Ascent of Benign Peak on 2020-06-21

Climber: Abbey Collins

Date:Sunday, June 21, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Benign Peak
    Elevation:7235 ft / 2205 m

Ascent Trip Report

TL;DR: This is a very cool mountain with amazing views, but it is probably best done when the gullies are still filled with snow. Travel is hard in summer scree.

From the Eklutna parking lot, we biked 12 miles -- around the lake and to the end of the road where we set up camp. As the rain slowed, we watched the low clouds clinging to the mountains slowly dissipate. We’d planned to go to bed early, wake up with the sun, and hope for better weather. But, as we sat in the valley the sun grew stronger, and around 5:30 p.m. we decided to start climbing.

We backtracked on the road and, after a brief encounter with a black bear, cut into the woods near the Serenity Falls trail. A quick, painless, bushwhack brought us to the base of the first scree gully. The rock was quite loose, making for slow travel. Knowing we had to cut left before reaching the headwall, but seeing no obvious cutoff, we eventually bushwhacked through thick Devil’s Club and alder to find our next gully. (We later realized it is quite obvious and there is no need to bushwhack). We followed this scree gully until its end. Toward the top it narrows and you are faced with three ledges that require some maneuvering to scale. (I am just over 5 ft. tall and these were a reach for me, but totally doable.) The trickiest part of these ledges is that the tops are covered in scree, so you’ll start knocking off rocks as you push/pull yourself up and over. Wear a helmet! Watch out for your partner!

At the top, we traversed left and down-climbed a series of ledges and one, long gully that was not super fun. This gully brings you to Serenity Falls. Travel across the falls was easy, and a good place to refill water.

At this point we realized we’d been traveling for three hours and had only gained 1,500 ft. Oof. But, there was just one more steep gully before we dropped down onto a big, beautiful, moraine bench with amazing views of Eklutna Glacier. Soak it in, enjoy the break, the worst scree is yet to come.

We summited via the Southeast’s probably better done when still full of snow, which it was not, for us. Instead, we traveled through scree and the last remains of avalanche debris. Everything was variable -- the scree was loose, then hard, then loose. The snow firm, then mushy, then crusty but punchy. This made for very slow and frustrating travel.

The summit ridge was mostly snow free, but the summit itself was still covered with the worst, soft, snow we experienced during the whole climb. Around 3 a.m., after some 10 hours of climbing, we were sitting at the summit. But not for too long -- it was cold!

The scree descent was challenging -- the variability we experienced on the way up proved just as difficult on the way down.

At this point the sun was rising, and we hadn’t used our headlamps. The rest of the descent was fairly easy, across the bench and the falls, up the ledges we had down-climbed the night before (though we found a slightly different, easier route), and down the narrow scree gully with the three ledges that at this point I was very fearful of descending (but they weren’t that bad!).

One last scree ski to river-level, and a final bushwhack back to the road, and we were back at camp, where we napped for several hours before biking back along the lake among lots of ATV traffic.
Summary Total Data
    Weather:Cold, Calm, Partly Cloudy

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