Arches Peak by Mount Arriva and Fisher Peak via Easy Pass / 拱門峯

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Arches Peak, aka Little J-Berg, by Mount Arriva, is a stone’s throw away from Easy Pass above Fisher Creek. The high point shrouds itself with taller peaks on all sides, including Mesahchie Peak and Fisher Peak.

Arches Peak from Easy Pass
Arches Peak from Easy Pass

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Arches Peak at a Glance

Access: Easy Pass Trailhead
Round Trip: 22.1 miles
Elevation Range: 3680′-7945′
Gear: helmet, ice ax, crampons
Route Info: Eric Eames, Matt Burton, Summitpost.org
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

The Preface on Arches Peak

How quickly four years had passed since my last visit to the area. Back then, I made the trip when the thick wildfire smoke had inundated the Cascades. But this time, I vowed to reclaim the views I had missed in full sunshine.

NOTE: North Cascades National Park Service Complex is now using Recreation.gov for all backcountry permits and reservations. Check out the benefits!

Arches Peak was my main focus on this trip. But I wanted to use the same approach to visit the lesser-known Indecision Peak and Natal Peak to the south. All of which offered excellent views of many of Washington’s 200 highest peaks.

Granite Creek in the AM
Granite Creek in the AM

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Easy Pass Trail

It was my fourth time on the 3.5-mile-long Easy Pass Trail. A slight dip took me to the Granite Creek bridge past the trailhead. Sadly, the once sturdy wooden railings now had several detached bars dangling from the cable.

Graybeard Peak first came into sight as I crossed Easy Pass Creek. But this year’s high water had forced a makeshift log over the stream. Soon, the landscape expanded as the trail wound through the trees a few more times.

Crossing Easy Pass Creek below Graybeard Peak
Crossing Easy Pass Creek below Graybeard Peak

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Arches Peak via Fisher Creek

Before long, Arches Peak appeared by the park boundary. Then I would take Fisher Creek Trail down to the fork at 1300′ below. As I marveled at Mount Logan, a daring marmot came near me before flopping onto the snow to cool off.

Like before, I followed the brushy trail up Fisher Creek, which faded by the creek. So I crossed the water to the south and scrambled alongside the talus to the snow at 5600′. Then I put on crampons and went south to the hidden ramp.

This way to Arches Peak
This way to Arches Peak

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The Final Strech on Arches Peak

The mild incline slowly turned west over a few streams. Then scree appeared around 7200′ as I went between rocks and snow for the next 200′. Soon, I got a view of Mount Logan and the neighboring Mount Arriva on the 7400′ notch.

I couldn’t pinpoint the summit from the gap. But I made a rising traverse through several steep gullies over the rest of the route. Then below the high point was an exposed class 3 slope with ledges leading me to the top.

The final stretch on Arches Peak
The final stretch on Arches Peak

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Arches Peak Summit Views

I didn’t expect Mount Arriva to be this close to Arches Peak. Four years ago, the smoky view from the other side was like night and day compared with today. So I wasn’t even sure how any of these peaks looked in the haze.

The main attractions among the familiar high points were Black Peak, Mount Arriva, and Ragged Ridge. They would continue to follow me at every turn during the trip. I stayed 45 minutes, savoring the views before leaving.

Western panoramic view from Arches Peak
Western panoramic view from Arches Peak

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Arches Peak to Lake 5972

It looked like a long way to backtrack through Fisher Creek around Arches Peak. Even without route info, I wanted to try going straight into Natal Creek Basin. So I headed west on the rocky crest, which was smooth sailing.

At 7500′, I went south through scree, aiming at Lake 5972. Meanwhile, I bypassed several places with cliffs by staying west of a narrow ravine. Then at 6300′, I made a beeline for the jade color lake over mild terrain.

Arches Peak above Lake 5972
Arches Peak above Lake 5972

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En Route to 6960′ Saddle by Indecision Peak

The lake would’ve made an excellent camp spot. But the goal was to make it to the saddle between Indecision Peak and Natal Peak with the remaining daylight. That way, I would start climbing first thing the next day.

Soon, I went through the talus field below Mount Arriva’s west wall from the outlet. Back in the trees, I worked my way around the cliffs to the lower rock field. Then I dropped to 5100′, fought some slide alder to the west of the creek, and continued.

