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[TR] Bonanza Peak's Southwest Summit, West Face - Cascadian Route V 5.10+ 08/26/2023


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Trip: Bonanza Peak's Southwest Summit, West Face - Cascadian Route V 5.10+

Trip Date: 08/26/2023

Here's a couple obligatory John Scurlock photos of the western aspect of Bonanza's Southwest Summit:



Trip Report:


Sam Boyce and I took a 3-day weekend to climb a new route* on the West Face of Bonanza’s SW Summit. The Cascadian Route (V 5.10+) ascends Bonanza’s intimidating western wall. Our line gains >2,000 vertical feet over 16 pitches and 2,800’ of climbing. For context, our route is off to looker’s right of its neighbors to the north, the Soviet Route (1976) and the Oregonian Route (2013), both of which ascend the Northwest Buttress (previously also referred to as the "West Buttress", and in 1976 "the North Face") of the SW summit.

In a marked up version of Sam's photo below: The approx. Cascadian route in green (each dot approx 3 pitches); the Soviet and Oregonian routes off to the left meet near the 8,700’ subsummit pinnacle on the skyline (red point), before ascending mellower terrain on the peak’s more-northern aspect (out of view; parties apparently traversed left under red roofs of the summit block):


On the Scurlock photo, same color scheme (Soviet red, Cascadian green), but with the Oregonian start indicated by an orange dot:


From the 9,320’ summit, we descended the Isella Glacier, which (as can be seen on satellite imagery) is split at approx. mid-height by a magically continuous undulating walkway. We were able to walk and downclimb (one low-fifth crux) to roughly 6,900’ without rappelling or touching snow, then used a notch/gully to drop through the peak’s south ridge before circling back up to our 7,000’ camp near the North Star – Bonanza col. Near the col above the bivy, there remains a small snow patch that provides water, even near the end of this hot dry 2023 summer.


Several years ago en route to climb Dark Peak with my friend Jon, we crossed (interminable and uniquely annoying scree) under Bonanza’s SW summit and gaped up at the expanse of rock on its western flank. I made a mental note to explore new routes if given the right conditions. Thanks to Sam’s can-do attitude and vision, and the forecasted wildfire smoke that ruled out other candidates, this was the moment.

On Friday 25 Aug we made the time-consuming approach (car, Chelan-Lucerne ferry, Holden bus transport, many miles of walking); Saturday we finished the approach, climbed and descended to camp (15 hours, dawn to dusk); and early Sunday boogied out to catch the 10am Holden to Lucerne bus, then ferry, etc., etc.

Would you believe the route looked this good all the way up?




(Above: Sam follows the pleasurable 5.10a pitch 8, sends a sweet 5.10 corner on pitch 9, and earns his kale on the 5.10+ pitch 13 overhang)

That would be a mistake:



(Above: Eric confronts the heinous choss band of 5.8+ pitch 4, and the tricky steep delights of 5.10R pitch 12)

While there were enjoyable stretches, there were also satiating portions of choss. Roof systems, particularly a large one that spans the west face feature near the top, provided few weaknesses and narrowed free-climbing line options to 1 or maybe 2 in places. We were both concerned about passage near the top, as bailing would be fraught and difficult. The technical highlights were five pitches of 5.10; three of these (pitches 8, 9 & 13) sported steep and fun climbing, but another two (pitches 11 & 12) were horsepuckey.

For much of the climbing on these two steep 5.10R puckery pitches, literally not a single hold was loose; nah, haha, two or more were. While the featured rock inspired a kind of upward hope, protection was occasional, creative, and even whimsical—bring your bag of tricks. These pitches offered quality terror-tainment (@rat ©). This was a no meat-rain zone.

The rest of the route predominantly ranged from mid-fifth to 5.8 on similarly varying rock quality—any given hold might be probably portable, or revealed as a solid protrusion of the mountain, eternally nonmoving and crank-able. Climbing of this sort can be extremely engaging and stimulating, and while Sam and I enjoyed moving up the route, it might not be to others’ tastes. For interested folks, he took concise notes on the pitches, and will hopefully chime in here with that info.

* I encountered a 2.5” Trango Flex-Cam in a crack with a ‘biner attached on pitch 4, after the first heinous choss band but before the most technical climbing. This late-‘90s/early-aughts era cam was in a textbook placement and easily removed. The sling is weathered, perhaps had been sitting there for 10-20 years (hard tellin'). Anyway, given no evidence of passage in the pitches above, we surmise that perhaps this was used for bailing. A search for attempts or climbs of this feature has not borne fruit. However, if anyone knows better, please advise.

Here are a few more photos. They don’t really do the route’s position and exposure justice, but they do serve to highlight the area’s rock/choss quality variability.


(Above: choose your own adventure, then call your mom)


(Above: In a move that typifies much of the climbing, Sam stems out in search of better rock)


(Above: Eric following the overhanging section of 5.10+ on pitch 13)

Here's an album with more pics, including descent: https://photos.app.goo.gl/8qAiXj6o4BfRSGJm9

Gear Notes:
Lots of small gear was helpful, a bag of tricks (ball nuts, tricams) useful, and we also used some pins at belays. No need really for anything larger than a #3. 70m rope.

Approach Notes:
There are many ways to get there, but we took arguably the easiest starting via the ferry to Lucerne. Good bivy sites just south of the North Star – Bonanza col, around 7,000'

Edited by lunger
Added pics and link, and Scurlock pics
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Here are the pitch notes I took while on route, for anyone ever interested in repeating. I always try to take pitch notes, both from a sense of eternal optimism and my absolutely horrible memory... There were bouts of really awesome climbing, and a couple engaging pitches with minimal protection, hard climbing and consistently portable holds. 

