Photos from this trip can be found here.
It had only been a year since our last visit in this area, but the number of potholes past Twentynine Pines Campground seemed to have doubled. I had planned on going to Three Brothers on this trip. But with a late start (as usual) and the howling wolves near Navaho Pass, I decided it would be best to be out of the area before dark.
Normally pups and I took a shortcut at the first big switchback after reentering the forest past the wide clearing and go up toward Navaho Peak’s south shoulder. This time I decided to stay on Stafford Creek Trail for the entire duration up to Navaho Pass, then traverse to the south shoulder. It’s not every day you hear wolves howling in this basin, at least not the other half a dozen times I had been here. Patchy snow just below the pass, then a couple feet of snow from the pass to south shoulder. Good thing I brought snowshoes.
From the south shoulder, instead of dropping into the basin between Navaho Peak and Three Brothers as originally planned, pups and I continued moving southerly on the ridge toward Freedom Peak–our backup plan. It also had been three and a half years since our first visit, so the timing was perfect. Getting down to the saddle at 6000’ was straightforward, the occasional outcrops could easily be avoided by staying just west of the ridge. From the saddle, we stayed east of the crest and made our way to the summit.
Clouds started to roll in early afternoon, nearly all of Stuart Range was out of sight for a good while. But at sunset time, Mount Stuart and Ingalls Peaks all of a sudden came out and made their cameo. On the descent we took the south ridge to 6000’, then scrambled down the southwest rib to get back on the trail at 4200’ and hiked out.