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Plan ‘B’, Bonanza Peak 9511’

-Fresh snow in summer, via Holden Pass

via Holden Pass and Mary Green Glacier

July 1-2, 2011

Franklin Bradshaw (solo)


Weather – Sun and hot, winds near calm.


Notes: Bonanza holds several titles, county high point, highest non-volcanic WA peak, #6 on the Bulgers list, the best view in the house…



What led to “Plan “B”

Much planning from several groups preparing for a long weekend.  Most people had three days off and I figured how to wrangle an extra making four days.  As typical for this new “summer” season, the weather report was like holding a slippery fish.  The clear and sun slipping through the fingers.  After the “wet one” with Stefan and crew to Silverhorn I decided I needed to be flexible, listen to my doubts and not get the pressure to be too fixed on one location while this weather pattern persists. 


I’ve been pine-ing (what is the spelling for that anyway?) for a trip into the southern Ptarmigan traverse area.  Four days would be perfect.  N others interested.  This was looking to be a filled weekend by everyone.  The north end forecast slipped into a wet Sunday.  Even the dry side looked to have a questionable day on Sunday.  Bummer, right in the middle of the weekend. A few days before the weekend the forecast north was 50% and rising wet for Sunday. And the Ptarmigan looked to get a taste of that too.  Time for Plan “B”.  Head to the dry side and explore more of the Holden area.  No takers, so looked to be a solo trip.  Some concern expressed and listened to from Dicey.  Going at my own pace I felt I’d turn around if I felt an issue.  And I had plenty of time to do something else in there if wanting.


An early morning –cars, boats and buses… oh my

An early exit from the westside, morning colors and a peaceful drive for a Friday.  Nice to trade the rush hour commute for a scenic trip over the pass.  Stevens Pass still had a surprising amount of snow for this late in the year.  I love driving Hwy2 in the early morning, Tumwater Canyon about as scenic as any I’ve ever been.  The day was getting warm as I pulled into Fields Point with an hour to relax before the Lady II would show. 


Loading the Lady II at Fields Point


 A drop off part way for shore trail hikers and two happy to be out dogs


Over 25 people waiting to get tickets, I expected more for this weekend.  The upper cabin was quiet this trip and ventures to the deck warm.  I hardly recognized Lucerne when we arrived with the water level being high and the “lower” floating dock the height of the main dock.  Water up to the logs and a few people wandering about.  The usual, load school bus, cram knees, go zombie the dusty slow ride 12 miles in.  This time no Zombie, a good conversation with a father who was on a month  long trek with his boys to hike and see the area.  Little did they know of the low snow level and its limiting their prospects for hikes.   Arriving at Holden, it appeared the entire population was out on the grass waving and cheering as we arrived.  You’d wonder if a superstar was on board or the home team returning.  I think it’s the home team returning feel. 


Check in here –the Hike Haus


Head west young man

Checked in at the Hike Haus, on the over-night check out the only non Domke or Hart lake group was a party of two that had given Copper a go.  A refill of water and I was off with an over-burdened pack (1:20p, c3200’).  Could be the tent, rope, stove, extra fuel… or maybe the big bag of fresh fruit, or the semi-plastic boots strapped to the back.  My Gore-Tex scramble boots get wet in the snow and I wanted dry feet. 


                Busy times at Holden


Better known as “Garbo


The road heading west was flat dry and dusty.  The day had become true eastside summer.  With plenty of time I stopped for each historical plaque.  Bridge on left and mention of the “hollow mountain”, Old rock retaining walls, a deer eating with not much care for a human so near and history of the Winston community. 


That way for future reference…   (Option “C”)



                Who you lookin’ at?  Huh?  Never seen a gal eat?


