Fisher Outpost High Route

The Last Drops of Summer

South of Easy Pass lies a group of remote, rugged high mountains. Goode and Logan may sound familiar as two of the highest points in the North Cascades, but there are also many mysterious peaks like Arriva, Indecision, Meulefire, Natal, and Outpost. Back in 2019, Seeking Ultra (Luke) and Ben did a route from Easy Pass to Rainy Pass that they called the “Fisher Outpost High Route“. Outpost Peak and its gentle east ridge were the key. Doing a similar route quickly ascended towards the top of my list.

During spring of 2021, I did a four day ski traverse from Easy Pass to Cascade Pass. The terrain around Spectacular Ridge, Outpost, and Logan blew my mind. It was incredible when snow covered, but I envisioned the golden larches, endless meadows, and knew I needed to come back in the summer or fall.

After a multi year hiatus from any non-snow activities on Highway 20, it was time to return to the North Cascades. I was saving the Fisher Outpost High Route for early fall, when the colors were turning, but the high country was still free of snow. So with a warm, sunny forecast for the first weekend of fall, I recruited Wyatt (check out his incredible photography) for a Highway 20 weekend. On Saturday, we watched the sunset from the top of Blue Lake Peak. Sunday would be our big day.

This route involves a short car shuttle from Easy Pass to Bridge Creek. To avoid needing two cars, I asked Rio to drive us between the trailheads. Rio was climbing at Washington Pass on Sunday, so it would be on his way in the morning. Thanks Rio!

We got started around 5:30 am, jogging downhill on the PCT from Bridge Creek. I started this way three years ago on the Triple Rainbow High Route, the first route that really opened my eyes to the vast terrain beyond the nearby peaks of Highway 20.

Morning light on Le Conte, looking down Bridge Creek.

It got light slowly as we made our way 9.5 miles down the PCT before turning off towards the North Fork Bridge Creek Trail. This is the route to Goode, as I climbed the NE Buttress in the summer of 2020. Grizzly Creek was obviously low and easy to cross. Right after crossing the creek, we left the trail and started up towards the long east ridge of Outpost Peak. The initial few hundred feet were a bit schwacky, but once on the ridge, it got better.

View along the North Fork Bridge Creek Trail.

Whenever the ridge seemed to get brushy, I would traverse to the left side and find an old trail cutting across the side and switchbacking up. While animal trails can be pretty well defined, this was most definitely an old decommissioned human trail. Ground was leveled across side slopes and there were switchbacks. I would not call it a goode trail by any means, but it still helped us gain ground quickly. I would love to see a map of trails in the Cascades back in the mid 20th century, because I am sure there were so many more than today! Technology and information has definitely removed a lot of mystery to the range. But in many ways, like the decommissioned trails and closed access roads, the mountains have become more wild since then.

A pretty Goode view!

The climb was gentle and provided frequent views of Goode, McGregor, and Black. Around 5000 feet, we started to get vibrant reds in the undergrowth. It was officially fall!

Wyatt taking a break, gazing out the North Fork Bridge Creek.

Our progress slowed dramatically as the cameras came out. Wyatt is way faster than me, but throw in some fall colors and dramatic peaks and I am no longer the slow one. Around 6000 feet, we entered larch groves. They were mostly greenish-yellow still, but they were still beautiful. This confirmed our suspicions that the fall colors were about a week behind this year.

Looking towards Black Peak.
Getting to the Goode stuff!

Few places in the Cascades have 6000 feet of sheer relief, as Goode does above the North Fork of Bridge Creek. The position of Outpost just across the valley, dotted with yearning larches, is as incredible as any in the Cascades. Peakbaggers talk about P (prominence) but I talk about P (position). Outpost has the P.

A wonderful larch basin and the Goode Giant towering.
It’s all about the P.

Above 7000 feet, the ridge became flatter and rocky. We passed a small tarn to the right, which could have been a useful water source if we needed it.

A useful little tarn.

The final ridge presented some fun 3rd class scrambling with decent exposure. This climb up Outpost truly has it all – forests, meadows, larches, and alpine ridges!

Wyatt nearing the summit of Outpost. Such relief!
The impressive Logan Massif.
Looking towards Spectacular Ridge. We would climb up the left slanting gully in the center.

We were a little over 6 hours into our day. There was a little breeze up top to cool us down, but otherwise it was a sweltering day for late September. Smoke was slowly moving in from the south, but we did not expect it to get too bad before the end of the day.

After a nice break, we dropped off to the north. I took us NE through a chossy gully, snowfield, and more boulders before reaching nice heather boulders and larches. From there, it was easy to descend to a pond around 6400 ft.

September turns baby!
A nice tarn on the north side of Outpost.

The north side of Outpost is a wild land of tarns, glacial evidence, larches, and vibrant meadows. It got a little brushy as we tumbled down towards Fisher Pass, but was never too bad. Fisher Pass is a geographic anomaly. You can descend in either direction and follow a “Fisher Creek”. But the open meadows, towering views, and vibrant fall colors really were begging me to stay. This is one of those spots that really speaks to me, so wild and remote feeling.

We started the climb up Spectacular Ridge on the other side, generally aiming for the gully that slanted up and right from the pass. We avoided the lower brushy section by ascending to the left of it. This slope is south facing and the heat was hard. But I found a miracle spring in the upper gully and quenched my thirst there.

Ascending Spectacular Ridge with Logan behind.

