Mount Benzarino + Outpost Peak via Maple Pass Trail / 班則里諾山

  • Reading time:25 mins read

Mount Benzarino and Outpost Peak perch over North Fork Bridge Creek in North Cascades National Park. The former shares the Last Chance Pass with Corteo Peak near Maple Pass Trail. Then the latter rests atop the east rim of Mount Logan‘s Douglas Glacier.

Mount Benzarino en route to Outpost Peak
Mount Benzarino en route to Outpost Peak

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Mount Benzarino and Outpost Peak at a Glance

Access: Maple Pass Trailhead
Round Trip: 31.2 miles
Elevation Range: 2840′-7910
Gear: helmet
Route Info: Matt Burton
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

August 26-28, 2022

Day 1 – Friday, August 26
Maple Pass Trail + Mount Benzarino
Night 1 – 3400′ Grizzly Creek Camp

Day 2 – Saturday, August 27
Outpost Peak + Bridge Creek Trail + Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)
Night 2 – Fireweed Camp

Day 3 – Sunday, August 28
PCT to Rainy Pass


Day 1

Maple Pass Trail + Mount Benzarino

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

The Preface on Mount Benzarino

Mount Benzarino had finally popped up on the climbing list this season. Several reports I found had raved about this obscure peak behind Frisco Mountain. Besides climbing something new, I wanted to check out the hype myself.

This massif surrounds itself with drainages on all sides. Falls Creek flows to the north, Maple Creek to the east, plus Bridge Creek to the west. Moreover, it sits south of the classic Black Peak and east of the valley from Goode Mountain.

Rise and shine on Maple Pass Trail
Rise and shine on Maple Pass Trail

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Heather Maple Pass Trail

The trailhead was half full at dawn, as always during the high season. Then I set off for Maple Pass in the shade right after sunrise. En route, I passed two hikers who thought I was a bear when they heard me coming up from behind.

Climbing Corteo Peak was when I last hiked the north Maple Pass Trail. Then I was here again last year but took the south trail to Frisco Mountain. After passing Lake Ann, I quickly checked out Black Peak from Heather Pass.

Mount Benzarino from Maple Pass
Mount Benzarino from Maple Pass

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Maple Pass to Maple Creek Basin

Before long, I saw my first goal, Mount Benzarino, from Heather Pass. A hiker soon emerged as I took a break and changed into mountaineering boots. Then I dropped into Maple Creek Basin on the west and continued.

A faint boot path took me below Horsefly Pass, where I left the trail and headed southwest. I kept an attitude between 5800′ and 6000′ as I rounded southeast of Corteo Peak. Apart from one screaming marmot earlier, it was overall quiet.

A preview of McGregor Mountain
A preview of McGregor Mountain

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Lake 6240 to Mount Benzarino East Basin

I made a rising traverse south of Corteo Peak through grass slopes. Then I reached Lake 6240 below Last Chance Pass in under a mile and took a break. The shoreline was too rocky to camp but had a great view of Frisco Mountain.

I went up the gully to the south and exited the basin at 6700′. Then I kept roughly the same altitude for the next 1.25 miles, traversing Mount Benzarino’s east face. En route were endless views of many familiar peaks.

Lake 6240 and Frisco Mountain
Lake 6240 and Frisco Mountain

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The Final Stretch

Soon, I reached the south shoulder at 6850′, which turned out rockier than I expected. Then I followed a path of least resistance through a few class 4 spots lower down. Meanwhile, moving in and out of the annoying krummholz was the icing on the cake.

The incline lessened higher on the ridge, with views of Goode Mountain and Storm King. Despite the rocky terrain, I was able to traverse the crest mostly. Before I knew it, I had reached Mount Benzarino’s slanted summit slab.

The final stretch on Mount Benzarino
The final stretch on Mount Benzarino

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Mount Benzarino Summit Views

With the warm summer we’ve had so far, I was happy to see an overcast sky. Surprisingly, There weren’t any mosquitoes on top or throughout the trip. So I lay back on the slanted rock and enjoyed the panoramic views.

Being the 253rd highest peak in the state, it harbored dramatic views of the surrounding taller peaks. The notable ones were, of course, Black Peak and Goode Mountain. I couldn’t find the register placed by Matt‘s group in 2014.

North-to-east panorama from Mount Benzarino
North-to-east panorama from Mount Benzarino

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Mount Benzarino Northwest Ridge

I gazed at Outpost Peak 4.5 miles away for a bit before leaving. I had intended to climb it a month ago via Fisher Pass. But besides the warm weather, reports citing the horrendous exit via Cosho Camp had me scratched my plan.

I couldn’t find info on the northwest ridge, but I wanted to try it anyway. So I went down around the east tower before moving through manageable terrain. Despite the rocky ridgeline draped in outcrops, I could always hug the crest.

Traversing Mount Benzarino's northwest ridge
Traversing Mount Benzarino’s northwest ridge

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En Route to Grizzly Creek

It was steep from 7200′ down to 7000′ with terrible rocks and choss. After moving through that part, the ridge suddenly widened at 6900′ for the next 300′. It would be a scenic place to camp if there were running water.

En route, Points 5590 and 4660 looked to North Fork Meadows and Fisher Creek Valley. I dropped altitude over several cliffs as it started to become brushy. Then I reached Grizzly Creek at 3400′ via an animal trail and crossed the water on a log.

Next stop, Outpost Peak
Next stop, Outpost Peak

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Grizzly Creek Camp by Mount Benzarino

I couldn’t find info on Outpost Peak’s southeast ridge. But the snow patches by Point 7135 looked enticing from Mount Benzarino for a night’s stay. Though, hauling everything up 3700′ for an 800′ climb didn’t make much sense.

