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[TR] Dark-Bonanza-Martin - NW Ridge-MG Glacier-West Ridge/Face 7/1/2017

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We headed out on Friday night to avoid the ridiculously early get up needed to catch the Saturday LOTL Express from Field's Point. After looking for a bit we stopped and slept in the gravelly parking lot of the Entiat Museum, which may be the best roadside bivy I've had. The next morning we grabbed a gas station breakfast and hopped on the boat up Lake Chelan. When we got to Stehekin we grabbed some boxed wine and huckleberry licorice and caught the next bus up to High Bridge, stopping at the Stehekin bakery to grab cinnamon rolls. Shortly after noon:45 we were finally on our way down the PCT toward Swamp Creek. The PCT was a pleasant appetizer to the horror that would soon unfold. At 4pm we stopped at Swamp Creek camp and took a break. We still had a lot of day light so we talked about heading up the drainage as far as we could before calling it a day. On the ferry we ran into Josh H (who was going after Devore) and got a bit of beta on the approach. He recommended going up to the basin at about 4400' and bivying in the grass there. So with 5 hours of daylight we headed up Swamp Creek. We were able to follow the abandoned trail for about 30-40 minutes before the alder closed in and strangled all hope of a moderate approach. What followed was the most intense BW5 jungle warfare of our Cascade climbing lives. The brush was so thick at times that not ever light could get through it. We persisted; making two sketchy creek crossings, one of which required Dustin to pioneer a bold, acrobatic, alder scramble. We finally emerged from the jungle a little before 9pm, and made a mediocre camp in the basin under the headwall. Even though we had not started the climb yet we all pretty much agreed that we were now committed, because we were not going to go back down Swamp Creek.

 

We got a lazy start the next morning and headed up the left side of the headwall as is well documented in online beta. There was a pretty well established climbers trail up and around the waterfall, and we were in the 5000' basin before too long.

 

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We took a break and filled as much water as we could before we left the lower elevations for the next day and a half. The Dark Glacier was really chill, with only a couple of 40-45 degree sections. About half way up we took a break on some rocks before the final push to the summit. Dustin had been carrying a sticky bun from the bakery and accidentally left it here.

 

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Some more step-kicking followed and we topped out on the glacier, getting our first look at Bonanza - it looked far away. We un-roped and did the final scramble up to the summit of Dark Peak and took in the views. Although the position was great, just how Dark Peak is considered its own principal summit is beyond me. Not only is it just one of many marginally prominent bumps on the long northern ridge of Bonanza, but it's not the tallest either.

 

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Jim at the summit of Dark Peak.

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After coming back down from the summit we went over to take a look at the beginning of the traverse. We still had a few hours of daylight and considered trying to get to the saddle between Pt. 8599 and the West summit of Bonanza before bivying, but in the end decided to wait for tomorrow. This was a good decision. We spent the rest of the evening building bivy spots with wind walls to protect us from the building icy wind from the west. As the evening wore on the clouds began to build until we were completely enveloped. The hopes of the traverse were a little precarious, but it was too soon to call.

 

We awoke to clear skies on July 3rd, but the icy wind that had persisted through the night was still beating us down. Dustin's bag actually had ice on it. This caused us to be a little sluggish on getting going, starting the traverse with the heavy puffies on. We headed out soloing the ridge.

 

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The terrain was a mix of 3rd and 4th class with ample exposure. We moved from the ridge proper to either side of the ridge; up, down, and around towers. We felt like we were making good time, but could see that some of the biggest gaps in the ridge were still ahead. Somewhere near the middle of the traverse to the saddle below the west peak we encountered the first section that caused us to rope up. We simuled for a couple pitches in a stunning position with Jim leading the way. The ridge eased as we neared Pt. 8599 and we put the rope away. Up to this point we thought that once we got to Pt. 8599 we would be onto easy class 2/3 boulders, but we were pleasantly surprised to see some involved ridge scrambling ahead. At one point we came to an airy section that we roped up for again. Two more simul pitches and we were finally on the easy northern slopes of the west peak. We took a lunch break and looked at the final ridge above. It didn't look terrible. The final jaunt up to the west summit was easy moving and went quick. When we topped out we found a summit cairn with an old tin can register. According to this register we were only the sixth summit party on the west peak, and the first since 2011. This was pretty surprising, and rewarding, considering how often Bonanza gets climbed.

