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[TR] South Face of Bonanza, Dome Peak, 12 days Solo - 50 Shades of Cray... 8/16/2014

Eric T

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Trip: South Face of Bonanza, Dome Peak, 12 days Solo - 50 Shades of Cray...


Date: 8/16/2014


Trip Report:

Alpine soloing is an expedition into oneself.


If you’d like to know yourself better, your strengths and weaknesses, your talents and fears, your ambition and breaking point, alpine soloing is a lens to bring those things into sharp focus.


It’s been said in this world that “Success has many Fathers but failure was a bastard.”

When one solos success has one Father, failure has one Father.


I failed last year on Bonanza Peak.




Below: South Face of Bonanza Peak



That failure, that unfinished business didn’t leave my mind all year. I wanted badly to come back and avenge my loss. 50 weeks later I was again camped at Hart Lake just west of The Hyper Holy Hamlet of Holden Washington; they’re card carrying members of the ELCA, that’s the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Remember, if you come to Holden to climb you can give your heart to Jesus but your ass belongs to the Cascades. Maybe the NPS could take a lesson on hospitality from Holden, here’s a short vid showing how Holden feels about climbers…




My preparations had been much more thorough this year and it paid off; it made the whole affair a lot less anxious for me. Thou I started this 15 day solo with a slight stomach ailment that I assumed would go away on its own.


Below: South Face of Bonanza Peak



At first light I set out for the South Face of Bonanza Peak by way of the Isella Glacier. You simply stroll west on Trail 1256 from Hart lake camp for 300 yards to an open area where you can see up the south face of Bonanza, it’s here that you leave the trail and head up and left on a series of ramps before cutting back right into the upper basin on Bonanzas south side. There you will find the Isella Glacier which you cross to access a 100 foot snow ramp that leads to the rock climb. The climbing is mostly 4th class with interspaced 5th class moves and it would go in 5 or 6 pitches. The rock quality deteriorates the higher you climb until near the summit you can break off about any hold you grab. This route is described in the Becky Guide as the South Face route and he called it unverified. Let me verify that the 1971 South Face route on Bonanza goes, nice send to Patricia and Charles Raymond.


Here is Becky’s description of Bonanza from his Cascade Alpine Guide.

“The complexity of the mountain, loose rock, and attendant route finding problems renders the ascent of Bonanza very questionable in anything but settled weather. Its sheer size and height above the protection of the timber zone, its treacherous couloirs and snow conditions, make it an accent of character. Rain will start dangerous stonefall. Warm temperatures in early summer that cause extensive snowmelt will also cause stonefall; rocks may also fall in late summer when the firn cementing scree in the couloirs disappears. In many respects, Bonanza has something of the quality of the largest Peaks in the Alps and Canadian Rockies. A very early start is wise.”


Below: South Face of Bonanza Peak





Near the top you can go right or left into respective gullies, I think the right one is the better choice. When I went into the left gully the rock quality worsened quickly, I was climbing with the rope on my back and estimated that I had 120 feet of mid fifth class above me to gain the summit ridge. At one point lots of holds were braking off, both hand and footholds, and there was no place for protection, I was worried about moving up or down. I had two options now, right or left. Left looked hard but I could only see right for 10 feet then it went around a corner. I had now eclipsed common sense and waded into fully cray. I chose right and moved to the blind spot, around the corner there was a ledge. Now I’ve been climbing for a long time, and have always heard the term “Thank God Ledge” without having a real understanding. Please allow me to posit a more concise definition; a “Thank God Ledge” is any ledge that a climber arrives on and the words spilling from your lips are “THANK YOU GOD, THANK YOU GOD!!!!” The remarkable thing about that is I’m an explicit Atheist. he he The summit was only 30 or 40 more feet on an easy ridge crest.




Below: South Face of Bonanza Peak



Snow Ramp at the top of the Isella Glacier







It’s deceptive because on paper the route looks really strait forward. You simply climb up the southern side of this peak for 5500 feet. But to put it in perspective I soloed the Torment Forbidden Traverse car to car sub 10 hours.




