Wenatchee Mountains Loop

July '08
This was a three day backpack starting and ending at the Beverly Creek trailhead which is off of the Teanaway North Fork.  Winter brought heavy snow to the Cascades and the early summer was cooler than normal so our options of extended hikes on our vacation were limited to the western portion of the Cascades.  I was a bit disappointed that we couldn't do a hike through the rugged interior or higher elevations, but as it turned out this hike was much more interesting and scenic than I expected.  The Wenatchee Mountains are further south than and not in the same area as Wenatchee Ridge, Lake and River.

Day 1

Kathryn at the trailhead which immediately has a footbridge that crosses Beverly Creek.  The trail initially passes through a mostly closed canopy of tall Ponderosa and other conifers.

Farther upstream the terrain gets rockier and the forest opens up and loses Ponderosa Pine as a constituent.  Wildflowers also become more abundant in the large sunny gaps, including the Spreading Phlox at right.

The stream tumbles along its course for most of the way up as in the left photo while the trail generally stays upslope a bit. 

As the trail climbs higher into the head of the basin, it crosses some barren scree fields.  The left photo is looking at the three peaks that stand over the basin with Iron Peak the only named one just visible on the left.  The trail continues across the slope until reaching the pass at the foot of the rightmost peak, which leads into Fourth Creek drainage.  The right photo is looking across Beverly Creek to the slopes and summit of Iron Peak.

Once at the pass the ecology changed dramatically due to the northern exposure and the increasing elevation.  Glacier Lilies carpeted large areas that were still fairly wet with snowmelt as in these photos.  Small creeks draining patches of snow farther upslope were also frequently encountered beyond the pass.  The forest at this point is subalpine with a mix of mostly Mountain Hemlock, Whitebark Pine, Subalpine Fir and Subalpine Larch, with the larch occurring mostly near treeline.

Views opened up towards the Stuart Range to the north including the Enchantments area seen in this photo looking down Fourth Creek and across Ingalls Creek.  The apparently highest point at left is Argonaut Peak but is actually shorter than Colchuck Peak farther back and to its right which is the highest of this group at 8705'.  Continuing to the right is Dragontail Peak and on the far right is Little Annapurna with the intervening high ridge unnamed on my maps.

We continued a little farther up from the pass until we reached this stream crossing which provided a small flat patch that was a rarity in that it was also relatively dry.  We had good views of Mount Stuart which caps off the west end of the Stuart Range and its subpeak Sherpa Peak.

View of the forest around our campsite looking in the direction of the pass that we crossed earlier, with our pack of food hanging in the left background.  The light green sparse tree just right of center is a Subalpine Larch exhibiting the branching pattern characteristic of many younger trees with upturned branches at top transitioning to downturned at the bottom.  The shaggy looking trees to its left are Mountain Hemlock and the larger tree to their left is Whitebark Pine.

Day 2

The next morning we continued on and up towards the pass that would lead us from the basin of Fourth Creek to Hardscrabble Creek.  The view from this meadow looks back on the slope where we last camped, and on the right looks over the last pass we crossed towards Iron Peak.

The trail started to fade a bit and Kathryn helped orient us in the right direction as we neared the pass.  Mountain Bluebird perched on the treetop with Argonaut Peak in the background.  

Looking northwest from the pass to Mount Stuart on the right and Ingalls peak on the left in the first photo.  The second photo is looking west across Fourth Creek basin where we camped and the pass that we crossed the day before with brown Iron Peak now entirely visible above Beverly Creek basin.

This is looking into Hardscrabble Creek basin.  We took a moment to visualize where the route goes through this basin in order to the exit at another pass that is out of view to the left.  This is an unmaintained route and the path on one of my maps seemed notional so we did our best to scope it out before dropping into the basin.  Earl Peak is the high point and our next camp would be on its other side, though our route would take us far to the left before heading back to the right on the other side of the ridge.