P1 5.4 220’ Scramble up white slabs to a good stance below the large, steeper band of darker rock. You are aiming for an obvious, large open book for the next pitch. 

P2 5.8 190’ Head up into the open book, climbing to its top. Traverse left back into low fifth terrain to a talus covered bowl.

P3 5.6 260’ Climb the rib to the right of the bowl past a bunch of scrambling to another large talus ledge. 

P4 5.9R 140’ Climb through a heinous choss band into a gully with better rock. 

P5 Low fifth 230’ Scramble up the gully to a solid belay. 

P6 low 5th 150’ gully

P7 5.7 100’ Start up the face. Trend Left to a Left facing corner. Follow this to a good ledge on the prow.

P8 5.10a 110’ climb the face past a roof and up a ramp to a second roof. Belay on good ledge.

P9 5.10 200’ Climb the thin Right facing corner to a ledge. Then a short steep section takes you to a ramp. Follow this to a Right facing corner. Climb up this to some scrambling that leads to a large ledge.

P10 5.7 180’ Climb the low angle, loose face to a shit belay. 

P11 5.10R 150’ Quest up the face to a decent ledge with a tricky anchor

P12 5.10R 180’ Another vision quest pitch to the notch on the shoulder of the ridge. 

P13 5.10+ 60’ Climb the overhanging splitter to a chossy ramp.

P14 5.9 170’ Start up a nice varnished corner that eases to chossy mid fifth

P15 5.8 110’ Traverse to the ramp on the right. Follow it to the S ridge

P16 4th 250’ A short scramble takes you to the SW summit. 

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Thanks, all!

For location convenience, below is some background info. on the two grade V's to the north of our route. Above, I referred to these both as climbing the NW Buttress, as they climb a vaguely wishbone-like buttress that trends WNW. However, the original Soviet party called their route the North Face, and third ascent party, the West Buttress. The Oregonians characterized their line as on the NW Buttress, which I think is a reasonable reference for the entire buttress.

Excerpt from the Oregonian's trip report:


SW Bonanza Peak (right) and West Bonanza Peak (left) seen from the west. (Photo: Steph Abegg)

1. NW Buttress, “The Oregonian Route.” 5.9+ V. Keena and Bonnett 2013.

2. W Buttress, "The Soviet Route." 5.9+/5.10 V. Bershov et. al. 1975. (Overlay as documented by 3rd ascent party)

Our route, the Cascadian, ascends the West Face off to looker's right of these two routes, topping out just right of the summit. Our first pitch begins at the small caret-shaped (^) snowfield in the pic.

Here's Steph Abegg's well-researched and documented account of a third ascent of the Soviet Route, including some interesting route history: https://sites.google.com/stephabegg.com/washington/tripreports/bonanza

She rightly characterizes the wall as "rival in size and difficulty to many of the biggest faces in the Cascades". This route felt reminiscent of the routes @rat and I climbed on the Hozomeens, but with a better kind of rock-quality variability, and much easier access. It has my qualified recommendation, fwiw.

Here's the view of Bonanza's west wall a couple years ago en route to (or from?) Dark Peak. The Cascadian ascends slightly left of center (begins just right of the tiny snowpatch), the other routes begin out of view at far left margin. The portion of the wall to the right, above the long snowfield, is unclimbed and looks positively atrocioulicious.



Edited by lunger
fixed photo
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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...
On 8/29/2023 at 5:09 PM, lunger said:

This was a no meat-rain zone.

Hahaha! Is 'meat-rain' a term of your concocting? Its prudent. 

Bravo gents; getting out there and doing it on a serious and remote wall while maintaining the mind to stay smooth and safe is exceptional. Climbing such rock and navigating all else in the time you did speaks to y'all's high skill and strength. 

Great writing too, @lunger

On 8/29/2023 at 5:09 PM, lunger said:

choose your own adventure, then call your mom

Definitely rock quality that inspires contacting one's family and loved ones.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks @SethKL!  I recall being inspired by your Oregonian report, and kudos for the human-powered multi-sport approach, the long way.

Yeah, coined "meat rain" not too long ago, while bouldering at the gym, of all places--some intrepid punter traversed below me into meat's air space, and needed a warning re: probability of meat showers. Not sure why the phrase erupted on that spot.

Checking back on your trip report, I noticed you said something about an accident on the Soviet Route--do you have a link handy, say to an AAJ article? (Forgive my inferior search skills.)  As you mentioned, worth emphasizing to future parties: be aware that there is some nice rock to keep you going, but def choss management too. Beautiful spot for adventure though.

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@lunger, ha! At some point I started referring to overheating as 'the meat is too hot!' I guess meat makes sense, to some minds at least ;)

I don't have a report of it. We found out because we called the Forest Service office attempting to get info on the road closures. The guy in the phone mentioned it and advised we be careful.  In hindsight, I had no verification, but given Steph Abegg's Soviet rte report was so recent, I can see how Bonanza was 'in vogue'. I remember breaking foot hold and halting meat rain, slicing my fingertip badly on the first day. Nonetheless, all mountains have choss somewhere, but it's cool to see/hear where y'all found somewhat firm rock.  Perhaps one day there will be a proper hard route up some of the steepest parts of that peak. That would be mega given the area's beauty and remoteness!  

A decade ago?! FMR. I don't know if I would do 'our' approach if it were today....and we waited-out rain for over 3days at the col and climbed without hammer or pins, like a couple psychos. I had been properly climbing for about 4years at that point; long enough to be dangerous but now I sometimes wonder 'what the heck was I thinking?'. 

Hope to run into you out there! 

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