North Cascades 1968 with the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh
3. Climbing Bonanza Peak

Mike looking down on Holden Lake from Mary Green Glacier September 1968We're on our way up now !  Mike is standing on the lower portion of Mary Green Glacier looking down at Holden Lake.

The topographic map of Bonanza Peak is here.

However, this map shows our entire route.  Be sure to update the map to 1:100,000 to see the whole route from Holden Lake via the Mary Green Glacier.

All of our route information came from the Holden Quad of the USGS 1:62500 series topographic map and the 1961 edition of the Climber's Guide to the Cascade and Olympic Mountains of Washington, by a Committee of the Cascade Section of the American Alpine Club, to wit:

Route 1. From 1-1/2 miles W. of Holden take the 2-mile brushy trail to 5200-ft. Holden Lake where camp can be made.  Climb N. up talus and snow toward Holden Pass (6400), bearing W. onto Mary Green Glacier.  Just before reaching the pass, ascend diagonally left under the cliffy summit structure and climb an icy apron to its upper right hand corner.  Ascend slabby rock up and to the left, reaching the ridge at a prominent notch 100 yards N.E. of the summit.  The ridge is easily followed to the summit.  The upper rocks are Class 3 when free from snow, but before August, with snow on the face, the climb becomes difficult and dangerous.  Time: 8-10 hours up. 

They're not kidding about Class 3 and dangerous when snowy or wet.  The smooth rock slopes too steeply to stand just anywhere.  One can only stand on the nubbins that stick up here and there, most about the size of your hand or knuckles.  Occassionally, there are bigger nubbins on which one can sort-of sit to effect a tenuous belay.  We did not climb back down across this face; instead, we descended, first along the northeast ridge, and then onto the northern margin of the Mary Green Glacier.  We eventually had to make a ca. 50-foot rappel into the moat between the side of the glacier and the rock, about which, more, later.  After that it was just downhill back to camp.

This climb has everything: Hiking; talus slopes; crevassed glacier; exposed rock climbing; route finding ... rapelling; ... snow-cliff climbing; more route finding; ... night hiking.
Copper peak and the Railroad Creek valley from Bonanza Peak September 1968
Our day started out remarkably clear- at least, it looked clear looking towards the East.  This is our view of Copper Peak (the pointy prominence at second from the right) and the Railroad Creek valley, where the old mining town of Holden is located.  Our vantage point is the shoulder of the Mary Green Glacier basin above that 500-foot waterfall.
Click here for full size.
Ice cliff on the Mary Green Glacier September 1968
I had been told to watch the color of the holes made in the snow by my ice axe.  If it goes in easily, Beware ! ... if the color is light blue, Beware ! (of a crevasse below).  Well, at just about every step, either the ice axe penetrated the snow easily, or the color of the hole was light blue ... All went fine until it both went in easily and the color of the hole was light blue.  About two steps later, one leg popped through the snow and I went in up to my hip.  I very carefully extracted my leg and rolled over.  I then could look down into a hole in the overhanging ledge of snow.  I was perched about fifteen feet out on that cantilever !
Mary Green Glacier on Bonanza Peak September 1968

Looking towards Copper Peak from the Mary Green Glacier.  The snowfield below the summit of Bonanza Peak was separated from the glacier by a classic bergschrund ... a deep crevasse.  It came complete with a classic snow bridge formed by a diagonal sliver of snow connecting the two.  We carefully belayed each other across without untoward incident.  I was way too busy to mess with the camera during this process.

Crevasse at the head of Mary Green Glacier on Bonanza Peak September 1968

This is the view down into that crevasse, taken safely from the uphill side and after getting over the stress of crossing the snow bridge.

Mary Green Glacier on Bonanza Peak September 1968

This shot was taken on the snowfield above Mary Green Glacier, looking northwest towards the northeast ridge of Bonanza Peak.  We later decended along the ragged ridge from left to right and far down beyon this image until we had to rappel off the rock at a solid, 50-foot cliff.

Looking back down from the snowfield below Bonanza Peak September 1968
Looking across the southeast ridge of Bonanza Peak towards Copper Mountain from the summit ridge about 1000 feet above the snowfield below the summit of Bonanza Peak.
Snowfield below the summit of Bonanza Peak September 1968

This is the same prominent peak as that seen from Railroad Creek at the start of the trip. The camera is looking in the same compass direction as in the preceding picture, but with the camera oriented differently. 

We had just made the crossing of the extremely steeply sloping smooth rock on the eastern face of the mountain.  There are essentially no cracks in this face.  We saw maybe one or at most two pitons during the entire rock climb.

Even though the weather appears to be getting cloudier during this climb, there was no rain, and we got plenty of vistas between the few clouds that passed the mountain.

It looks a lot farther down in this image than it looked up in the image from Railroad Creek !  The elevation difference between the two images is about 6000 feet.