Initially the path was easy to follow down into the basin but it quickly became lost under large snow banks and bogs like the one pictured here full of Shooting Stars.  The pass where we dropped in to the basin is to the left of the big black rock which provided a nice anchoring landmark for navigation.

Looking down Hardscrabble Creek with McClellan Peak now visible on the right.

Subalpine Larch were quite common in this basin, sometimes in almost pure stands like the first photo.  The second is looking down one of many snowbanks we had to cross, but in this case we descended down since we felt like we were too high.  We could hear a creek rushing underneath which was a bit unnerving.  There's a bunch of young Subalpine Larch at the foot of the snowbank that may be the first colonizers after an avalanche, though it is odd that some older taller individuals are also in the same area.

Looking back on one of many long traverses over rocky slopes with the big black rock that we dropped in from on the far right.  Long extents on some of these slopes were covered in deep snow over the boulders.  This was a bit sketchy both because we were on steep icy snowbanks with long falls and in some spots the snow was thin enough that we punched through up to our waists a couple times.  This would not have been a good place to suffer an injury so after experiencing a couple punch throughs, we plodded along very slowly using our hiking poles as void feelers.  The second photo is of some wildflowers that were blooming in a small patch of dirt among the boulders.

We finally reached our exit pass and also noticed some bits of trail switchbacks that were useless, so we had to head up the very steep slope of loose serpentine.  This was two steps forward and one or two steps back so our legs were on fire by the time we got to the top.

This is the view back over Hardscrabble Creek from the serpentine pass.  The Wenatchee Mountains are unusual in having quite a bit of serpentine as well as a mix of marine sedimentary rocks which make for a wide variety of ecological niches.  As can be seen in this photo, not much likes to grow on serpentine which creates what are called serpentine barrens.  This is due to high metal and low non-metal content, which plants don't usually like.  It also is kind of like a pile of broken glass and sounds a bit like it when kicked around.  Mount Stuart tops off the Stuart Range on the right while our starting point at the big black rock can be seen along the ridge at left.

Now we had to drop into the Stafford Creek basin which immediately presented us with an unexpected snowbank that was walled in on either side.  It was icier than I expected and I gathered quite a bit of speed by the time I hit bottom.  Fortunately the bottom was soft and muddy to absorb the fall.

The trail drops quite a ways down Stafford Creek before heading back up from a trail junction to the next pass.  Along the way was this large meadow that was incredibly green and picturesque.  Shooting Stars fill the right side of the meadow.

Storms start brewing again providing very cool lighting but threating us with a downpour before we could set our next camp.  This view might be looking up towards Navajo Peak but I can't remember for sure.

Views from a long meadow that the trail follows on its way up to the pass between Stafford Creek and Standup Creek.  The first is looking across Stafford Creek to the ridge that drops down from Navajo Peak.

We eventaully found another small level patch amid the snowbanks that was also relatively dry, just in time to set up the tent and ride out a small rain storm.  Views from this camp were also amazing with the first photo looking across benches of rock along the flanks of Earl Peak.

The storms cleared allowing some evening sunlight to light up the orange spur of rock to the south of camp.

Day 3

The view the next morning as we near the top of the switchbacks that lead up to the pass connecting us with Standup Creek.

Standup Creek doesn't really have a basin like the other surrounding drainages and the trail quickly drops down to the creek before climbing right back out the other side.  This drainage was noticably drier with grasses covering most of the open south facing slopes.  Lupines were plentiful, as were Shooting Stars along the snowmelt fed creek.

I think these are Goldenrod on the way out of Standup Creek. 

View through the trees on the switchbacks down into Bean Creek.  Mount Stuart in the background which is granite, and the very different marine sedimentary peak is at the head of Bean Creek.

View of Bean Creek basin and its lush green meadows from a little farther down the trail.  The trail drops down to meet Bean Creek a ways below the meadows and then follows the creek closely until intersecting Beverly Creek shortly before arriving back at the trailhead.