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Home Go Hiking Trip Reports Holman Pass Loop, Seven-Pass Loop, PCT- Harts Pass to Holman Pass, Windy Pass
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Trip Report By

WTA Member

 

 

100 

Hiked Sep 6, 2011

Type of Hike

Multi-night backpack

Trail Conditions

Obstacles on trail:
    Muddy or wet trail,
    Overgrown in places.

Snow

Snowfields to cross - could be difficult
The Holman Pass Loop is also known as the Seven-Pass Loop, although it is unclear which seven passes the name refers to. The Pacific Crest Trail route from Harts Pass to Holman Pass accounts for six named passes. The return loop stays in the valley until the very end, when it passes over a shoulder (unnamed pass?) just north of Slate Peak, and climbs to the trailhead on the ridge just south of the Peak. A year of two ago, I had read about the Seven-Pass Loop and placed it on my to-do list. But when the good extended weather forecast arrived, I couldn’t find any information on it in my files. I googled enough information to know the route and learn some possible campsites, and we set out for adventure. Because information was difficult to find, I decided to note the locations of campsites and water, for the benefit of others. So I apologize for the length of this report. NOTE: To those reading this in later years, 2011 was a year of extremely high snow accumulation and cool temperatures (slow melting). Although this trip took place in September, the conditions were the equivalent of about early August in a "normal" year. After the nearly 4-hour drive to Mazama, we started up the 19-mile road to Harts Pass. The ranger had warned me about the narrow road and steep dropoffs, but it wasn’t all that bad. It helps that we met few vehicles going the other direction. The road was no rougher than most dirt and gravel forest roads. In fact, later in the week we saw a low-clearance Prius driving up the road past Harts Pass (although it was traveling very very slowly). We had made some sightseeing stops along highway 20, so by the time we got to Harts Pass, it was already early afternoon and quite warm. And we needed water. We drove south one mile to the Meadows Campground where there was a tiny stream flowing through the fire-ravaged camp area. Even though the campground was rebuilt after the 2003 fire, there are no trees for shade. We returned to Harts Pass (which officially has no water) and went looking for the hidden spring of icy cold water that we had heard about. We were dismayed to find it of no use. Nothing flowed from the pipe coming out of the concrete cistern. Just a trickle of cold water dribbled from around one side of the cistern, into a small stagnant pool that looked very unappealing. Had I known, I would have brought a bowl or basin to temporarily place beneath the trickle; that would have worked fine for filtering. We returned to Harts Pass and were greeted by wonderful campground hosts Bill and Patti Karro, who informed us that the cistern had cracked a few years ago. The best source for water was now a half mile north, on the road toward Slate Peak or along the PCT. Instead of starting our trip at Harts Pass, Bill suggested we drive up the road about 1.5 miles to a PCT trailhead there. Our plan at that time was not to do the loop, but rather to backpack for two days, starting with Harts Pass to Holman Pass. We would then set up a base camp, probably along the West Fork Pasayten River, and use the third day to do a day hike (e.g. to the abandoned Pasayten Airstrip) before returning along the same route. This would permit us to enjoy the crest views again, and avoid the mud holes we had heard were ubiquitous along the West Fork Pasayten Trail (the loop). By the time we got water, it was too late to consider a day hike to Tatie Peak and Grasshopper Pass, so we opted to spend the night in the campground and start backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail in the morning when it was cooler. After setting up camp, we drove up the road to where it was gated and walked the half mile up the road to the Slate Peak Lookout, elevation 7488'. The next morning we took Bill's advice and started out at the trailhead at 6800', traversing in a northwest direction along the totally exposed trail, enjoying the lovely views. Because of 2011’s heavy snowfall and cool spring, wildflowers were blooming in abundance in September! In about 2 miles, we traversed past Benson Creek, which still had enough water that some other hikers were filtering from it. We chatted with some folks who were doing the Seven-Pass Loop in a counter-clockwise direction. They told us that the mud holes along the West Fork