All that’s left of Winston




Only thing left of the community are rock/concrete features and utility pipes.  A little over a half mile passing the camp ground after the rangers house.  Road changed to trail, wide smooth and fresh trail work.  Some people ahead, red hard hats and tools.  My God! Had I really just left Whoville as I’d read in Eric’s Base Camp (.com)?  Nope, coming closer it was a line of friendly WTA volunteers returning from doing fabulous work on the Holden Lake trail.  Asked what they’d been up to and one replied, “you’ll see”.  I assumed with this group that was a good thing.  Time to turn off the wide superhighway of a trail at 1.4m (c3415’), still a wide easy trail by the standards of what I’ve been on.  A pair of old wooden handle loppers in the trail, the tread started to rise then left the warm shade of the trees for the hot sun.  Sweat dripping with too much weight… hey, this feels just like summer!


A goodbye to WTA volies –they did good.  Thanks guys!




Meet Fred

An hour into my sweat fest (2.2m, c3995’) more voices.  Ahead three working on the trail.  From afar it appeared they were doing bonsai with the side trail brush.  Fred the older of the group struck up a conversation.  They were of the Holden trail crew and working on “woody” things today.  They were definitely on “Holden” time.  And I found it difficult to leave the conversation, but I had plans for the day.  Plans to see the top of Martin if it was in the cards.


Copper left and  Dumbell right (far left is Buckskin)








Not open yet


Many switchbacks in the hot sun and low lying scrub trees.  Approaching the larger trees deer walked ahead of me.  Each good shaded spot I took full advantage to stop, sit on the pack and cool off with a drink.  Most of the elevation had been gained so the walk was more level and in tall trees.  Opening to a large avy swath the first views of Bonanza… gulp… (3.4m, c4900’, 2h40m).  I’d met Paul in Holden, just finishing a traverse from Phelps Creek past Lyman Lakes.  He mentioned new snow.  Above on the rocks of Bonanza that new snow was quite apparent.  A little spice with your rock meal?  Nice the trail had been cleared and re-worked through the piles of logs from the slide. Back in the trees the snow began at 5000’ (3.6m).  Time to change to boots. 


Holden Lake


Another half hour of trail gone the trees opened to Holden lake (4.3m, c5250’, 2050ascent, 2h40m).  Surrounded by snow and still floating snow bergs.  A great view up to Holden Pass, but Bonanza hiding behind a looming ridge.  The snow was thin in places making for slow going, sun cups, hollow spots near logs and rocks and thin covering over a swampy area.  East side of a large boulder field I found a dry spot and finally a tree I perfect for hanging a stash.  I didn’t need all the apples, tent, extra food…  Also a good food break watching the marmots amongst the boulders.


Fresh snow… first good shot of east face above Mary Green Glacier


Martin from Holden Lake


Matt’s awesome ridge camp or bust

The boulder field was a series of rock hopping and trying to avoid soft gaps near hidden rocks.  Feeling relief from the boulders now was finding the way through creeks and wet areas, transition to dodging scrub alder, some openness and trying to stay away from the alder.  Seemed simple enough, except the route was actually thin snow over creeks.  The typical alder fun and about 100’ below the pass an open spot near a boulder to fill with water.


Route to Holden Pass


A look back down to Holden Lake from near the pass


 I made the pass on snow and took in the sights.  Looked easy enough to head west on the pass ridge to gain the snowfield below the Mary Green glacier.  Looking north snow petering out to a summer look lower.  South the snow surrounded Holden lake with a backdrop of Dumbell, Copper, Fernow…  And east a steep snow slope going up, I forgot.  It was to be 400’ up. I’d already been up 3160’ in 5.4 miles.  Did I want to go up more?  If nothing else I needed to see what Matt was talking about.  He does find and like some great places for the views.  Soft for kick stepping up and the ridge flattens.  Totally snow covered with small islands of large larch trees.  Under one, I found a dry spot a little flattish and enough for me to squeeze in a bivy (5.7m, c6792’, 3592 ascent, 5h17min, 6:37p).  Whew! 



Camp under tree just left of center


Only 7:00, what to do?  I relaxed in the sun, then restless took the summit pack and ventured east. Down the ridge crossing very fresh wolverine tracks. 



