Josh Lewis and I joined gimpilator to the Phelps Creek Trailhead on June 12, 2015 for a hike to Lyman Lake where we would part ways. He was joining Craig Willis, Paul Michaelson and many others in a peak-bagging adventure that included Miner's Ridge, Plummer, Cloudy Peak and North Star. We fore-went a tent and other luxuries to be as light as possible but it was still strenuous regardless. The view from Spider Gap was stunning as usual making me wish I had more food and time to spend in that place. In all honesty I wish I could have joined Gimpilator because our ambitious goal of rushing up Bonanza would have been daunting enough just from Holden. I was not too certain from the start whether we would make it. Additionally, gimpilator was our ride home and we were under pressure to maintain a pace that would allow us to catch him at noon on day 3 otherwise we faced a grueling push out Suiattle Pass, then hitchhike to Darrington on very limited supplies. The first five miles to the meadows went quick. We pushed hard throughout the day taking few breaks, separating from gimpilator at Lyman Lake. Light winds and clouds had us worried the weather would change. It even started to drizzle but it went back to pleasant . We crossed a creek somewhere above Hart Lake that required some finesse. At our low point, 3000', at the Holden Junction I took a long break before our gain to Holden Lake. The view of Copper was awesome but we were constantly in a hurry and arrived at Holden Lake just before sunset. It was the hardest grind in memory. I was intimidated by the appearance of Bonanza throughout the day and wasn't sure how far we'd get. Finally seeing our route from the lake, I could not believe how ridiculously steep the walls looked. Our chili-mac supper was barely enough and I got little anxious sleep.
Spider meadows from near Spider glacier
gimpilator in Lyman Lakes basin
Bonanza in green
Cloudy and North Star
June 13th -"Every Obstacle looked like game over"
We got up at about 4am and after a small breakfast tried to find the old overgrown climbers path to Holden Pass. We ended up missing it, cutting across a swampy bog and scrambling to the East of it until a creek led us back to the path at around 5,600'. From there the path was no trouble and we wound our way up Holden Pass to the base of a rock buttress jutting East from NE trending false summit which was guarded by a mountain goat. It didn't want to budge as I moved towards it indicating that perhaps I was in it's territory. I yelled at it to run away and he thankfully complied allowing us to figure out how to approach the waterfall slabs. The best weakness was a snow-ramp to our right that led to easy ledges near a moat which brought us over a fallen serac and right below the glacier's terminus. We scrambled some class 2 braided by glacier fed streams and hopped on the Mary Green glacier where we roped up. The skies were mostly clear and the summit in the distance seemed intimidating still. I kept trying to trace a line up the face that didn't look like a cliff and saw nothing that I liked. Josh led and stayed mostly to the Northern margin of the glacier negotiating a few crevasses until a concave/flat section at ~8,200' with minimal crevassing and some old avy debris. We traversed the glacier South from here for a long ways around a giant cirque/bergshrund and climbed this twisted portion to where it met the rock part of the route at ~8,600'. The bergshrund was beginning to open but was still passable on the right. Here we made an error by leaving the rope due to advice from a climber who insisted we avoid the trouble of rope drag. My gut told me to bring it but I ignored it.
Were climbing that?!
RARE: Josh wearing a hat
snowbridge I avoided
Summit block from high on Mary Green
We climbed some easy class 3 ledges that were fairly similar to a staircase until we arrived at more dicey class 4 with limited class 3 options. We both took slightly different ways up and met up at a ledge near 8900' that took us right to a rocky/gendarmy ridge. There was a rappel sling here which gave me pause about what we were doing. The moves were either hard class 3 or easy 4 and simple but very exposed. After 100 feet we came across another rappel sling and the ridge dead-ended into an overhanging buttress. A ledge led us left back onto the face and we looked in vain for a safe way up. At this point the sky to the North, South and above had turned dark and gloomy and began to snow lightly. The rock was beginning to get damp. I was worried we wouldn't be able to down-climb the rock if it got too wet and could not find a move that could get us any higher without this risk. After spending about half an hour looking for something that wasn't slimy and exposed and failing, we decided together that the best choice was to bail. Josh might have made it up but we both knew getting down tonight would have been in jeopardy. It was a hard choice considering how far we had come but the sky was getting worse by the minute and we needed to be back at the waterfall slabs before it started pouring otherwise we risked having to bivy on the upper mountain.
Until now, every obstacle looked like game over and I was actually glad to be finally headed down before it looked impossible to descend.
Josh on the Mary Green
Seracs on Mary Green
Holden pass gets wet
The descent had my heart racing with the exposure until we got back to the glacier. The clouds started to surround the mountain which seemed to be cutting the storm in half until this point. Back at the waterfall slabs the rain/sleet began and we kept our crampons on for traction on the now wet rock. Hopping over the serac was easier on the way out. Back at the start of the trail the goat was still there and let us pass once again. At this point the rain came down harder darkening the sky. An exposed part of the trail above Holden Pass was now very treacherous with wet mud and we were careful to get past this potentially deadly down-sloping section. Somehow we found the climber's trail on our return to camp saving us the trouble of navigating the swamp. The rains dissipated and I made supper. Luckily our gear didn't get soaked since we decided to camp under the cover of some trees. We packed up and tried to get a ways down the trail but I was too exhausted so after about a mile we pulled out our bags and slept until 5am.
June 14th - rushing to catch a ride
Dumbell and Copper from Holden trail
Dramatic light from Lyman Lake
The last day we moved as quickly as possible to catch gimpilator at the junction near Lyman Lake. On the way we bumped into a father and daughter on a fishing trip at Heart Lake, the first people since we left gimpilator on Friday. There were numerous more after that but we were in a rush and huffed our way up to the lake. Today was windless, warmer and the mosquitoes had finally woken up in droves. Luckily we made it to the junction early and we all walked out together, all pretty tired from the weekend. It was a beautiful trip and made for a fun video but there was much struggle and stress that took away from the joy. Still I'm glad to have gone and seen it and even more glad to have had the reservation to turn around instead of pushing it when conditions got dangerous. Perhaps next time I'll bring the rope all the way and go on a perfect day, or at the very least continue to hopefully survive by making good calls.
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