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Ascent of Benign Peak on 2020-06-21

Climber: Andrew Holman

Others in Party:Abbey Collins -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, June 21, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Benign Peak
    Location:USA-Alaska
    Elevation:7235 ft / 2205 m

Ascent Trip Report

Our original plan was to head up Friday night, camp, and get an alpine start Saturday.

Friday came, and the Chugach was invisible from Anchorage, all day. We decided to sleep in the front country Friday night and go into the back of Eklutna semi-early on Saturday.

On the drive-in, it still looked pretty socked-in. I drifted in and out of sleep (horrible passenger seat etiquette!), and we both wondered if we would climb anything. We brought a whopping SIX adult beverages each, so we’d have something to do if we were about to spend the weekend in a soggy tent. Also, we’re cycling, what’s another pound or two?

So, two Tender-Bottoms started pedaling in on their suspect rides. Slowly but surely, the weather seemed to be getting better. Except sometimes it would rain.

Eventually we got to the end of the trail. We saw some slabby rock in the GOLDEN SUN on the side of the trail. We hiked up there and, even though it wasn’t perfectly flat, it seemed like a perfect place to camp for the night and get an alpine start on Sunday.

We drank one of the adult beverages, and made (homemade by Abbey!) dehydrated meals.

As we lounged on the rock, the clouds kept lifting on the B-peaks and the day kept getting nicer.

We decided to take a short nap and decide what to do next.

After an hour of sleep and half an hour of snoozing phone alarms, we decided to just go for Benign today (Saturday), because we knew the weather was good RIGHT NOW, and who knows what tomorrow could bring. How well can you trust these localized forecasts anyway? We didn’t have headlamps, but I had done Bold a year earlier nearly to the day and didn’t need one.

On the way out, we saw a sub-adult black bear, about 200 ft from our camp. We talked to it and I threw some rocks with limited success, it slowly backed away. I told Abbey he was probably going to raid our camp. (spoiler alert: he did, with limited success)

Around 6pm we were making our way up the first (of many) miserable scree ramps. We’d occasionally dabble in some light bushwhacking, just to get some relief. This is the scree you never dream of: the classic one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind. The kind where you can’t get into a rhythm, you can practice a “rest step”, you can’t mediate away the monotony, you can’t pay attention to a narrative in your head, and it’s hard to talk to your climbing partner. There were also lots of mosquitoes…yes, on the dry-ass scree slope.

We missed the cutoff that takes you to another scree slope, one that eventually leads to the chockstone chimney area, and ended up doing some crab-crawling-side-hilling through Devil’s Club instead. My ice axe was catching on branches, pinning me down. I took it off my pack. For a light morale boost, I cut up lots of Devil’s Club.

Don’t miss the cutoff like we did. The GPS coordinates for the cutoff are roughly: 61 17.446, -148 59.361




Eventually the gully narrowed into some 3rd/4th class chimney-ish steps. These were a little harder than we were expecting, mainly because there was SO MUCH loose scree on the top-outs, making it hard to grab onto anything. Rockfall is really bad in here, and it’s best to either stay really, really close to your partner, or really, really far away. It’s just far too easy to knock rocks down on others.

We eventually exited the gully and then angled down toward a narrow 3rd/4th class ramp/chimney and stemmed/butt-slid down to the top of Serenity Falls. I gathered water and we lamented what an ordeal this mountain was so far. Not exactly technical, but definitely a sufferfest!

The next big section, the traverse over to the SE gully was cruiser. It was great, we needed the break. As we neared the SE gully we took a break on one of the last islands of grass. We watched a small wolverine scamper among the rocks as we got air-cooled by the Ekultna Glacier.

The SE gully was more slow scree slogging. It seemed like it took days. We got on rotten snow ramps when we could (we had crampons, didn’t use them). This would be so much faster and less frustrating if it were filled with snow.

After many hours of this, we finally hit the ridge. Some clouds were hovering, but there was no wind. There was a soft glow of light (it was almost 3am now), and we continued up the ridge toward the summit. The final section of the summit required us to get out our axes, and punch holes in lose Styrofoam snow. There was even a little of my all-time favorite summit-move: WALLOWING. Benign wasn’t going to let us off that easily!

We eventually reached the summit (couldn’t find a register), we huddled down below it, ate some snacks, took some photos, and got cold.

Going down was generally way more pleasant and quick. We used a few route-finding tweaks. We went up some grassy ledges at upper Serenity Falls area instead of the tight, chossy gully we came down on, it worked out well. We stayed close and used frequent communication to work our way down the chossy chockstone gully. Despite Abbey’s being nearly a foot shorter than me, she down-climbed the steps like a pro!

When we got back to camp, we had another one of our SIX adult beverages, which I had been cooling in the river with a rock fort and a dry bag. We took another nap to the rhythmic serenade of ATV’s reaching the end of the trail, eating a sandwich next to the grey water, and turning around.

We woke up, packed up, and began making our way back. When I went to retrieve the adult beverages from the rock fort…the dry bag was gone. Not great Tender-Bottom morale on the bicycle ride out! The weather wasn’t very great though, which made us feel smug in choosing to do an all-nighter rather than an alpine-start.

Resources we used:
https://www.akmountain.com/2014/09/25/benign-peak/
https://www.peakbagger.com/climber/ascent.aspx?aid=973399
Summary Total Data
    Grade/Class:Class 4
    Quality:2 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Bicycle, Ice Axe, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear



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