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TR: Bean Peak via Bean Creek Basin

Posted by gck Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Distance: 5 miles to the basin, ~7 miles to Bean Peak
Elevation gain: 2000 feet to the basin, ~3100 feet to Bean Peak
Trailhead directions and more information on WTA.

It has been a hot and dry summer for the Pacific Northwest, and the state of Washington is now paying for all of that sunlight by way of out-of-control wildfires. Back in August, when the good weather spell first began, we were thrilled with the sunny, cloudless weekends. That’s when I got it in my head to try this hike. According to my overambitious original plan for this trip, the report should have been titled “Bean & Earl Peaks.” Obviously, it did not go as planned. Lesson #1: Scrambling in the Teanaway is hard. Lesson #2: August is not the right month to be in the Teanaway. Not long after we did this hike, the nearby city of Cle Elum pretty much burst into flame. That’s about how I felt while doing this hike.

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Left: hiking in Bean Creek Basin
Right: gold and orange paintbrush

We followed the Bean Creek Basin trail for the first part of our hike. It’s a short trail, 5 miles round trip, but it’s no joke, gaining 2000 feet in this short distance. Fortunately, a lot of the climb during this portion of the trail is in the shade. Once we got out of the forested area, we started seeing the climbable peaks in the area: Judy, Earl, Bean, and more. Normally when there’s a swarm of stuff flying around near water, it’s a big group of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. But we got a nice treat at a creek crossing: dozens of small purple butterflies all fluttering around the same area. So pretty!

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Left: flowers of some sort
Right: some of the purple butterflies pretending to be flowers

We bumped into some WTA volunteers heading out from a week long work party and also found their campsite in the basin with lots of supplies. I read afterwards that they’ve been doing a lot of work to the Bean Creek Basin trail to route it in a way that is less damaging to the flower-filled meadows. Good job WTA! The basin was pretty with all the flowers, lots of paintbrush, lupine, monk’s hood, and more. We could see our destination and the trail leading up to it. The trail started as a pleasant, flat walk through the meadow and then suddenly turned into an incredibly steep climber’s trail. Then there was no trail, just a few miserable software engineers scrambling up a steep field of loose scree with some plants mixed in. At this point, the cloudless Eastern Washington heat had taken its toll on me and I was feeling nauseous. Managed to make it up to the saddle without vomiting by telling myself that if I threw up, there was no way we’d have enough water to replenish the lost fluids, and then I would just have to die up there. Fortunately, the mountain views were really nice from the saddle, and that cheered us up considerably.

Video of the butterflies

From there, we walked over towards the summit, bumping into a pair of older hikers who immediately put us to shame by pointing really far away and telling us that they had just come from there. Apparently on the way to Bean Peak, they’d climbed to the top of Volcanic Neck (the dark spot in the middle of the last picture in this post) and it was an experience they would prefer not to repeat again. After they left, we got closer to the summit area and things started to look pretty interesting. We managed, but it’s definitely the most technical scrambling I’ve done. Bob was regretting leaving his helmet in the car, and he still thinks that there’s an easier way up that we didn’t find. We’d both read a trip report of another party that had done this hike recently with chihuahuas, and Bob really wanted to know how the dogs made it up. (Went back and reread the TR afterwards: the dogs and one owner stayed a hundred feet or so below the summit)

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Left: Bean Peak
Right: stylin’ summit cairn

Views from the top were pretty fantastic. Looking back towards where we came, we could see Rainier and Adams. In the other direction, it was a panoramic view of Stuart, the Enchantments, etc. It would have been perfect if we could have had those purple butterflies from below flying around us at the summit. Instead, we got biting flies and flying fire ants (termites?). I will say, the view of the peaks is definitely more spectacular than what I’ve seen from the I-90 corridor. However, I think there are probably easier hikes in the Teanaway that might yield similar views.

View from the summit

We made the decision to go down rather than go for Earl, which ended up being the right decision. The ridge walk would have involved some ups and downs and there was more elevation gain to get back to Earl. We had figured it would take us less time going down than it did coming up, but that was definitely not the case for the section from Bean Peak down to the basin. The steepness and all that loose scree was a real pain going down. Once we were down at the basin, it felt like we were almost back to the car. Somehow the difficulty in the second half of the hike had caused my mind to block out the first. We still had 2000 feet to descend. Made it back well before dark, though.

We enjoyed pretty flowers and expansive views and worked really, really hard. My legs weren’t nearly as sore as I expected them to be based on how I felt on the hike, so in retrospect, I think heat and dehydration may have contributed greatly to the difficulty. Maybe I’ll revisit this area sometime when it’s cooler and tag the Earl summit!


1 Responses to TR: Bean Peak via Bean Creek Basin

  1. Ingunn Says:
  2. We went up Bean with our Italian Greyhound, but he has longer legs than Chihuahuas. :) The summer heat in the Teanaway is so intense that we usually just go there in June, when there is still some snow to help cool us down. My Norwegian body isn't used to desert heat.


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