Bonanza Peak-Mary Green Glacier Route 

Bonanza was an interesting climb: classic Cascade style climbing that kept me wondering what was next and made me forget just which day of the week it was. Aside from being the highest non-volcanic peak in the cascades, the 6th highest overall in Washington and plain old BIG, Bonanza was a bit of a mile stone for me.  This was the last of the 15 Washington peaks over 9000 feet for me to climb. A goal I had set 3 or 4 years ago was finally realized. If there is one thing I have to say about this climb more than the 14 other peaks over 9000 feet it is don't bring Visa or American Express, as most of the vendors you will encounter will accept cash and possibly check. Bring CASH.

I was accompanied on this venture by Sergio Verdina who proved to be a great partner through all legs of the journey. We met in North Bend at 5:30am on Saturday. It was earlier than we needed to meet as we discovered when we reached Fields Point Landing an hour before the Lady of the Lake II (the slow boat) arrived. After paying our $9 then another $23 each for parking and a round trip ticket on the Lady of the Lake II  to Lucerne Landing,  we were asked to remove ice axes, pickets and trekking poles from our packs. Somewhere around 10am we were on our way up Lake Chelan. After more than two hours and several breakfast sandwiches, we arrived at  Lucerne Landing where we boarded the bus to Holden. Although we had no real problem getting on the bus, it may be wise to let the village of Holden know when you are coming and going.

After the 10 plus mile ride to Holden (35 to 40 minutes), we were happy to find all of our gear scattered in the stack of luggage being unloaded from a flatbed truck. It was a about 1:00pm when we arrived in the village. I had caught something about an ice cream parlor opening at 2:00pm. We quickly located the above mentioned parlor and by 2:10 were enjoying five scoops for a buck! After properly cooled by ice cream, we headed into the heat for the hike to Holden Lake. 

We followed the road west for a little under a mile to Holden Campground (c.3300'), then continued on the Railroad Creek Trail (FST 1256), reaching a junction with the Holden Lake Trail  in 0.9 miles from the campground (c.3600'; FST 1251 ). After another 4 hot miles we reached Holden Lake, ESE of Bonanza Peak at an elevation of 5278'. At first look, Bonanza looked difficult if not impossible to climb from the lake. There are two ways to reach the Mary Green Glacier and ultimately the snow thumb on the east face from here, we had decided that the route from Holden Pass looked the most feasible under present conditions. After setting up camp we went on a short exploratory hike to locate the path to Holden Pass.

Bonanza from Holden Lake

We left camp around 6:00am the next morning expecting about a 6 hour climb to the summit. After about 45 minutes of hiking we reached Holden Pass (+6360'). From the pass we followed a climber's path west up the mostly open slope. After a short bout with some scrub trees the trail ended at a talus slope. We crossed the talus slope to a small spur then hiked to the top of it. From the top of the spur we traversed a ledge toward the small waterfalls and slabs below the Mary Green Glacier (class 3). Once past the first waterfall, we continued traversing about 100 feet until we found mostly dry, climbable slabs leading to the bottom of the glacier (c.7300').  

Holden Lake from the path to Holden Pass, Copper Peak is the Prominent One in the Background


Traversing the First Waterfall

We roped up and started up the glacier which was less broken than it had appeared from the lake. I led almost directly toward the snow thumb, finding a reasonable and direct route. Reports suggest that ascending the north margin of the glacier until above the main bergshrund of the Mary Green, then traversing to the thumb may be doable late into the season. After reaching the snow thumb, we located a narrow bridge across what is usually described as a shrund, even though there are crevasses above. We continued up to an easy moat crossing to gain the rock of the east face. Later in the season there may be steeper climbing on ice (40 degrees) to get past (or over) the shrund at the bottom of the snow thumb and the moat crossing may be more difficult.

Crossing the Mary Green Glacier

Once on the rock we started up a short spur to an obvious gully on the left (we climbed the rock unroped as it is not all that difficult and protection would be scarce). After a few hundred feet of mostly class 3 with a slabby dihedral (class 4) we traversed left to an abvious gully. After 200-300 feet of class 3/4 this gully reached the east ridge about 100 vertical feet below the summit. The final portion is on or left of the crest of the East Ridge (class 3/4). We reached the summit at 10:30am, 4 1/2 hours after leaving camp. The climb had been considerably easier than I had anticipated, but the views were far better.

Sergio Near the Summit of Bonanza Peak


Glacier Peak from the Summit of Bonanza Peak


The View to the NW from Bonanza

After more than an hour on the summit (65-70 degrees with a light breeze) we started down. We made one rappel from the East rRdge to reach the upper gully. Three more rappels reached to within 200 easier feet of the glacier (most of the route can be downclimbed without any major difficulties but the slabby dihedral warrants a rope on descent). Once back on the glacier, we retraced our steps back to the bottom of the glacier. A large boulder resting on a slab provided a somewhat sketchy anchor for the rappel down sketchier wet slabs (someone needs to bring a long sling to replace the one placed here in '95, a triple should do). 

Sergio Rappelling Slabs below the Glacier

After rappelling the slabs, we downclimbed a few more feet then traversed across the waterfall and ledge to easier terrain. We returned to the pass then the lake where the black flies and mosquitoes awaited. My mind was on 5 scoops of ice cream for a buck. We quickly packed up camp in a cloud of swarming insects and headed for Holden, a Lutheran retreat, in search of ice cream on SUNDAY. 

After the crushing blow of arriving in Holden to discover that it was Sunday and the ice cream parlor was closed on SUNDAY. With lowered spirits, we headed back to the Holden Campground for a night of bugs and mashed potatoes. The following morning we eventually boarded a bus headed for Lucerne Landing at 10:45am. The Lady Express (the fast boat) arrived at Lucerne Landing a little after noon. We hesitantly paid an additional $19 each to get back to Fields Point Landing 4 plus hours earlier than the slow boat.


Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 2, Second Edition; Fred Beckey; Pages 214-216 
Climbing Washington's Mountains; Jeff Smoot; Pages 97-101
USGS 7.5 Minute Quadrangle: Holden WA; 1988
Green Trails: Holden WA (113); 1997