American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Bonanza Peak, Three-Summit Traverse

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Bonanza Peak, three-summit traverse. On August 21 and 22 Kurt Buch- wald, Peter Avolio, and I completed the first ridge traverse (V 5.7/5.8) of all three summits of Bonanza Peak. The route involves an approach via the Mary Green Glacier, climbing the Northeast Buttress to the main summit, a link-up to the west summit and from there a link-up to the southwest summit. Getting off the mountain meant descending from there to the Isella Glacier, traversing the glacier to the base of the Holden Ridge, crossing the ridge, and descending the Mary Green Glacier to Holden Lake. The approach was made to climber’s right of the Mary Green Glacier, which provided easy access to the base of the Northeast Buttress at 8,350' (three hours from Holden Lake). The ridge got steep and narrow right away. The rock was mostly solid but lichen-covered. At several spots we climbed on or around the crest, in the 5.7 range, with wild exposure. It took a little less than four hours on the ridge to the main summit, and the Northeast Buttress alone is worth the trip. From the main summit we descended northwest on a steep and scary talus-covered ridge for 100', turned north, and downclimbed to a notch via exposed 4th and easy 5th class. Continuing, we stayed on or slightly north of the ridge until we got to the base of a smaller summit 150' horizontally from the main summit. This wild section was one of the many highlights of the traverse. On the second half of the main-to- west-summit traverse the exposure was the same, but the climbing turned into a class 4 “walk on the wild side.” From the west summit we continued toward the southwest summit on mediocre but easy rock to where the ridge narrowed, and the rock quality tested our nerves. Avoiding the ridge on the north side at times, we eventually got to a greenish tower that had a fresh-looking breakout zone on its north side. We crossed to the south side, where the terrain mellowed, and bivied next to a snow patch just below the crest and above the Isella Glacier. From the bivy site we descended the next morning, in blustery conditions, toward a notch at around 9,000'. This notch forms the top of a 1,000-foot couloir, which is used for the Isella Glacier route. From the notch we continued on easy ridges and ledges, until the steepening south face forced us onto the ridge. We followed the ridge until an obvious talus-filled gully on the north side let us make quick progress. The terrain stayed easy and guided us around to the south side. Toward the end we traversed under a steep wall, until easy terrain let us proceed to the summit. From the southwest summit we descended easy, but somewhat dangerous, ledges down to the upper snowfields of the Isella Glacier. From here we traversed high on the Isella Glacier toward the Southeast (a.k.a. Holden) Ridge and a chimney that leads up to the saddle on that ridge. The chimney went at about 5.7 (near its start) on solid rock with loose surface stones. We belayed a full pitch that got us to easy fourth class terrain, which led to the col. A long rappel then brought us to the safety of the Mary Green Glacier, from which we reached our ascent route. The route is a full Cascadian adventure in a spectacular setting. You get to climb on an exposed ridge at over 9,000' for many hours, which is rare in the Cascades. Total time from Lake Holden to Lake Holden was about 19 hours.

Martin Volken

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