securing it seemed to be missing a lock.
We headed up Trail 1359 under patchy skies and within a mile I could feel the occasional blast of warm wind at what seemed to be far too early in the morning. The forecast predicted a 30% chance of rain in Cle Elum (the lowest percentage I could find in the Cascades West of Wenatchee) but I began to expect a warm sunny day as the sun peeked over into the valley. Snow patches appeared on the trail within 2 miles of the Trailhead.
I shed a layer before leaving the trail just north of a substantial creek to begin ascending toward Freedom Peak, but replaced it about one hundred feet below the summit when the forecasted 30+ mph winds showed up. The Enchantments were in clear view as were most the Cascades East of the Pass, despite the ominous storm front that seemed to be developing on the Western horizon. On the snow-free, rocky summit I quickly performed my usual ritual of pictures and scattering ashes then dropped back down to a cozy little crack I had passed on the way up to have a snack out of the crazy wind.
As I shouldered my pack snow began to join the wind, which continued to pick up speed. I eyeballed Navaho on the way down to the saddle, and briefly considered heading back early. By the time I had reached the saddle, the wind speed seemed to have doubled and snow turned to hail. The weather was getting pretty brutal, but I wasn't concerned about navigation and we had come so far to turn back about a mile and 1200' shy of the goal. As my thought's turned to Automahn, I noticed that his tail was still wagging, and that was all the motivation I needed to continue.
We were able to stay mostly on snow from the saddle to the Summit besides a few sections of loose rock. The wind and hail continued relentlessly but as I neared the top I noticed the sun shining through. I wasted no time at the Summit before starting down to the SW, plunge stepping deep into softening snow. It was nice to get into the trees where the wind was calmer, and less than 1000' below the ridge I began to see patches of blue sky. I rejoined the trail around 4400' as the snow faded to an intermittent sprinkle. Back at the car I was stoked to be sitting in the sunshine as I removed boots and toweled off the dog, and 45 minutes later we were climbing back over Snoqualmie Pass into the rain. I carried snowshoes but never used them, although they would have been helpful in several places.
~13 miles round trip
4400' elevation gain
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