Fresh tracks


Up stopping to look for routes up the SW side of the mountain and then down to the saddle west of Martin Peak.  I worked up snow gulleys on the SW flank to a flat spot of the west ridge.  Then more traversing rock, heather and snow.  Gaining elevation and stopping to visualize the route.  I had in my mind the guide books saying to gain the gulleys on the south side to get to the summit.  I saw far east a series of large gulleys with snow.  Somehow I had them in my mind as the way up.  Nothing else seemed viable.  Time was ticking and the sun getting low.  An impasse to traverse without dropping, I decide up was the way.  On the contrary, going up to get to a summit is not always the best bet.  Onto some dicey cl4 rock, gained the ridge (c7800’). To crawl over a gendarme and down to loose rock, across snow  and now what?  Above a maze looking like an inverted cave of stalagmites. My focus ahead at those snow filled gulleys.  I ventured up, didn’t like it, then back down a hundred feet.  I totally missed the obvious tread that led up and a fallen  cairn.  Oops!  Another hundred feet or so of traversing and I was stopped by an immense south face of cl4 to mid cl5 loose rock wall.  The sun was getting ready to set and there was no way I wanted to be on that in the dark.  Maybe better to come back in the day and try from more east to get to those gulleys. 



Route up the ridge of Martin




Get ridge right of these (east)


Good scrambling


A need to break the spell and look near as well as far

How blind we are when fixated on a spot.  There I stood on the true ridge route going up and all I saw was a route far away.  Sometimes good to break the spell and just look down.  Snow was starting to glow orange and the day was done.


Time to turn around…


 I drank up and turned to return to camp.  The return went fast and by 9:30 I was brewing water for dinner and a warm drink.  A bare wisp of a breeze in the warm eve.  No rush to get in the bag, but morning would come soon enough.


Good night Copper


Good night sun




A good bivy.  Not kept up from cold or great location.  More the voices in the head.  Carla saying , I wish you wouldn’t do it solo.  Fresh wolverine tracks 100’ from camp and the stories of how fierce and ruthless they can be.  The image of the imposing east wall of Bonanza above Mary Green glacier.  Being here solo for what is a serious trip.  This was going to be way tougher than a steep rock scramble…  I finally drifted off again surrounded by dark skies, glowing snow and the Milkyway keeping me company.  A scene I’ve never come to take for granted.


Morning lit the skies slowly.  Stove burning, but barely.  Lately something has been wrong with it.  No big deal, I could survive on the monster pile of food I brought without hot water.  But this morning I was blessed with a double dose of oatmeal and hot cocoa


Good morning Bonanza



Hello Mary, nothing to do with Hello Kitty

I loaded everything into the big pack and plunge stepped the 400’ west to the pass.  Re-arrangement, then again.  I left the summit pack favoring the large pack for carrying rope, stove, pro, picket, clothes…  Still the pack felt pretty empty compared to those I’d see others wearing in the next few days as “day” packs. 


East Face route morning view


View from the day before



Left Holden Pass (6:20a, c6360’), west up the ridge to a short wall using a tree for assistance.  Weird gaps of rock and brush would be better with more melt.  Above on this bench a rising to the right to a traverse toward the narrowest gap of rock to the upper snow.  Stretching south from that point smooth granite with a snow rim above, looking to be breaking as the sun heated and snow fed downward.  A break to sit in the new morning sun on a dry boulder in the sea of snow to don crampons.  Much easier traversing and no worries of a slip.  At the granite wall, a move left down onto the rock (.5m, c6960, 30min).  Filled the water bottles (last chance), then crampons scratching rock, back on snow.








The upper face


I stayed far right with a buttress wall on the north and working around slight indentations of crevasses yet to thaw open up the flattening on the top of the glacier (1.1m, c8000’, 2h10m).  From here a long level traverse south.  Snow getting softer, the morning not scratching the surface to now sinking a couple inches.  The sights impressive.  I stopped for much shutter delay and to just admire the growing day.  Lake far below, only the sound of the many waterfalls, Martin to the east, Copper and her sisters SE, close up the undulating curvature of the glacier so sensuous and the upheaval of seracs and blocks reminding of the nature of the glacier under my feet. I was thinking in the present.  Taking my mind off the climb route soon to come.  45 minutes into the traverse I was at the base of the snow fan extending down from only “easy” route up the east face (1.4m, c8260’, 3h, 9:17a). 