It took me 13 hours and 55 minutes to solo Bonanza tent to tent from Hart Lake. I climbed in the same style and with the same equipment and was in better shape for Bonanza. So if you’re going climb Bonanza tent to tent from Hart Lake come early, bring lunch. I have to admit that I sat down and cramped for a half hour on the way up and tried to take a shortcut from the basin back to the ramps on my decent costing another half hour. So it will go sub 13 and prolly sub 12 for a bad-ass.


Also, please let me know if you or any climber you know has soloed Bonanza Peak. O and the summit box on Bonanza is not water tight anymore and needs to be replaced. The summit register was soaked and unreadable. Could some kind soul please take a new box and summit register up there next year?


Lyman Lake from Cloudy Pass



Glacier PeaK from Miners Ridge




Dome Peak was next on my agenda and that would require moving up to the southern end of The Ptarmigan Traverse. The trail heads west to Cloudy and Suiattle Passes then out Miners ridge to Image Lake and on north to Canyon Lake and up to Ross Pass, moving further north I crossed the ridge crest between Sinister and Gunsight and dropped north onto the Chikamin Glacier.


Looking North to Dome and Sinister Peaks



Sinister on the right



The locals at Ross Pass



Looking south across Ross Pass to Glacier Peak





Gunsight on the right, Sinister on the left



West Face of Gunsight Peak



West Face of Gunsight Peak



West Face of Bonanza Peak



Looking west up the Chickimin Glacier to Dome Peak





The day turned grey then rainy obscuring the crevasses on the Chikamin and making me feel like a rat in a maze picking through the late season problem. You basically carry over Dome peak by bivying at 8600ft just north of the summit. At one point in the late afternoon I thought I heard voices above me, the next day I read Mark Webster’s name in the summit register. Did you see me Mr. Webster? I ran out of light and bivyed on a loose rock cliff that I had to climb to bypass a crevasse blocking the way up.




In the morning I wasn’t feeling well and I was out of water. My stomach issues had only worsened, diarrhea made it impossible to properly hydrate or get any decent nutrients in me. The summit was so close that I thought I’d tag it and then move west off the mountain across the Dome Glacier where water would be plentiful. Dome’s main peak is an easy third class scramble and I was soon on top. I wanted to tag the southwest summit and had read that it’s a strait forward 4th class scramble with a little 5th on solid rock. Loose slabs lead to the ridge crest and I pushed forward coming to dead ends and trying it different ways. My stomach felt woozy and my legs felt weak, I was suddenly very aware of my position and imagined myself tomahawking down the cliff below. “What’s going on with you” I lamented to myself!

One of my main tenets with free soloing is that I have to feel 100% and everything has to feel right: this felt wrong. Free soloing is the ultimate expression of freedom but the other side of that coin is you are always one move from your last move. As much as I wanted to tag Dome Southwest I turned my back to it and now have more unfinished business up there.




Moving west across the Dome glacier I met three Cascade Hard Men; it was Luke Shy, Joshua Ricardi and Josh Henderson. They had biked in the finished but unopened Suiattle River Road and hiked up Downey then Bachelor creeks to Cub lake. They said the road is really nice; I for one can’t wait for Momma Nature to come around and put things back into natural order of things. Meaning I can’t wait for a landslide to close the road again because Wilderness and access aren’t symbiotic. These guys are all about to kick the door down to the Bulger Club; their peak count is in the 90’s. Way to get after it Fellas!


Looking East on the Chickimin Glacier toward Gunsight



Dome Peak from Itsawoot Ridge



Dome Peak from Itsawoot Ridge



I was smoked from a week of climbing, hiking and diarrhea so I decided to shut it down for 24 hours on Itswoot Ridge for some much needed rest. It was there that Steve and his two Friends came south off of The Ptarmigan Traverse; they had done it in two days from Cascade Pass fast and light. I enquired as to the condition of the traverse and Steve gave me some great beta. He told me that one team had turned back at the Le Conte Glacier because of the late season conditions. He showed me pics and described their passing of the Le Conte Glacier as difficult and dangerous. He recommended that I not travel alone on the Le Conte Glacier and that finding the route down from above would be difficult. Steve even gave me some printed beta on how to go around the Le Conte Glacier by way of Hahalkl Pass (6400ft); which I never did figure out and is still a mystery to me. Does anyone know about the Hahalkl pass or its whereabouts please? Steve thanks so much for your beta!


