Chelan County Highpoint Trip Report

Bonanza Peak - the highest non-volcano in the Cascade Range (9,511 ft)

Dates: July 14-15, 2004
Author: Bob Bolton

Last week Duane Gilliland, Joel Mickelwait and I joined forces for an assault on Bonanza Peak, beginning on Wednesday July 14 with a trip up Lake Chelan on the slow boat, the Lady of the Lake II, embarking at Fields Point Landing. Joel is our young rock jock friend who also helped Duane and me with Granite Peak, MT and the Grand Teton in 2002.

Upon arrival at Lucerne, the shuttle bus was waiting to take us up to Holden Village, where we joined the very friendly folks for a terrific lunch before heading up the trail to Holden Lake. We made camp with a nice view of the lake, and a fabulous view of Bonanza across the lake.

We started the approach hike at 5:15 am on the 15th, following Beckey's route description via Holden Pass. We had read on that on the weekend of July 4th the Mary Green Glacier was in perfect shape and we were hoping for similar conditions, which we found to be the case. Only one visible crevasse was crossed on a very broad and deep bridge that could hardly be identified as such. The snow thumb was also in great shape and after climbing high on the least-angle portion of the thumb, we traversed back to the rock rib underneath the 'shrund, easily transferring to the rock. The rock section of Bonanza is 800-900 feet of sustained 3rd and 4th class, rather steep, and covered with loose junk just waiting to be bumped for a high-speed ride down the mountain. We stayed out of each other's way and only once did one of us have to slightly dodge a rock that hadn't yet obtained much speed. The route-finding was only slightly confusing near the top but, when we saw the rappel stations above us, we knew we had to be in the right place.

Upon achieving the northeast ridge, it became VERY interesting, with massive exposure on both sides and spots where we couldn't understand why the handhold candidates were still in place. My excitement grew as we neared the top and knew no bounds when we finally stepped onto the summit. The whoops and hollers had no place to echo from at this lofty perch but we figured someone down there must have heard us. Joel reached into his pack and pulled out a surprise gift - an American flag - and Duane gave me a bill cap from his home town of Mt. Vernon, WA. It still seems unbelievable to be just the second person to complete all of the county highpoints in my much beloved home state.

The views atop Bonanza are the best I can ever remember seeing, surrounded as it is with a seemingly endless alpine wilderness with massifs, towers, spires and glaciers stretching out as far as the eye can see. The only downer was that a not-too-distant forest fire had distributed smoke in the area for several weeks, although on this day the wind had started to move the smoke away to some extent so it seemed more like a heavy haze than actual smoke. Even with the haze, we could still easily see Mt. Baker far to the northwest. We did feel somewhat cheated, however, because this once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunity could have been so much better.

The trip down the peak was accomplished with I believe 8 or 9 25-meter rappel pitches to reach the snow. There was another rap on a cliff band below the glacier. Other than that, the hike back to camp was uneventful. When we returned to Holden Lake we knew that Edward Earl and Bob Packard should be camped somewhere in the vicinity, so I started hollering Bob's name as we moved along the trail. Presently we saw Edward coming toward us and we greeted him first. Duane and I had enjoyed the privilege of climbing Olympus with Edward in 2003.

Then Bob came from their camp and we began a spirited discussion of our climb. They wanted details but I said that we were famished so they'd have to come to our camp, which they did. We gabbed until dark, after which I felt quite sure that, weather permitting, their plan would succeed. They would be moving camp up higher on the mountain on Friday, attempt the summit on Saturday, then hike back to Holden on Sunday. As we all know by now, they too were successful as we had hoped, and Bob became the third Washington finisher.

All features were in perfect shape for us on this climb. According to John Roper, the best time to attempt it most years is the first half of July in mid-week. The snow bridges over the crevasses should still be intact, the snow should be gone from the rock portion, and no other parties should be on the rock at the same time (extreme rock fall hazard). This is exactly how we found the mountain, which contributed mightily to our ability to get up and down from Holden Lake in 14 rather leisurely hours. I've read and heard horror stories of folks spending much longer than that on this mountain when conditions were not so ideal. Upon our return to Holden, we discovered that we were only the sixth party they knew of to attempt the peak this season, so with a mid-week attempt we had little chance of encountering others.