Needing endorphins after a long week at work, I scrambled some peaks in the Teananay on Sunday. And oh my gosh the Teanaway never disappoints. I spent the day with some amazing friends and climbing partners. We were in search of larches, and spurred by a recent trip report from the Mountaineers found them on Freedom and Navaho peaks. Both are class 2 scrambles with easy off trail travel in open terrain. Perfect for a low key, endorphin-pumping day in the mountains.
We opted to do this trip in mountain running style, which means that we packed trail runners, running packs, and only just enough other gear to get through the day safely. I picked up this mode of travel while training for my 50k earlier this summer. Those runs were solo; I was excited to have some friends join me for this adventure. Carrying a small pack poses some unique challenges. The pre-run text messages were full of “how do you fit that in there?” and “oh shoot I can’t bring that” instead of the usual “hey what sounds good for snacks?”
Don’t be fooled by the term running in the name “mountain running.” We certainly jogged the flat sections on the way up, but hiked the rest of the uphill. Only when the grade tilted downhill did we kick it in gear and live up to the promise. 4500′ of gain and descent over 13.1 miles made for a slow travel day (5:34 car-to-car, 4:11 moving time) and trashed the quads.
Being alone in the mountains, especially in terrain that is at all technical, is an intense experience. It changes your attitude on everything. “Is that rock going to hold,” you ask. “Is this the right turn?” “Those clouds look awfully low, should I turn around?” When with others, these questions seem low consequence, normal, routine, even when in those moments your partners can’t do anything for you. By yourself, miles from the nearest human, these questions take on a different tenor. When you are alone, the edge of your comfort zone closes in. When you are alone, every decision is on you and nobody knows if you screw up.
Today I was not alone. The tone of the day got to be about having fun, going to pretty places, and pushing the body with the physicality of the experience.
The route itself went smoothly: We departed at 7:46am and made good time up the trail, to where the trail crosses Stafford creek at 4800′. Here we turned north / north-East to gain the saddle between Freedom and Navaho peaks. This saddle is the county line between Kittitas and Chelan counties and is where we had our first views of the Stuart range. Here the route travels South on the easy, rocky ridge 400′ up to Freedom peak. Freedom peak offered nice views of our route up Navaho.
When you’re mountain running, your primary option to alleviate the cold is to move. So you move. The top of Freedom was cold, so we turned around and headed up toward Navaho. The ridge line was easy to navigate and we continued to make decent time up to the summit of Navaho, at around 3:45 into the trip. A quick lunch and we began our run down. Reaching Navaho means the end of off trail travel: a great boot path leads from the top of Navaho all the way back to the Stafford Creek TH. We ran down in about 1:35 (for 6.5mi, and 4100′ of descent). Happy to see the cars, but under an artificial goal of a trail half, Peter and I dropped packs and jogged on the road for a bit. Nataliya, with her usual dose of sanity, didn’t run past her car.
Afterward the usual post-run groaning ensued as we stretched our tight muscles. A recovery drink or two, a beer at Snoqualmie Pass, and an early arrival at home closed out the day. Endorphins? Check. Friends? Check. Larches? Disconnecting from the phone? Check and Check.