Gunsight from White Rock lakes



From Left, Gunsight Peak, Chickimin Glacier, Dome Peak, Dana Glacier, Spire Point from White Rock Lakes.



White Rock Lakes



Dome and White Rock Lake from the head of the South Cascade Glacier.



Looking North at Sentinel and Old Guard Peaks.





The next day I moved up to Spire Col and dropped my big pack to have a try at Spire Point. At the base of the rock climb I again felt too weak to responsibly climb and this was first time I admitted to myself that I may be sicker than I thought. I went back to my pack and headed down to White Rock Lakes and spent the night. I made the decision to stop climbing and just try to move north along the Ptarmigan Traverse. The next day I moved up to the head of the South Cascade Glacier and walked down the glacier to South Cascade Lake, that’s when I saw the mess that the USGS has left up there over the years. I went far off the traverse to avoid the Le Conte Glacier on Steve’s advice, movement continued over the west shoulder of Le Conte Mountain to the high ground above Ying Yang lakes. It was there that the weather took a turn for the worse and in the morning I decided to bail on the end of my trip, that 12 days had been enough this time. I headed due west downhill to the South Cascade River and walked it North on trail 769 to road 15 in the park where I successfully hitchhiked into Marblemount.


Looking north from the west shoulder of Le Conte to the South Cascade Glacier with Sentinel and Old Guard on the left.



The USGS single wide and out building on the South Cascade Glacier. Really?!?!?!?!?!?!



I went home thinking this illness would clear right up but a day later I was so weak I went to the clinic and got pumped full of IV’s and antibiotics. I gave three stool samples to test for Giardia, Crypto-Protozoa and bacteria, all came back negative and it seems my mystery stomach ailment remains just that. It took almost a month of being home until I felt strong and things were back to normal. I guess there’s always next year….


Formidable and Spider from the high pass north of Le Conte Mountain.



Formidable and Spider from the high pass north of Le Conte Mountain with Ying Yang Lakes.



Gear Notes:

I took a alpine harness, 10 nuts, a serenity 8.7 60m single rope, 150ft of 5mil cord. Corsaca ax and Grivel Alu Crampons.


The RAB Ridge Mater Bivy and it's mustard. It's eVent but still condensates under the right conditions.




Approach Notes:

Lady of the Lake to Holden

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I lived at Holden in the late 70s. Climbed Bonanza 5 times by various routes. Did the MG route without a rope above the glacier but there were too many holes to go alone. Tried the south face but the weather crapped out. The berry crop failed that year and we saw a bear tumble down the south face. Don't know what was up with that. Nice job on the south face. Thats a long day from Hart Lake. You should see the avalanches that come off that approach in the winter - huge. I was there when the Soviets came through in 75? What a tough bunch but really warmed up when we brought out a tray of cookies when they were sorting their gear.

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My dad (David C) told me about your trip up the southface and seeing the bear fall. Crazy thing to see. Any chance it was hunting season? Reading your post inspired me to get out the copy of my dad's climbing journal that I have and see what came up. No solos, but I found the entry from his 3rd (of 9) successful summit trips that includes you.


"1980, End of May ascent with PeterH, JimS, Jean and Terri. Essentially a long snow ascent. We set some belays both going up and down, and climb above valley fog. Visually, it's one of my more interesting Bonanza climbs."


I assume this is the Mary Green route based off the snow description?


Additionally, the Medic working for Rio Tinto and the mine clean up told me that her now husband was part of the Soviet team that came through the village in 75. Would that be accurate? If so, small world.



Thank you for the inspiring TR. I remember when you passed through Holden last year, my buddy Dale spoke with you briefly on your way up to Hart. Makes me miss living there.