After talking myself out of the high camp, Grizzly Creek, for the night, it was! I got a permit for the Benzarino zone, which meant staying east of the creek. But the sizeable sandy area on the west was way more comfortable pitching the tent.

End of day one by Grizzly Creek
End of day one by Grizzly Creek

Day 2

Outpost Peak + Bridge Creek Trail + PCT

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Outpost Peak Climb by Mount Benzarino

Without any route info, I was skeptical about the southeast ridge. Soon, I was on the crest after finding my way through the drop-off above the creek. Then I went through the initially moderate 400′ incline over the light brush.

The open forest let me bypass vine maples by hugging the crest. After the steep part from 4000′ to 5000′, the rest was distance over elevation. During this, I heard a loud thump below the cliffs followed by shuffling, likely from a bear.

Memaloose Ridge from camp
Memaloose Ridge from camp

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Outpost Peak Southeast Ridge

After meandering through a short stretch of dense forest at 5300′, the terrain fully widened. Then endless views poured in from all sides but the west. I was in disbelief as to how enjoyable the climb was.

I had considered using Dave‘s south route via North Fork Meadows, gaining 4000′ over 1.5 miles. But I opted to traverse the ridge for three miles over the 4500’ gain. It was also more direct from Grizzly Creek via Mount Benzarino.

Looking back at Bridge Creek Valley
Looking back at Bridge Creek Valley

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The Final Stretch on Outpost Peak

The last time I was here, I was busy with route-finding that I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery. I stopped counting the number of breaks I took to enjoy the views. Before long, I first saw Outpost Peak below Point 7135.

The drop-offs above the southeast basin had forced me to stay on the crest. But I was happy to do so to avoid snow and talus. Soon, I traversed the last 300′ over a few notches and some black rocks. It was overall pleasant.

Traversing southeast ridge
Traversing southeast ridge

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Outpost Peak Summit Views

The sky grew cloudier when I reached the top in the late morning. But the clouds were high enough to reveal most nearby peaks. The mountain I had waited to see, Mount Logan, had enveloped itself in the mists.

Seeing Natal Peak and Incision Peak from a month ago across the valley was surreal. In the shadow of Black Peak and Corteo Peak, Mount Benzarino looked rather underwhelming. But Mount Goode and Storm King were the main attractions from this vantage point.

South-to-west panorama from Outpost Peak
South-to-west panorama from Outpost Peak

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North Fork Bridge Creek Trail Below Mount Benzarino

Back at camp, I packed up and soon went to look for Bridge Creek Trail at 200′ below. It took some pacing back and forth by the creek to stumble upon the trail. Then I walked three miles to the PCT fork, the lowest point of this trip.

I took a break at Mount Benzarino’s southern foothills as a thru-hiker emerged. We briefly chatted before they resumed the rest of their journey to the Canadian border. Then I repacked and was soon on my way back to Rainy Pass.

One more of Mount Benzarino
One more of Mount Benzarino

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Walking the PCT

As I crossed Maple Creek, I noticed a new walkway upslope used during high water. I didn’t get water here, thinking I’d find some from the seasonal streams en route. Sadly, they had all dried up, as I would later find out.

I thought I’d get water at Sixmile Camp and perhaps stay the night. But I didn’t expect to see a tent city when I walked toward Bridge Creek. As I later found out, it’s one of the two specified campsites for the thru-hikers. Grr.

Leaving North Fork Bridge Creek Valley
Leaving North Fork Bridge Creek Valley

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A Parched Throat in Need of Water

Not wanting to disturb anyone, I returned to the trail and continued. Soon, I reached South Fork Camp but didn’t want to try my luck there. So I kept walking to Hideaway Camp, where I saw one tent over the spur trail. Ugh!

On my way back to the main path, I noticed a dirty puddle under the alder. So I filtered some questionable water because beggars couldn’t be choosers! Before long, I had walked six miles of the PCT to Fireweed Campground.

Last view of Natal Peak
Last view of Natal Peak

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A Night at Fireweed Campground

I remembered the open space by the big log over Bridge Creek on my July trip. So I kept my fingers crossed as I hurried toward it in the dark. Hooray! Thank god no one had taken the perfect spot by the water as I had run out of steam.

I was so thirsty that I drank two liters of water as I rested by the creek. Then I spent the next hour setting up camp, making dinner, and hanging food. It was a restful night after falling asleep watching Uncharted. Boooring.

Bridge Creek Valley view at day's end
Bridge Creek Valley view at day’s end

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Day 3

PCT to Rainy Pass

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

En Route to Rainy Pass

In the morning, I used the toilet quite a ways past the horse camp. OMG, I almost couldn’t hold it! Afterward, I chatted with a nearby section hiker from Walla Walla. Then I packed up for the last five miles to Rainy Pass.

I took a break in the shade as two hikers making a loop through Stehekin came up the trail. Their six-day backpacking trip sounded way more pleasant than mine. But the idea of walking uphill at the end of a long outing was always icky.

Morning of day three
Morning of day three

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Back to Rainy Pass

To think that I had considered retracing my steps back to Maple Pass through Mount Benzarino was insane. It would’ve taken longer scrambling than walking the trail. Of course, things always looked great on paper!

I met Margaret (Rocky), who had returned from Utah to finish the last bit. Before meeting her friend at the Bridge Creek Trailhead, we walked and chatted for a while. Then I walked the last 1.5 miles alone back to the car.

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

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Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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