The snow fan coming into sight (far right)


More sensual curves and shadows –uh, la, la


Looking up the “fan”


From the fan looking back the route up the Mary Green Glacier



Take the left gulley

Another stop. Load pockets, drink water.  So far easy enough… ready, okay… here goes.  Some zigging as the snow was getting even softer in the beating of the hot morning sun.  Hit the lower Bergschrund at c8650’ running to its north (right).  Probing thin bridge over it, working more north, thin, more north.  Running out of snow, now ten feet above a drop over a rock cliff.  On the far north end about 20’ of clearance with no runout. 





Careful ax belaying and was moving straight up hill kickstepping.  Below the shrund the pitch was 30 – 35 degrees.  Now above the pitch increased, 45, now 50.  I worked to rocks on the left above another moat/shrund.  Now crampons hitting rock under the thinning snow.  Ax in with the right arm, left digging in.  Below the rock finding a buried sling.  Might come in handy so I cleared it out, hoping the sun would clear it. 


Thin snow with open pockets under –take care


I’d been taking altimeter reading to guess how far a rap would get me.  First sling to the upper moat was about right for a 50m rope.  Cl3 and cl4 rock up this left rib was solid with another sling a little higher than I felt for my 50m rope.  I’d make do.  Top of this rib the snow to move left was too steep and thin for a safe move the 15-20’ to the next rib on the left.  I transitioned back to snow.  Hoping easier than the crampon on rock action.  Snow soft, sinking to the knees.  At times crampons hooking buried rock.  Pitch steep (50°+) using my spare arm as a second tool buried deep.  Transition to cl4 rock rib on the right and slowly scratching my way up.  Many stops to look for a better route and express, “holy s…”.  I understand Carla’s concerns.  Wiping that from my mind I re-focused.  It was still good.  I could safely rap from everything so far.  And I could see slings on the left rib and the right (one I was on) spaced perfectly for a 50m rope.


Closeup of the upper face and rap stations


Working up and left, crossing under the direct gulley (the goes nowhere according to PaulK gulley) holds ceased and the angle went drastically steep.  More left now above the snow field a spot big enough to sit and eat.  And a narrow ledge running south around this buttress (1.6m, c9185’, 5hrs, 11:20a).  Stunning views… and down a bit of vertigo.  Hmmm, I did a self belay across the ledge to a snow field that reached the ridge.  Not easy, the rope snagged on every gap and grabby protrusion, Aaarrgghhh.  The snow was too steep to cross left (south) to the left of this upper gulley.  Shallow with smooth granite melting out the snow in the hot sun.  I no longer felt safe on snow.  Right side of this gulley had some good cl3-4 rock all the way to the ridge (an old sling 15’ below the ridge). 


From just below the ridge


The last rock to crawl over on the ridge –summit  above and right




Now what?  Stay away from the snow on the ridge.  Sun was heating it up.  Traversing south, spots were too soft and thin near covered boulders.  A dip down and double arm tooling it over to a vertical black flakey rock feature.  Good grips and easy cl3 pull over.  Exposed looking to the right… down thousands of feet to the Company glacier.  Another great safe spot to take in the route.  Simple enough.  Ten feet below me a rap sling on the top of this rib with an easy gulley access on the south of it leading direct up snow to a giant slung horn, a boulder sticking from the snow above it and… and… 30’ or less vertical to the summit.



Last pitch to the summit



It’s not done yet.  Carefull over to the horn I used the sling to self belay myself up the soft snow.  Now waist deep and less than a crawl to get past the upper boulder.  Going into full four legged Honey Badger mode, digging my way up like in honey.  Away from the boulder better snow.  Pooking my head up and I was looking down.  Down the SW side of the mountain.  Everything around me was down.  Nothing up.  All down. 