 

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Our attention was quickly re-directed to the final ridge ahead of us since it was getting late in the day. This final portion was only about 1/3 the distance of the ridge we had just done, but was a bit more involved. The first simul pitch was relatively straight forward, consisting of undulating moves over a small tower. The second simul pitch started with a class 4+ vertical section that eased off to a knife edge before descending steeply back to the final notch. We stayed on the north side of the ridge, wedging our bodies in the tiny moat which vacillated between icy and calf-high post holes. Without this moat the route would have required a bit more cavalier approach.

 

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From here the route traversed along a bare wall with a small ledge running across it to twin cracks. Dustin took the lead and disappeared around the corner. The rope moved relatively well at first, but then slowed. We heard lots of blocks trundle down the 2000' face to the Company Glacier, but thought nothing of it. Trundling is just part of a ridge traverse. As the rope went taught I moved out onto the face to follow. Dustin was now at the base of the vertical bit, and I could see just how sparse the traverse really was. After a couple minutes of studying the route Dustin floated up some of the most memorable 5.pucker climbing any of us had ever had. He built a belay and brought us up.

 

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One final simul pitch, which included another somewhat memorable move, and we were at the summit, victorious. It had taken us 12 hours to reach the summit from Dark Peak. We enjoyed the summit for a brief moment before starting our descent. We took our time, since none of us had climbed the Mary Green route before. Two rappels down low brought us to the bergschrund where we roped up and stepped onto the glacier just before dark. We followed the glacier down by headlamp until coming to a small ledge with trees above the waterfall slabs. Not wanting to downclimb the slabs in the dark we decided to bivy there for the night. We cooked up some food and tried to get comfortable.

 

After a short sleep we were up and moving. We scouted our descent and made a single free-rappel down a waterfall to some slabs next to the snow. From here it was easy walking down to Holden pass. We dropped our gear and had breakfast. Looking up towards Martin peak it seemed unlikely that the route was only class 3 with some 4th class up high. At around 10:30am we started moving towards the west ridge of Martin. Dropping onto the south side we started ascending loose gullies; the kind that any true connoisseur of choss just can't get enough of. Down low the route-finding was pretty easy and we made good progress. As we got higher the route turned in to a maze of marginal gullies that pushed the pucker-factor. The final 15 feet were probably the most solid of the climb, and definitely 4th class. We topped out around 3pm, completing the Dark-Bonanza-Martin traverse. The views from Martin were stunning.

 

Our route followed the skyline from right to left.

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Bonanza is quite the beast, and being able to see our whole route from Dark was exhausting. After we had had our fill of the view we reversed our route and returned to our gear at Holden pass. From here we moved camp down to Holden Lake where we fought off mosquitos and deer throughout the night.

 

On July 5th we packed up and headed out to Holden Village where we grabbed some breakfast and caught the bus down to Lucerne. The ride out was uneventful.

 

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This has been on my list for a long time! Solid work, well done!

 

Any reason you choose to go N-S? I thought the other direction would be better, though I'm not sure why.

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This has been on my list for a long time! Solid work, well done!

 

Any reason you choose to go N-S? I thought the other direction would be better, though I'm not sure why.

 

We decided to do the traverse N-S mostly because we were inspired by Blake's TR from 2006. After doing it I would recommend going this way because the final traverse might be hard to get onto if one had to rappel to it. Also, climbing those pitches really make the route IMO.

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Excellent work. Loved your quote in the Bonanza register: "Bonanza from Dark Peak... Never again". We got a good laugh out of that one.

Edited by Sidviscous

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So that was your tracks we saw on the Dark Glacier! We did the entire traverse the other way just a couple weeks ago and went down Swamp creek...which was epic enough going down. Can't imagine how much worse it would be going up...kudos to you!

 

For the record, doing the traverse the other way there is just one 15m rappel off the true summit of Bonanza to access some ledges you can use to traverse laterally. Beyond that rappel the rest of the entire traverse is soloable.

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