early-season backpacking | bean peak

9 miles . 3800 ft gain . 6700 ft high

Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Teanaways are always the perfect place to go when it’s early season and other destinations are a bit snowed in still. This year, snow lingered even more than before. That pushed back backpacking trips from end of May into July. Being on the drier side of the Cascade mountains, the Teanaway snow melts quicker, allowing wildflowers to begin to blossom. We made so many plans for this particular weekend, considering drive time, various schedules, snow levels, and amount of activity we wanted to do.

I usually start with Caltopo to map out the stats for a hike. Sometimes I’ll also use it to check what kind of sunrise or sunset i might see. Then, to check on the snow levels, I’ll head over to Sentinel (also part of Caltopo pro) to see where I might expect the snow to exist. In this case, we started to narrow our options to a few different spots in the Teanaway, and ended up choosing the shorter one. I could see that snow primarily existed on north facing aspects of the mountains and that the Enchantments in the distance also had some snow, but we’d get marginal sunset alpenglow. I didn’t bother to check for sunrise since all forecast models shown in the Windy app said there wouldn’t really be one.

Potential trips
Picking Bean Peak
Checking for sunset light
Checking for snow levels

With a leisurely backpacking trip ahead, we felt no rush to leave our houses, but actually met quite a few cars already at the trailhead. Seemed like lots of people had the same plan, whether they were day hiking or backpacking. Having done the loop here a couple autumns ago, I vaguely remembered some flat areas near the ridge line. There wouldn’t be much space compared to the basin below, but the views would be fantastic. It would only be a matter of first-come, first-served for that space.

I was tenuous about finding a great campsite, but didn’t want to push our pace. After all, our only goal was to have a lovely, chill trip to counter all the miserable trips my friends had lately. So sunshine and pit stops for flower pictures were a must. Right of the bat, even from the car, we found wildflowers parading alongside the trail. I must have stopped us every 2 minutes at first, just to get a quick snap of the different flowers. I was most impressed by how many larkspurs I saw! They seem to grow primarily on the drier side of the Cascades and the first time I had seen a field of them.

This time in the season, there were relatively few balsamroot and lupine. We saw a couple bushes of red columbine and blue eyes. But truly, the first half of the trail was all larkspur. Generally, the trail had a gentle incline and the only tricky bit was the creek crossing. Poles were quite helpful, but the water level was already low enough to rock hop the whole way across. By late summer, I’m sure it’d be a breeze with an easy dry crossing.

In a few short hours, we reached the main camp site in the basin. Most of the spots were already taken and people had set up their tents. We felt that we had more energy, so we started to head up to the ridge, but not before a long break by the amazing shooting stars. It’s fun visiting places in different seasons because you’ll be surprised by what is in season, so-to-speak. I’ve seen fields of balsamroot and beargrass before, but never a field of shooting stars. We even saw a few cute butterflies.

Last stretch of uphill

I don’t think any of us were quite prepared for the last uphill stretch because it kept going on forever. Every knoll we reached, we see a new one to reach. Doesn’t help that the trail is over slippery soil. But we did finally reach the ridge and what we saw proved my memory wrong. The wide space I saw was really not that wide. Our options were to continue up and over Bean to the next saddle and making a loop out of the trail system, or go back down to the basin with fewer views. Hannah and Kelsey seemed to want to take on the adventure of scrambling with a backpack, not knowing how difficult it can get.

Just as we approached the base of the scramble, we found the most amazing campsite. It was clearly used before, cleared of rocks and extremely flat. Yes, definitely yes, we would take this rather than going further. After all, the goal of this trip was to have a leisurely time. After setting up camp, it was still early afternoon and we wondered how we’d spend our time. We decided to check out the scramble instead of saving it till sunset, which turned out to be a great idea.