How high do you need to go to feel the spiritual of a peak

I pulled over and on the right a short spire of dry rock.  I anchored, dug in the feet, struck the ax into the peak and gave a deep exhale as my mind was cheering in relief.  The way down way in the background. That would come soon enough.  I think the way up was a little more than it could have been without the snow. I was relieved, but still on guard.  Accidents happen when you forget the situation you are in (1.7m, 9511’, 3110ascent, 5h30min, 12:50p)


No place to sit and no cairn to give a hint where the reg could be.  I shoveled for 25 minutes digging a large flat, then down to rock.  I felt like I was in a fort on the top of a mountain.  His would be an awesome bivy.  Highest non-volcanic peak in Washington, top of the world, sun, almost no wind.  My pulse had leveled and I sat to eat and just take it all in.  No nap time with the heating of the day, but plenty of time to enjoy the experience.  Great as it was, I do enjoying sharing the spiritual of the summit with close friends.


Looking down at the Mary Green Glacier and Holden Lake


Holden and tailings


Final tracks to summit on ridge

click and drag interactive 360 Bonanza Summit panorama


NW Bonanza Peak (8599’ p280’) on left and Dark down the ridge right


Looking south over the Isella Glacier


The other Bonanza Summits (looking west)



A little venturing on the summit, as much as my rope tether allowed.  Of all the routes up this looked like the easiest.  To the west Done, Sinister, Gunsight looked like one blob.  Agnes inviting, Northerly Dark looked very un-assuming.  Interesting, years ago reading it seemed like Dark was more a challenge.  I think many other peaks more challenging, just Dark less done or heard about.  Clockwise a ridge to yet explore, Tupshin, Wy’north, Black tusk…  Then the memories of the great ski trip a few months ago with a sweet turns from the summit of Flora and back to Holden over Tenmile pass. Holden tailings orange in the valley trees.  The Entiats and skiing last week off Emerald with Carla in perfect spring corn. Copper calling, memories of Fernow, Maude, Carne High traverse, the most awesome 4th of July trip to Buck area a few years ago…  Clark and Luana fully white, Lyman lake a white plateau.  Was it just a short while ago I did a few circles in the dark night heading in to catch up with Carla and Paul?  And Glacier, an awesome wilderness high point and striking as where friends spent a magic camp on the summit getting engaged.  It was like home looking at all the distinct memories and at other un-explored peaks patiently waiting.







And a closer view near my feet


Oh and the summit at arms length shot



Rap, Rap, Rap… not the music type

2:00, relaxing on the summit.  Would be nice lingering, but I don’t want any surprises going down.  Hah! Famous last words.  Self belay down to the horn and rap to the gulley south of the sling area on the rib south of the main upper gulley (2:16p). 



Looking up from bottom of rap #1


Inspection and testing, slings and anchor okay, rap 22m to next sling (2:40p).  Rope jambs.  Up-climb and rodeo to release.  Rope clear and recovered. Another sling directly below, but a cliff below that.  Snow on rocks precluding traversing north from there.  Okay, retrace… a rap/protected traverse back to the ledge over rotted snow.  Very glad to have a rope, the sun baked this stuff. North side of upper gulley set a red sling to protect the ledge.  Rodeo trick doesn’t release the sling so it’s now part of the route.  Hope I have enough for the rest of the route.  Set another red sling to rap from the ledge to the climbers left rib (came up the right one) over rotted snow (3:16).  A rap on the far side looks the right height.  I check it out with my mini monocular –cut webs and bad.  Stay here.  Down climb easy cl3 to cl4, steepening rock and a traverse across a short ugly snow spot to the last rib.  Another rap (c9012’, 4:00p) and more down climbing due to the rope being too short to reach the last sling, a bit spicy here and there, but much easier sans crampons.  Cool, plenty of webbing and as I inspect I notice a bolted anchor (c8945’).  This is the last pitch off the rock and I hope enough to get me over the upper moat.  Thrown rope looks like it’ll be close. 



