With some significant rainfall in the outlook for Saturday and a chance on Sunday we had to revise our climbing plans. Instead we opted for a long backpack through the Pasayten wildness called Seven Pass Loop (27 miles), aptly named since it goes through 7 passes. The trip begins on the PCT North from the trailhead just a bit further than Harts Pass (pass #1). There was heavy mist and a bit of a typical WA drizzle when we started out with a nice crisp autumn feel ton the air. I love this type of weather (seriously, I do and that’s why I live in WA). The trail is pretty level and follows open slopes below Slate Peak where we had intermittent views of the wildness whenever the mist parted. As to be expected we ran into a good amount of through-hikers due to reach Canada and finish up the PCT next day. We crossed over Buffalo Pass and then went up a few switchbacks to the top of Windy Pass. From there the trail descends a bit through larches (still green but they will turn soon). Then we followed along more open slopes and onto a ridge. We crossed Foggy and Jim Pass and didn’t even notice! The trail eventually switchbacks down for a long time until reaching Holeman Pass at 5000 feet. But then it was raining pretty steadily. In fact there had been a mini flood running down the trail!

At Holeman Pass there is a signed 4 way junction. We left the PCT and turned right onto connector trail #472A. This trail is not nearly as well kept as the PCT. There are fallen logs to cross over and places where the grass is encroaching on the trail. The fallen trees are easy to go over, under or around though and it is pretty impossible to loose the trail. It is still what i would consider maintained. It’s just not immaculate. There was a fair amount of mud. I’m not sure how much was a result of the rain, but it seemed live the area was just damp in general.

The connector trail was flat so the two miles to the next signed junction went quickly. We turned right again onto the West Fork Pasayten River (Slate Peak 8 miles). The trail follows the Paysaten River though it cannot be seen at first. It was in the same condition as the connector trail. There is a campsite in about a mile on the shore of Shaw Creek which the trail crosses. The next set of camps is about 2 miles further at the next creek crossing. But then it was about 5:30pm and we were pretty cold and damp. We decided to call it a day and set up camp at a small site in the trees above the creek. It’s always an adventure setting up camp in the rain, but we managed to keep things mostly dry. We were happy to remove of sticky goretex and cuddle into our puffys! It rained pretty hard all night.

The next morning it was still raining, but not nearly as hard. We packed up camp in the dark and began moving at first light. Two miles more down the river there is a bigger camping area. The trail crosses the river shortly thereafter and turns away from the West Fork. Finally there is some climbing as the trail ascended up the slope and then turns right to traverse the ridge moving very slowly upward. Not a steep grad by any means. The tree broke away about three miles from slate Peak which could be seen easily in the distance since the clouds had broken up and blue sky was appearing. We followed the open slopes to a talus and scree field below Haystack mountain. Here the trail switchbacks up the final few hundred feet the the road. We took a small side trip and followed the road right to the summit of Slate Peak and the Lookout (which is closed). At least we climbed one summit! We had great views from the top all the way to Canada!

From Slate Peak we followed the road back down to the car passing Slate Pass, the final pass. Rain never stops us!


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