Camp set up (morning light)

I think this was both of their first major scrambles. On the scale of scrambles, this is relatively short but not the most intuitive for new scramblers. I challenged Hannah to find her own path and she made it quite fun and exciting until I took over to find a mellower route for us all. Once I crested to the summit, I was surprised to see so many people on this little peak. I suppose it’s one of few locations in Washington free of snow that offered as good views as this. Later, I heard there were many more people in the basin adjacent to us. Trust me that the Teanaways are the place to go when it’s late spring-early summer season.

We stayed on top for a solid amount of time, watching people come up and go down the different ridges that Bean Peak connects to. Funny thing was after the fact, I connected with some of them once back home. A couple different parties recognized some photos/videos I posted and reached out. It’s always cool to meet people in person after having had a virtual connection. Eventually, we made our way down a different way than the way we came up. This was to find the easiest path in case we wanted to come back for sunset or travel up and over this peak with our overnight packs the next day.

Pesto pasta dinner

Back at camp, we made my favorite go-to backpacking meal: salmon pesto pasta. It’s so simple! Here’s the quick recipe if you’re curious:

  1. Boil water in a pot.
  2. Break angel hair pasta in half or thirds (depending on pot size)
  3. Keep stirring and boiling till soft (probably 3-4 min)
  4. Drain the pasta/transfer to another bowl if sharing. Repeat for another batch if your pot is small like mine.
  5. Add pesto and canned salmon to taste

I got all my ingredients from Trader Joe’s. Not sponsored, but they honestly have some of the best $0.99/lb pastas and I like the small container of pesto they have. This trip, I added cherry tomatoes and stored them in a gelato container to prevent it getting squished. You can also add other veggies by boiling them with the pasta. Dice them before the trip and carry them in a ziplock bag, which can double as a trash bag after.

By the time we finished dinner, dark rain clouds started rolling in from the south. The weather forecasts predicted no rain till the next morning, but clearly it had changed. Luckily up on the ridge, we had cell service and could text a friend for weather updates. Knowing it would pass in an hour, we’d still be able to watch sunset. Hooray!

Rain clouds
Layers of mountain and clouds

I scrambled up Bean Peak again, this time by myself. It was glorious, the feeling that you’re the only person on top of this little peak. It was the perfect solitude and satisfaction I needed. As predicted by the sun exposure map on Caltopo, I didn’t observe much alpenglow on the Enchantments. Frankly, the most pink I saw was on Mary’s Peak, just one ridge south of Bean Peak. We had a relatively uneventful night, but the incoming morning storms kept us a little worried.

I woke up just as someone walked by our camp for a sunrise summit. Seeing the same kind of dark clouds headed our way again and hearing loud thunder, we decided to head down. I knew we’d be a lot slower to scramble up the peak in order to do the loop. And it just doesn’t seem wise to be standing on a peak when there’s active lightning. We were packed and ready to go in 30 minutes, which is probably a record speed for me!

Heading out
Morning rays
Back in the basin

There was no stopping between camp and the car. Thankfully the rain was light and passed quickly over us. By the time we were back at the trailhead, it was actually warm! Our entire backpacking trip from car to car was 23 hours, possibly one of the shortest ever. Although this was a shorter trip, we got a full experience from creek crossings and wildflower sightings to scrambling and hiding out from the thunderstorm. It was a good reminder that it’s okay to recharge outside with a chill trip instead of hitting only big peaks and adventures.

  • This can be made into a loop, connecting the Beverly Creek Trail and the Bean Peak Basin Trail. It’s commonly done as the Bill, Bean, Volcanic Neck scramble.
  • Another variation is adding Earl Peak as a side trip
  • The ridge bivy site is large enough for 2 small tents, multiple bivys, or one large tent.
  • There is wide creek crossing on the Bean Peak Trail. A smaller one exists going to the Beverly Trail next to the turnoff.
  • Scramble up Bean Peak is short ~400 ft, but the most direct route is class 3. The easiest way around is staying south of the peak and then scrambling up to its west ridge.
  • Driving to the trailhead is doable in a low clearance car with some good navigation skills. I personally got a little scared and stopped half a mile before the trailhead.

Photos shot on Canon 5D Mark IV

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