The last rap station


I get ready making sure all is set for the transition back to snow.  Uh, oh… Where’s my ax.  Of with the pack, look around… dang I left it up there.  What was I saying earlier about “famous last words”?  I unhooked from the rope, anchored the pack and started scrambling up.  Amazing how fast and easy compared to the morning before the snow melted and trying to negotiate with crampons.  Luckily, the ax was at the base of the previous rap, Wheh!  Just as spicy getting back to the last rap station, now double and triple check.  Contact, rap on and squish sink, squish waist deep in snow. 


The upper moat and thin snow area


Rope reaches the moat and a knot change and stretch gets me under it.  Rope stashed, another snack and some downclimb to get past the exposed northside bypass of the main bergschrund (c8656’, 4:45p, 2h45m from summit). 


I’m feeling a weight lifted as I traverse, an exhilaration with the first high speed glissade.  Popping up wet but and smiles to start the posthole traverse following my tracks out.  The day still hot though in the shade of the towering peak beside me.  Past the snowfall debris another break to refresh and much shutter delay.  I hardly glimpse behind, would I turn to stone?


The tread is soft and mushy.  I take no shortcuts.  In my mind I can hear Bill’s voice, “we don’t have time for a shortcut”.  I smile, this time it’s play safe, snow is soft, take the known route.  More glissades and a spring at each end.  A boulder had glissaded during the day.  A reminder of potential falling rock.  More zigging and collected fresh water at the waterfall (c7616’, 5:24p, 3h24m from summit).I had water from filling the bottle all day with snow.  Now though nice to down extra gulps knowing I’d not drunk enough during the busy day.


View of Martin from the high glacier traverse


Shadows growing



Rock chasing glissade



The long northside traverse was slippery sans crampons. Soon enough a vegie assisted drop to the pass ridge and back to my awaiting night gear (c6490’, 5:30p, 3h30min from summit).  It’d taken much longer than I expected up and down.  This was a serious endeavor and I felt good that I took it one step at a time and taking the time to stop and re-appraise often.  I was fully ready to turn around at anytime.  Would be so much easier with some snow melt.  I’m not the biggest fan of rock scrambling with crampons or sloppy snow.


Marmots, mosquitos and campers, oh my

Un eventful the trip down, water  at the watering boulder, glissades down the snow. It settled so I exited to better stuff below.  So far a quiet day.  Not a soul around.  Tired, but high spirit deep inside I careful skipped over the swamp and boulders in the direction of my stash (c5310, 6:28p, 4h28 from summit, 12h13min from the morning start). 


The new camp welcome crew


Rounding the corner I was surprised to see campers setup under my hanging bag.  Nice people, Andrea and three others.  Three of the four would give Bonanza a try in the morning.  Now to find a dry tentsite.  The mosquitos did not invite a bivy tonight.  The other group and I visited with chat about the route and there plans to do it in the morning.  I provided feedback that I could and that it was tougher than I expected.  My gear spread out to dry, hoody tight over as mosquito protection I took time relaxing on with the view of the east face.  Holy S…, I did that solo?  It would sink in…


Phase two, second time is NOT a charm

Well, that will be the start of part two, Martin Redux.


I expected Bonanza to be a bear.  Never really know till you are there doing it.  I figured it’d be slower, but had hoped better snow conditions.  In retrospect this would be a faster and easier scramble once the snow melts more exposing more rock.  But not to late with the bergschrund opening.  Pluses and minuses.  Not a fuzzy warm trip, though very rewarding.  I’m looking forward to some more “low angle” snow trips.  Wonder if there’s more good skiing to be had?

For tonight, one tired Honey Badger…


Next morning view of Bonanza



That’s all for now folks…


Happy Trails!




Approach:              5:17, 7.7m, 3592ascent

Martin attempt:     2:50, 2.0m, 1787ascent

Bonanza Ascent:    5:40, 1.7m, 3111ascent

Descent:                     3:32, 1.5

Move camp:            0:56, 0.6m, 150ascent

Totals:                      11:18, 3.9m, 3260 vert (includes 1:10 summit break)





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