Pasayten Trail were mostly dried up. A half mile later we crossed Buffalo Pass (6500'), and at 3.5 miles we entered the Pasayten Wilderness at Windy Pass (also 6500'). The boundary is well marked with prominent orange signs. Shortly beyond Windy Pass was a significant stream, a good source of water and at least one good camp. The trail beyond the camp was a couple of long switchbacks up and over a short spur ridge. I thought this might be another pass, but it is unnamed on the map. On the other side of this ridge (6700'), the Slate Peak Lookout finally fell from sight. Unfortunately, the nice views to the southwest were also gone now, obscured by Tamarack Peak. This led us to reconsider our plan of returning along the PCT to enjoy the views. Maybe we should do the loop after all. We continued on through Foggy Pass (6200') to Jim Pass (6300') at 5.5 miles, where we stopped for lunch. A mild breeze helped keep the black flies and horseflies at bay. After lunch, we continued on to Shaw Creek (5800'), where my research had indicated that there were water and campsites. But as the trail crossed the Shaw Creek drainage, there was no water in sight. Just past the dry creek bed, where the trail re-entered the forest, was a prominent side trail heading downhill. It led to two campsites and even better – water gurgling up in the creek bed that was dry 100' upstream. We had barely gotten the tent set up when 4 Border Patrol agents paid us a friendly visit at our "nice secluded camp". It's the first time I've ever been handed a business card in the wilderness. While in camp, we decided to do the Seven-Pass Loop after all. (Or was it a Six-Pass Loop since we had started north of Harts Pass?) This would give us time to do a day hike to Tatie Peak and Grasshopper Pass afterwards, something we both wanted to do. In the morning we set out for Holman Pass, a gradual descent of 700' over about 5 miles. There was water a quarter mile past Shaw Creek, and some nice but dry campsites at one mile. As on the previous day, the trail was wide, gentle, and well-maintained. This section was also completely shaded. At Holman Pass we headed east on connector trail 472A, a rooty, narrow, overgrown trail in need of maintenance. In half a mile, we crossed a stream, the first water in four and a half miles. More water lay ahead. At the intersection with West Fork Pasayten trail 472, we could hear running water to the north. We had been told that there were nice camps there, but our route was to the south on 472. A flat half mile later we rock-hopped Shaw Creek and stopped for lunch at a very pleasant campsite. We did not know the locations of camps along trail 472. From consulting the Green Trails map, we guessed that the dot on the map which marked the confluence of Oregon Creek and the West Fork Pasayten River was a likely campsite. It was a little more than 2 miles and only 200' elevation gain, following the river upstream. The miles were not as easy as they appeared on the map though. The trail was overgrown and plagued by frequent mud holes churned deeply by horses. As we had been informed, most were dry enough that we could circumvent the really bad mud. Black flies and horseflies were a constant problem in the river valley. When we got to the confluence, we saw one unappealing campsite and a side trail which might lead to a better one. We didn't investigate; with the trail staying near the river for 2 more miles, we decided to press on. The gamble paid off. We found a nice campsite 1.5 miles ahead, shortly before the trail crosses the river. We guessed that we had only 4 more miles of trail to go, then a downhill road walk. But oh what a grueling 4 miles they were! The next day we had to gain 2200', at first gaining modestly along a narrow overgrown trail, then gently, then climbing 800' in the last mile along hot exposed talus. Sheltered by a steep ridge to the east, we had no breeze to discourage the flies. As the trail traversed the talus slope directly toward Slate Peak, it crossed 2 lingering patches of snow, then reached a third which obscured the trail over a shoulder below Slate Peak. On the opposite side, a few more switchbacks led up to the trailhead and the small parking lot shared by those who walk the gated road up to the Slate Peak Lookout. The Green Trails map is wrong in this area. The trail ends not at the summit of Slate Peak, but at the gate a couple hundred feet lower. The final 1.5 miles were downhill via the rocky road, past the trailhead for the Buckskin Ridge and Middle Fork Pasayten River trails, to the PCT trailhead where we started. The total mileage of our loop was about 23.5.

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