Bonanza Peak

Bonanza Peak Trip Report (#579)

Our mini-expedition to Bonanza Peak set out from Field's Point Landing Friday morning on the venerable Lady of the Lake to Lucerne. Two hours later, we are standing on the dock watching them unload our carefully-prepared packs into a rickety old truck along with luggage and Holden Village supplies, while we waited for our own ride in the back of an even ricketier old van! The neatest thing about this "overseas" expedition is that they all spoke such perfect English...

We enjoyed a tasty lunch at the village (great vegetarian fare!!) while we waited for them to unload our packs. Problem was - we ate way too much, so that by the time we shouldered our 50 pounders and started hiking up the Holden Lake trail in the 80-degree heat and 90% humidity, I didn't know whether to pass out or puke!

We set up camp at Holden Pass, just above the lake. The trail was great - except for the biting black flies between 3,000 and 4,000 feet, and the mosquitoes from the lake upward! The trail from the lake to the pass was well defined, but somewhat grown in around the lake (slide alder, water, brush). Clear of snow up to Holden Pass.

The lightning storm started around midnight that night. More out of fear than anything else, I kept my tent-mates updated constantly on the distance of each lightning strike ("one thousand one, one thousand two, BOOM!!! It's here!"). It finally passed over us without incident, and we eventually fell back to sleep until the alarm woke us at 4:30 to another rain storm. Disappointed, we rolled back over and prepared for a long day in camp. We were pleasantly surprised to find the sky blue with a few puffy clouds by 6:00 am, and decided to go for the summit after all, or at least see how far we could get.

We shared the route with a group of Mountaineers from Tacoma led by the indomitable Lisa the Air Traffic Controller. She and her group started out just before we did, and did a wonderful job of route-finding through the waterfalls and onto the snow field below the Mary Green Glacier. The slabby wet rock gave surprisingly good purchase to a well-placed foot. The glacier was also in good shape, and several very large crevasses were open, but it was easy travel on firm snow (crampons advised during the ascent, good plunge stepping on the descent).

The "snow thumb" that Beckey refers to was obvious, and lead to the obvious rock ridge. We all easily stepped across the moat to the rocks, and left our snow gear behind. From there, we scrambled up to the left side of the gully (probably should have gone to the right side). The gully is extremely dangerous - rockfall from parties above funnels down this and other gullies. The climbing on this side is Class 3 and 4, with one short section of low Class 5 (roping up is nice, but there aren't may good places to place protection!). The cross-over to the gully that leads to the notch below the summit is also fairly straight-forward. Again, these gullies are extremely dangerous. There is a ton of loose rock on the route from glacier retreat, and some of the rocks are quite large!

Before we knew it, the Tacoma group was on the summit! Our altimeters were all way off - telling us we still had about 500 feet to go, when in fact we only had about 100. The clouds below were rising and swirling about, leaving us in a white-out at times, and then finally dissipating and allowing the sun to peak through. The summit ridge consisted of a two-foot walkway of rubble wedged between sharp, black "teeth". It was very exposed, and very loose! But five hours after we left Base Camp, we stood on the summit of Bonanza! Kevin's dream came true - he dreamed the clouds would part and we would get a glorious view from the summit. We enjoyed the camaraderie of a summit earned with the Tacoma group, took some pictures, and began the second half of the climb - the descent. We were able to rappel quite a bit of the route, using good rappel stations on rock horns. Definitely take two 165-foot ropes per team.

During the descent, one of our group just looked at a microwave-sized boulder, and it started sliding in the direction of the Tacoma group. All we could do is helplessly watch the events unfold, and yell "ROCK!!"at the top of our lungs to try to warn them to get out of the way. The chorus of "ROCK" did not seem massive enough for the impending strafing, so I yelled "BIG ONES!!". They dove immediately for cover as the big rock, shattered on impact into several smaller fragments that released other rocks from their frictional hold on the side of the mountain, came thundering down the gully past the huddled climbers. It took us at least a half hour to calm down after that! Thankfully, nobody got hurt.

The impending thunderstorm that we were monitoring the whole way down the mountain broke loose about 4:00 pm, while we were heading down the Mary Green Glacier toward the waterfalls. But it passed without incident other than leaving us fairly soaked.

To the Tacoma Mountaineers Lisa, Jo, Marvin, Terry, and Bob, - hats off to a great climb! I don't think we'll ever forget the "BIG ONES" any time soon! Thanks for letting us share your ropes on the ascent and descent. And to my teammates Kevin, Jon, Jim, and Todd - thanks for an incredible adventure!

Bonanza Peak Trip Report Index