Earl Peak

It looked to be a washed out weekend. Rain on Saturday followed by heavy rain and snow on Sunday. I had to be back in town early on Saturday. What to do? Janet wanted to go scramble a mountain. She had double knee replacement surgery only 6 1/2 months earlier and had been slowly building back up. How about 7 miles with 3300' of gain with the last 1/2 mile and 800' of gain off trail up the ridge? Earl Peak it was. Since I had to be back early and it is a 230 mile round trip drive it meant another early morning alarm. 4:45 am early. We met in Bellevue at 5:50 am and headed east in the dark. One quick stop in Cle Elum and we reached the trailhead at 7:45. We were on the trail just before 8:00.

There was a horse trailer and half a dozen trucks at the Beverly Creek trailhead. This was the second week of the main deer hunting season. I was prepared with a whole lot of orange clothing. All along the Teanaway River valley we saw golden leaves. Much more than I expected. The trail also was lined with golden leaves much of the way. We quickly reached Bean Creek and took a right turn on the trail to Bean Creek Basin.

The creek crossing was easy as the water is still low. This trip is back end loaded for elevation gain. The trail is very gently graded all the way to the saddle on the ridge of Earl Peak. While most of our drive was under a layer of clouds it miraculously cleared up in the Teanaway valley. It was cold but blue sky shone overhead. The trail climbs the ridge of Earl then descends to meet the Standup Creek trail. Most folks on the trail head up to Bean Creek Basin on a non official boot path. Year ago I spent half an hour searching for the real trail as it disappeared after the second crossing of Bean Creek.

That is no longer a problem as the route is well maintained and easy to follow. In fact the first part of the climb to the ridge has had very recent work widening the narrow tread. The ascent is easy as the trail makes many long gentle switchbacks. Mostly it is in forest though there are a number of open views out to Bean, Mary, and Judi Peaks and down to the basin. Janet noticed pair of lone bluebell type flowers still in full bloom. It seems they don't know that it's late October.

Our steady pace with lots of photo stops brought us to the saddle at 10:04. Just a little over 2 hours to hike 3.1 miles with 2450' of gain. I noticed the burnt trees and suddenly recalled that a horse had died at this place during the summer. An attempt at cremation led to a small forest fire. Thankfully the horse is no longer there. Now we were ready for the fun part, Janet's first scramble and first summit in nearly a year.

The ridge route has no exposure. It is just a steep hike up grass, loose scree, and some boulders. Not that hard unless you had double knee replacement surgery recently. We took it slow and Janet did just fine. Part way up clouds came screaming in. One minute I could see the Cascade Crest many miles away and then I could not see Bean Creek Basin right below us. We were still comfortably warm but visibility went to practically zero. The summit above drifted in and out of sight as we climbed higher. Soon there was no more mountain to climb as we reached the 7036' summit. The old brass Mountaineer summit register was no longer there. No signing in this day.

The wind was still light as we bundled up. It was just about 11:00 am when we summited. Views were non existent but we did not care. We had a great hike up with blue sky and views most of the way and real lonesome feeling white out on the top. We heard one gun shot but otherwise no signs of anyone else. By 11:20 we were ready to head down. This was a tougher test for Janet as the loose rock makes it easy to slip and fall. Half way back to the saddle it began to snow. Big flakes blown horizontally right at us. A short fun early taste of the winter that is coming. We each took a short movie to catch the snowfall.

The snow stopped as quickly as it had begun. That was it for precipitation and rain gear was never needed. We made it back to the saddle with no slips or falls. As we dropped off the ridge the thick clouds parted as quickly as they had formed. Back in the basin the sky turned mostly blue and the sun came back out. The wind had picked up on our descent from the summit and fingers had felt frozen. The sun quickly warmed us up again. We reached the trail head at 2:15, right on pace for getting me back to Seattle on time. Just after we reached the car a group of hunters also came back. We saw nobody on the trail and just these folks at the end of the day. Not bad solitude for a pretty popular trail.

On the drive back to Seattle we ran into a lot of rain. Our early morning start proved to be great timing. We missed all the  hard rain to come. Going into a popular hunting area on day forecast to be very rainy kept away the hikers and delivered up solitude and great weather to us. Earl is one of my favorite summits. Many of my visits are on snow. It was nice to visit at a time it was snow free. Janet had a chance to push her recovery a little and I had another great day in the mountains.

Starting Up The Trail
October Bluebell?
Bean Peak
Sun & Shade
Starting Up Earl
Clouds Roll In Fast
Gnarled Tree
Getting Dark
Hiker Against White Sky
Bean  Basin Disappears
Bean Basin Is Brown
Let It Snow...
Clouds & Snow
Larch Trees
Judi Peak
Orange Mushroom
Orange & Yellow
Color Along Creek
Wall Of Yellow
Golden Glade
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2010