Benign Peak is a spectacular looking summit that looms about 6500 feet above Eklutna Lake. It makes a long, hard day trip or a nice overnighter.
FA: Vin Hoeman and Art Davidson, August 5, 1965
The approach to Benign Peak starts at the Eklutna Lakeside Trailhead, some 20 miles north of Anchorage. To get there, take the Glenn Highway north of Anchorage 20+ miles to the Eklutna exit. Exit and follow the signs heading eastward to Eklutna Lake.
The final portion of the approach to Benign's base involves about 12.5 miles along the Eklutna Lakeside trail. The trail is flat and offers good bike riding or 4-wheeling for the approach. Four wheelers are only allowed Sunday-Tuesday, so that should be kept in mind.
From the end of the Eklutna Lakeside Trail, the approach varies on the route attempted.
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There are lots of places to camp. At the mile 12 mark, there is the Serenity Falls Hut, which offers a place to stay for those with reservations ($10/night). Also, there are a few campgrounds on the way that one could stay in along the Lakeside Trail. On the Eklutna Glacier proper, the Mountaineering Club of Alaska maintains a hut, Pichler's Perch, which is for members only ($15/year). Finally, as with most any Alaskan mountain, there are many places in the woods or on the glacier that climbers can pitch their tents to camp for an attempt on Benign Peak. Among the best campsites is the hanging valley between Bellicose Peak and Benign Peak.
-You can find a trip report here: http://www.alaskamountainforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=2092
-Here you can find a photo and description of technical routes on the 3000+ foot West Face of Benign Peak: http://aaj.americanalpineclub.org/climbs-and-expeditions/north-america/alaska/chugach-mountains/2010-various-new-routes-by-j-kelley/
-Info on the Eklutna Lake Trail can be found at the following site: http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/chugach/eklutna.htm
This route is the standard route for Benign Peak and involves some 3rd class scrambling but nothing crazy. The approach however can be quite involved and technical.
To get up to the 2 approaches below, first hike on a small hiking trail that goes off from the Serenity Falls cabin on the east side. Follow this faint trail along the Eklutna River to a falls and head left and up to an upper valley. Stay high on the east side of the canyon to avoid river crossings altogether, or go low and cross the river to the west side of the canyon. From here, access either the toe of the Eklutna Glacier or the Freer's Tears drainage.
Either head over the "Flatiron" (lower NE ridge of Bellicose Peak) or climb up the steep gully (Freer's Tears drainage) near the toe of the Eklutna Glacier. The Flatiron approach must be accessed via the Eklutna Glacier so expect the regular glacier travel, routefinding through crevasses, and even some AI 2 ice climbing to reach the base of the Flatiron.
Frear's Tears drainage is nasty and highly not recommended. If there is snow, the drainage can be ascended directly up moderate snow slopes. However, if there is not enough snow to cover the waterfalls in the drainage, climbers must climb at least 100 feet of Class 4 boulders encrusted in sand to gain a ramp that follows the creek upwards. Very dangerous climbing to say the least! The upper part of the route is Class 2/3 hiking and scrambling to reach the hanging valley.And it is quite enjoyable climbing.
The route up the Southwest Gully starts from the hanging valley. From the Freer's Tears approach, turn right when you reach the hanging valley. And from the Flatiron approach, go down into the hanging valley and back up into the gully. Follow the gully 2000 feet straight up on snow or scree as it narrows and steepens. Take the right fork up steeper terrain to gain the ridge another 1500 feet up. Turn right on the ridge and follow the ridgecrest another couple hundred feet to the summit.
In the gully, you'll find 35 degree snow, ice, and scree. The ridge offers some nice 3rd class rock, which isn't too exposed. When we climbed it there was a short 40-50 foot step of 45-50 degree snow to make it onto the summit proper, but you could probably work your way around this.
The Northeast Ridge was the first ascent route by Vin Hoeman and Art Davidson in the 1960s. They called the mountain Benign because the approach involved bushwacking, which was not too bad, to a scramble along the ridge, which also wasn't too bad. The bushwack approach starts from near the end of the Eklutna Lakeside trail and involves about 3000 feet of ardous routefinding through alders, devil's club and cliffs to gain a hanging valley above. Then the NE Ridge can be gained via ramps. Supposedly from the ridge, the summit can be attained by a moderate scramble around many gendarmes, which can be skirted on the left (south) side.
There are a handful of fairly technical lines on Benign's West Face. This face is one of the biggest in the Western Chugach rising over 3000feet. The routes are mainly mixed rock, snow and ice ranging from the WI3-4 up to WI6 terrain.
Vin Hoeman and Art Davidson did the first ascent of Benign Peak on August 5, 1965. In the August 1965 Scree
according to Hoeman, they wanted to climb an unclimbed "easy-looking peak" which had remained unclimbed for too long. How peak got its name. As the duo went "up through a bit of not bad brush, over rock cliffs not too rotten and enjoyed beautiful views, we decided "Benign" was an appropriate name for this one."