Frisco Mountain from Corteo, Photo by saintgrizzly
Frisco Mountain stands southwest of and imposingly above Rainy Lake. From its summit, one gets great views of Corteo
and Black Peak
immediately north, Whistler
and Cutthroat Peak
immediately east, as well as many of the other peaks of the North Cascades. First climbed by Lage Werstedt during the summer of 1926, Frisco can be climbed from the road in a long day (barring any route finding mistakes) or more leisurely in 2 days, with a camp near Maple Pass.
On the trail to Maple Pass
The trailhead is accessed from Washington SR20. There is no public transportation to this area.
Drive Highway 20 (between Wintrop to the east and Vernon to the west) to Rainy Pass . Turn into the picnic area parking lot located near the pass. The trailhead is near the entrance.
Once at the trailhead, you have two choices to reach Maple Pass. The Lake Ann-Maple Pass Loop #740
ascends to Maple Pass either by way of Lake Ann or by way of Rainy Lake. The Rainy Lake side leaves from the handicapped accessible Rainy Lake trail and quickly (but comfortably) ascends the steep slopes to the pass in 3.5 miles, with great views along the way. This gets you higher more quickly than the Lake Ann side, which ascends more leisurely to Maple Pass in 4.0 miles, much of it in forest. About 2 to 3 hours either way from the trailhead. It makes for a more interesting day, if you ascend on the Rainy Lake side and descend on the Ann Lake side (easier on the knees, too!)
Washington Pass Information
Camping / Nearest Towns
Camping is not allowed within ¼ mile of Lake Ann or Rainy Lake. Camping on the ridge near Maple Pass is feasible and often done. During early season there may be small ponds. Most years some snow remains in a few areas along the pass area until late in the season or even all year. Otherwise, there is no reliable source of water.
There are official USFS fee campgrounds on both sides of Washington Pass. The nearest is Lone Fir to the east with Klipchuck and Early Winters a bit further east, but at lower elevations and thus open earlier in the season.
to the west and Winthrop
to the east are the closest towns with motels and more developed campsites.
Crossing the basin: Starting the traverse
Another view of the traverse route as seen from Corteo. Photo by saintgrizzly.
Note: If using the trail up from Rainy Lake, when you top out over the ridge before descending to Maple Pass, a trail appears to go to the ridge leading off of Frisco. THIS IS NOT THE ROUTE!
The trail leads onto the crag north of Frisco and after about 15 minutes of scrambling, you will be looking down a cliff into very nasty couloir. You could probably traverse over the crag, if you take technical gear, but you would gain nothing. You would end up at the same notch as going around on the route described below.
From near Maple Pass you can see where you need to go. If you have come up from Rainy Lake, it is worth your time to continue down to the ridge and look at the route around to the south. Descend southeast of Maple Pass to about 6,400 feet. You will see a tree covered bench that sits between the base of the steep cliffs on the south side of the crag north of Frisco and the steep hill and cliffs below. There are faint game trails. Work your way along this bench along the base of the cliffs until you come out in the boulder filled basin. Ascend this basin. Work your way around the base of another rock rib and ascend steeply, always trending south. Eventually you'll come out into a little basin where you can see the notch in Frisco's north ridge. Ascend to the notch. From Maple Pass about 2 to 3 hours.
Looking down the north ridge On the north ridge
Now the fun begins! Ascending Frisco by the north ridge and descending by way of the SE ridge makes for a nice traverse of the mountain and avoids having to downclimb airy class 4.
Class 3 and 4. From the notch, follow the north ridge to the base of the massive summit block. The summit block is best climbed on the west side via connecting ledges constantly moving southward to the western corner of the summit block. This is ascended easily to the summit. Beckey rates this route as "exposed Class 3" Most of the climbing is class 3, but there is one short section that is probably Class 4. Climbing on the summit block is very exposed and an unbelayed fall here would almost certainly be fatal. Some parties may want to take a rope for this route.
Traverse to SE Ridge
Class 2 and 3. From the notch traverse around the base of Frisco's NE face, either avoiding or using the snowfields, depending on the time of year and conditions. Gain the SE ridge at the first convenient point. Work your way to the summit via the ridge and gullies. About 45 to 60 minutes from the notch.
Best time to go
From late spring to early fall, depending on snow conditions and whether the North Cascades Highway
is open. Even when the pass is open, if there is much snow, be very aware that this is avalanche country!
Whistler Peak as seen from the summit of Frisco Mtn
A Northwest Forest Pass
is required to park at the trailhead ($5 per day, $30 annual). The Golden Eagle Pass also is valid.
The Okanogan National Forest
web site has current information regarding obtaining a NW Forest Pass, road and trail conditions, closures, campgrounds, etc.