Fitsum Benchmark

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A brutal bushwack, Fitsum Benchmark offers a real challenge.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

This outing is in some of the most stunning scenery in the Lick Creek range. But the photos don't really show that, so here's an overview shot.

I 'kind of' knew the way into the Prince Lakes because I had followed some fellows way back when on a 2006 climb of McCabe Peak.

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So to start off, you drop down about 250' through heavy brush (the lighter colors in the foreground) to get to Lick Creek, then cross the creek and work your way up the opposite hillside. The opposite hillside is full of cliffs, so the key is to climb through the trees on the right until about two-thirds up what you see here, then traverse the slab from right to left.

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Dave finishing up the slab traverse.

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Then more brush and deadfall. No trail. Just go straight up. Take breaks as needed.

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There are benches. When we got to the waterfall (dry at this time of year) we followed the base of the cliff to climber's right.

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Shortly after, you reach the first of the Prince Lakes. On our way to Fitsum Benchmark, we will eventually go through the saddle in the background.

Sorry, shooting into the sun with a dirty lens.

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From the other side of the lake, looking out at Hum Ridge.

Below, a panorama of another Prince Lake, with McCabe Peak standing tall above it.

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When we got to the saddle, we finally could see Fitsum Benchmark.

I had been eager to get this view to determine which route we would/could take. The shortest was to ascend the couloir on the right, but the contour lines were pretty bunched together.

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Here's a zoom of the couloir. Looks doable.

I think.

He said optimistically.

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It was very steep dirt, but we got up it.

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The backside of the ridge was pretty mellow, but it had burned hot and left a ton of downfall over the boulders. Not terribly photogenic.

And there's the benchmark.

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Pretty glorious views. This is looking across the South Fork of the Salmon and into the Frank Church.

We could see both the Kiwah and Caton fires, the source of the smoke you see here.

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Looking down Steep Creek toward Lick Creek. Trailhead
This is the saddle we climbed through on our way from Prince Lakes. Our route went from right descending to left across the boulder field. Trailhead
McCabe Peak, viewed looking west. Trailhead

Dave doing his photography thing.

It wasn't clear if the highpoint was where I was standing, or that rock over there. Dave has pictures of me on that other rock.

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After a prolonged rest and a bite to eat, it was time to reverse our tracks. Trailhead
Different light, different photos. This is looking down on the biggest Prince Lake, the one in the panorama above. But now looking sort of west-northwest. Trailhead
Coming down off the saddle, almost to the lake. Steep country. Trailhead
From the big Prince Lake, we opted to try a different descent route, at least initially. So we followed the outlet, then some elk trails. That led us into a patch of slide alder that was a ton of fun. Poor little Ruby. Trailhead

This variation had us following a ridge through easy ground for a while. It was nice not to be struggling in waist-deep brush.

Until we ran into a cliff band at the end of the ridge......

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Down, down, down through fairly heinous bushwhacking. We tried to take a more direct route, but ran into the dreaded cliff bands. So back to the slab.

Then that painful trudge back up to the road from the creek. Ruby was almost as tired as us.

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Map

 

Dave's report

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