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Ascent of North Navarre Peak on 2020-04-25

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Saturday, April 25, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:North Navarre Peak
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:7963 ft / 2427 m

Ascent Trip Report

North Navarre Peak (7,963ft) and Nelson Butte (6,267ft)

April 25, 2020, 3am – 12:30pm, Eric
21 miles, 4,400ft gain,
Biking: 5 miles, hiking 3 miles, skiing 13 miles

Saturday looked to be rainy in eastern washington starting around 9am, but clear Friday night. I wanted to hit a few top 200 peaks this weekend and North Navarre Peak looked like a good candidate for the small weather window. Based on satellite images there was a long snowed-over approach road but that would be easy to follow in the dark, then a short bushwhack to the summit. I planned to try to summit in the morning before the weather hit, then just ski out in the bad weather along the road.

The satellite image made it look like I might be able to drive to within about 10 miles of the trailhead before hitting snow. I planned to bring my mountain bike to help with the approach, though. This time of year in April there tend to be long patches of discontinuous snow too deep to drive, but they are often followed by long melted-out patches. there’s not really a single optimal mode of transportation to get through this, but I’ve settled on biking (or pushing my bike) on the snow when it’s icy and firm at night then biking on the melted out section until the snow is continuous, then skiing from there.

Friday evening I drove to chelan then up Grade Creek Road on the way to the Summer Blossom trailhead. As expected I hit some patchy snow about 10 miles before the trailhead, but the forester was able to get through it a few more miles. Finally 7.5 miles before the trailhead at 4,000ft elevation I encountered a long, deep patch of snow that didn’t look like it would go. There weren’t even any truck tracks in it, so everyone must have been turning around there. I found a good pullout nearby and went to sleep for the night.

Saturday morning I was moving by 3am. I figured this would put me on the summit before the weather hit, but maybe give the snow a bit of time to soften for me to ski down. I biked in the mud along the edge of the snow, then through long melted out sections. I followed a motorbike track through the edges of lots of patches, before I hit a long patch around 4,800ft that made me stop. There I locked the bike up in the woods and continued on skis.

Unfortunately the patch soon ended I was forced to walk in ski boots for about 1.5 miles until I hit continuous snow at 5,600ft near Nelson Butte. From there it was fun skinning up a groomed snowmobile track. (I would guess it was last snowmobiled on at least a week or two earlier, though). I made it to South Navarre campsite at sunrise for a great view of Chelan to the south. I then continued to the Summer Blossom trailhead and started roughly following the trail. But I soon lost it and just decided to bushwhack up the slope. I soon gained the SE ridge and followed that all the way to the summit, topping out at 9am.

Interestingly, I had actually come within a hundred feet or so of the summit back in September 2018, but hadn’t bothered to go tag it. Back then I was trying to finish the Bulgers and was using the Summer Blossom trailhead to access Hoodoo, Raven Ridge, and a few others to avoid fire closure zones. It was a long enough day (~43 mils) that I didn’t feel like tagging on extra peaks.

This time was considerably snowier, and the weather was moving in now as expected. I could see Switchback Peak in the distance, but it was soon getting pummeled by clouds. The wind picked up and it started snowing lightly. I soon switched to downhill mode and started my retreat. This time instead of following my ridge route I skied directly down into the basin between South Navarre and North Navarre, and eventually reached the road. There the snow picked up and all the summits were in a whiteout. I skinned down the road and paused near Nelson Butte for a snack. The peak was so close and I would have so much extra time that afternoon that I decided to tag it. I quickly skinned up, tagged the summit, then skied back down.

Soon after descending the snow changed to a miserable cold rain. I reached the end of the continuous snow, then booted back to my bike. From there I had an amazing descent back, though my hands got very cold. I’d somehow forgotten to bring gloves, so had been using a spare pare of socks as mittens, though they weren’t very waterproof.

By 12:30pm I reached the car, during a lull in the rain. Interestingly I saw tire tracks from a truck that had tried to get through the snow patch in the road near where I’d parked. However, the tracks only made it about 10ft before they ended. I think I made the right call not to try to push any farther in the forester.

I packed up and started driving out. The sun briefly came out, and I stopped to dry out all my soaked gear. Then I continued on to my next objectives, Sunrise and McLeod Peaks over near Mazama.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
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