Spectacular Ridge had the most vibrant reds and oranges of the trip. I camped here on my ski traverse, and it would make a lovely camp in the summer or fall, although there are no water sources up here.

Simply spectacular!

Once on the ridge, we peered ahead to our route options. Seeking Ultra’s route had gone down into Natal Creek, past Lake 5972 beneath the north slopes of Arriva, and over a pass into Fisher Basin. My ski traverse went over the Meulefire-Arriva Col, past the Silent Lakes, and into Fisher Basin. The Silent Lakes route would stay higher and be less total gain, so we were leaning that way. From a distance, we could tell that the Meulefire-Arriva Col could be loose and challenging, but we figured we could ascend to the right of the garbage gully.

Looking across to the Meulefire-Arriva col. I see choss in our future.

So we continued over the knobs of Spectacular Ridge towards Natal Peak before dropping down through pleasant larch groves to the post glacial basin beneath Natal.

Indecision, Black, and Natal.
A small, dying glacier on the north flank of Natal.
A beautiful meadow and stream in the flats of Natal Basin.

From Natal Basin, we ascended up and left towards the Meulefire-Arrival col. We traversed some rocky slopes to the main gut that could lead us up to the col. It looked like death choss, so I turned up and right to check out a smaller, hidden, pink gully. Somehow it turned out to be reasonably solid and provided for fun class 3 scrambling towards the col! It dropped us off a little higher than the col, so then we dropped down to the left to the lowest point. If you were coming the other way, I think it could be challenging to figure this part out.

Despite the appearance, this was actually pretty good scrambling.

We needed a break after pushing through that section. I knew that from here, the terrain was simpler. The days are short at this time of year and you have to move efficiently to pull off a route like this in daylight. I was impressed with Wyatt’s mastery of challenging off trail terrain and smart group management in loose terrain.

The easiest descent of the day.

We dropped down a gentle valley and then began an easy climb traversing left towards the Silent Lakes. The shadows already were long, but the air was still warm like the heat of summer. We took a dip in the Silent Lakes to cool off. This is the summer that seems to never end. While it would be nice to get some rain and cool down the fires, I am just trying to soak in these long days and opportunities to explore the mountains in their most colorful state, milking every last drop of summer. Come the dark days of November, we will miss these special days.

Creeping shadows, yearning larches.
All was quiet at the Silent Lakes.

I thought the Silent Lakes were a popular backpacking destination so there would be an easy way down to Fisher Basin, but I think I overestimated their popularity. There were a few cairns and scarcely a climber’s trail. Eventually we traversed right into a gully, as it appears others do. This gully was total garbo, but at least it was the last difficulty of the day.

Poop chute!

We were now just a few easy miles from the Easy Pass trail, in the marvelous Fisher Basin. This is a classic glacial valley, long and wide. Water trickled down the valley and we slowly followed its course, through reds, greens, and yellows. At the end of the valley, the light cast an amber glow on the hillside up to Easy Pass. Slowly, the rays of light crept their way up the slopes. It was such a peaceful end to the day.

The marvelous, peaceful Fisher Basin.

Once we reached the proximity of the Easy Pass trail, we actually had difficulty finding the trail since it is nowhere near the maps show it to be. But once we found it, we were cruising up one last climb. We had a hazy glow all around us and crested the pass right at darkness.

Goodnight, Easy Pass.

Wyatt bounded ahead into the darkness as I lumbered down the horrendously rocky and then brushy trail. Only in the last mile could I actually run. We rolled into the Easy Pass parking lot under starry skies, just as we had awoken to in the morning. And we had not seen anyone since leaving Rio in the morning.

After being away for most of July and August, September has felt like a second summer, blessing me with the opportunity to have some epic days in my home mountains, like the Northern Olympic High Route and Paddy go Daniel. After the passing of the snow and mosquitoes, I love the stillness of late summer and fall, the early sunsets, the crispness of the mornings, and the vibrance of the colors. I feel content with my summer’s efforts and everything seems to just slow down.

The Fisher Outpost High Route was an incredible day. It certainly matches any other single day high route in the state for grand views and remote terrain. While no single section is that challenging, the continuous ups and downs of the off trail section are definitely more demanding than something like the Ptarmigan Traverse or Alpine Lakes Crest Traverse, mile for mile. Traveling through this area makes me feel like I am witnessing some forgotten giants and inspires me to come back to explore every nook and cranny.

The off trail section of the Fisher Outpost HR.


  • My strava activity.
  • Our route was about 30 miles and 11k ft gain. The first 12 and last 5 miles were on trail. It took us about 14.5 hours.
  • Nothing exceeded class 3 on this route, but you do need to be comfortable with some loose class 3.
  • Even late in the season, there were plentiful water sources. There is that tarn high on the east ridge of Outpost. Each basin had running water.
  • I would advise going the direction we went for a few reasons: less vert, ending with an uphill run up Bridge creek would suck, and the Meulefire-Arriva col could be challenging to figure out going the other way. Also, going up the long ridge on Outpost felt very climactic.
  • It is hard to quantify off trail difficulty, but this was definitely a step up from typical Alpine Lakes Wilderness rambling where you have granite slabs and nice boulder fields. The scenery was also a step up.

4 thoughts on “Fisher Outpost High Route”

  1. Another gem, tagged to the bank of routes to hit! Thanks for the fantastic TRs, creativity and all around stoke generation for the people. Psyched for another Hye 20 gem!

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