Lower basin
Lower basin

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A Night on 6960′ Saddle

The open terrain allowed me to plan my route through the basins easily. Below the 5920′ basin was a short stretch of dense forest. So I stayed west of the trees to 5900′ before cutting east through the vegetation.

This basin also would’ve been a perfect place to camp. But I had set my heart on the saddle and would instead make the push to arrive before dark. So I walked up the moraine, followed by the snow, and camped on the pass,

End of day one
End of day one

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Indecision Peak Climb

Indecision Peak looked direct and was only 1000′ above camp. So I could get it first before tackling the more challenging Natal Peak. After the sun came up from behind Repulse Peak, I started moving at a quarter to 8.

I stayed on the south ridge until below the chossy gully. But I avoided the scree in favor of the granite slabs to the west. At 150′ below the top, I went left over a sloping platform below the cliffs to finish on the crest.

First stop, Indecision Peak
First stop, Indecision Peak

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Indecision Peak Summit Views

I didn’t see Indecision Peak from Arches Peak yesterday because of Mount Arriva. So I knew I wouldn’t see it from here either, too bad. But the dramatic landscape in the area was plenty to keep the eyes busy for a while.

Natal Peak across the basin was shorter by 150′ but with an impressive north side. I stared at the gully and wondered if I could still climb up to the notch in dwindling snow. Alas, first-world problem.

North-to-east panoramic view from Indecision Peak
North-to-east panoramic view from Indecision Peak

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Natal Peak Climb

After returning to camp, I had a long breakfast while enjoying the views. Then I put on crampons and traversed toward Natal Peak as the slope slowly steepened. But without continuous snow, I mixed climbed up to the gully.

The gully forked below the buttress, where I stepped into a shallow moat. The snow ramp on the left looked vertical, so I opted for the snow-free route with terrible rocks. Then I stemmed and mantled through the narrow passage.

Next up, Natal Peak
Next up, Natal Peak

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The Final Stretch on Natal Peak

The two routes joined below the notch, where the rocks turned crumbly. En route, many big stones looked like they’d roll down anytime, so I tried not to touch any. Then I took a break to enjoy the south view up by the gap.

The final 300′ over the east ridge wasn’t as smooth sailing as I had hoped. The 200′ through the downsloping slabs was the slowest. In hindsight, I should’ve climbed via the dark rocks on the crest with subpar quality.

South view from the notch
South view from the notch

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Natal Peak Summit Views

A short traverse from the ridgetop would soon take me to one of the loneliest summits in the national park. By then, the temperate was in the 90s by the reading on my GPS. So I was so glad to have worn a sun hat to keep out the heat!

There were also no signs of Arches Peak from this summit. But I finally saw Corteo Peak plus the massive Mount Benzarino. Goode Mountain, Outpost Peak, and Mount Logan stole the show on this high point.

Southwestern panoramic view from Natal Peak
Southwestern panoramic view from Natal Peak

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Leaving Natal Peak

Before leaving the top, I looked down the northwest ridge, which seemed like a lot of work. But I would want to rappel the route at the very least. Soon, I retraced my steps back to the notch through the crest.

Back at the fork, I took the snow ramp instead. Then below the buttress, I worked through the moat and landed on the scree farther west. The loose rocks there were more manageable when going the other way.

Back through the gully
Back through the gully

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A Change in Plans

I got a permit for three nights before the trip. But since I had finished sooner, I decided to go out on day two. I’d also avoid another warm day by leaving now that the temperate was starting to dip.

I must’ve startled the sunbathing mountain goat on my way back to the basin. But the nearby streams had drowned out my shuffling through the snow, so it didn’t hear me. Anyway, the animal dashed before I could snap a photo.

One last look
One last look

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Exiting Around Arches Peak

Since there wasn’t a trail until Fisher Creek, reports in hand had various exit strategies. I avoided dense brush again by staying west of Natal Creek. Then I crossed to the east at 5100′ as the terrain started to dip.

Crossing Fisher Creek at 4800′ had worked out for others, so I did the same. A bent log across the water led me straight to the other side. Then it was 2.5 miles uphill walk to Easy Pass, followed by 3.5 miles hike back to the car.

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

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