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Jim and Thomas,


Thank you both for responding with that great local history, that bear incident is crazy. It could have simply stood on a boulder that took a roll down hill and gravity did the rest. I've heard stories of goats falling. Just a moment in a few climbers lives but unique enough that we're talking about it all these years later.


Jim, I can only imagine how big those avalanches must be, it's an amazingly long and open slope with a big trigger (the obvious slot) right above it. That's probably why there's an open area at bottom by the trail.


You guys had a lot of moxy to make so many attempts on that mountain. 9 successful summits...WOW. Your Dad was a hard man indeed Thomas, that has to be a record for Bonanza.


That's crazy that a lady in the mine clean up is Married to one of the Soviets. I'm thinking slide show...can you guys lay that on? :-)


Coming to Holden for a second time helped me see the place in a new light; there's such an amazing community of people and the neighborhood is spectacular with alpine stuff everywhere.

It's not hard to see how you miss the place.


Jason G,


The trail is bad; at this point I'd describe it as a climbers trail.

It's impassible to pack trains and i'd even caution any one that's a hiker from the trail. It is tagged with ribbons and the brush isn't that bad it's all the washouts and downed timber on really steep slopes. The trail in this condition would make a hike to South Cascade Lake an arduous affair.


Jason, i'd like to meet you, wanna get a beer?



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Was this person at Holden married to a Soviet or one of their local guides? I remember two of them Bjornsted was one and Mike Helms was the other, both excellent climbers. I remember that snow climb up the MG route. One of the crazier things I have done. Anchors were useless pickets and the snow was rotten all the way to the summit. Good to hear from you Thomas. Hi to your Mom and Dad.

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Eric, please take me with you next year... i love that place.

spent 15 days up there in 76. my bro and i wanted to get some of the titanium pitons they left behind. Has always been 'early' for me in there, thanks for sharing the pics! ... so i can see what it looks like w/o snow.

2 ppl caring gear is way lighter, too.

We started out one trip with 110 and 120 lb. packs, off the ferry at the harbor. (they weighed em) Yea, NO fancy plastic clothing, lightweight hi-tec gear, and small cameras then, or, for the self funded teen agers. I had 28lbs in camera gear, and 5 rolls of film for about 37 pics ea. compared to now? ... thousands of pics on a mini card the size of your finger nail, and micro grams. We had plenty of meat, steel in pitons and hammers, our gold line ropes and extra food and fuel for the big gas stoves for 3+ weeks. Kids 'now days', ... have no idea, pansies.

Love seeing your trip reports!!!! thanks again.

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Zippy Craze,


You know, I had an idea that someone was going to call me out on safety if I posted this, I just never guessed it would be you. ha Everyone else just shook their head...ha ha


your .... NUTS! i hear im crazy... better than . nuts!!


OMG that's my new claim to fame as a climber! Zippy Craze called me nuts! YES!

Thanks for the advice on being smooth i'll put that in my pocket.


You're so right on the gear getting lighter, although I didn't weigh my pack. I just didn't want that number running around in my head. I used to climb with this guy in Europe that had the speedometer blacked out on his superbike, his reasoning being that some data doesn't give you an advantage and might even freak you out.


The even better thing about digital over film is you know what you got in that moment instead of waiting weeks or months for feedback.


All told I have been thinking about taking a partner up there next year. I have something I want to accomplish and partner would make it much more possible.




Thanks for reading.

You're a glutton for punishment. Pickets traverse next?


Sir, i'd be a liar if I said that thought hadn't tiptoed through my mind.



I'm reading the Hobbit right now and so you were Gandalf in my mind's eye. laugh


That's awesome, admittedly Gandalf has way better hair and a cooler hat. Becky must be Gandalf...ha

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When Ernest Hemingway met Ansel Adams he said "Mr Adams you take great pictures, what kind of camera do you use?" Mr. Adams replied "you write great stories, what kind of typewriter do you use?"


Its a Sony RX-100. NYT called it the best pocket camera ever made.


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