Martin Peak (Holden, WA)

August 6-7, 2022


Holden Village, WA

“Martin Peak” is a very common name in the English speaking countries that even in the Bulger list of the state of Washington there are two “Martin Peak” and they aren’t even far from each other. This is the harder one accessed from Holden Village and the climb is usually done together with Bonanza Peak which is a much more sought-after objective. Indeed, Selena, Max and I climbed Bonanza Peak earlier in the day and now with about 5 hours of daylight time left we had to rush a bit to ascend the west ridge of Martin Peak and get back to camp, ideally before dark. Martin Peak has reputation to be a “choss pile” and it sure did not disappoint us. By Washington’s standard I would consider this route as pretty damn chossy and combined with the scrambling difficulty (class 4) and the exposure I would say the ascent is quite a serious one. We decided to not haul the rope up and almost regretted that decision.

Bonanza Peak, Martin Peak and Copper Peak from Holden. GPX DL

Prior to the trip I only researched Bonanza Peak but did downloaded a GPS track for both Martin Peak and Copper Peak. I assumed the others would have done their detailed research and I also assumed that we could easily onsight the route-finding by following the GPS track. It turned out that I was a little bit too optimistic about Martin Peak. Immediately above the camp we picked up a set of climber’s trail on the climber’s left side and easily plodded up and over a long ridge bump with some micro-terrain. On the far side of this bump we had to lose about 50 m elevation and then the game began. Upon arriving at the bottom of the first obvious steep buttress we followed the GPS track traversing southwards a long ways until finding a easy, but loose gully to ascend back onto the ridge crest. The traverse was done a bit higher than optimal so we gained and lost more elevation than absolutely needed. There were already some class 3 scrambling here and there to get back onto the ridge crest and we all started to get a taste of the looseness of this peak.

Max leaving our camp at around 3 pm
After a little bit of thrashing we located the unmaintained trail
Selena now traversing across the long and broad ridge section
Martin Peak’s west ridge seen from the approach ridge/bump
I think that’s Mt. Lyall to the north, much less frequently visited…
The end of the first long side-hill traverse to bypass a steep section
Selena then regained the ridge by slogging up scree. Holden Lake behind

We then ascended a long section of easy terrain by sticking to the crest of the west ridge and then there came a series of towers and steps that we either attacked head-on, or bypassed on climber’s right side. There were usually game trails and cairns to guide the way, but we did have to consult with the GPS track multiple times as well. Some rightward traverses were not very intuitive but some were obvious. We also plodded up some stupidly loose gullies that greatly reminded me the good ol’ playground called the Canadian Rockies. I think I pretty much beat up the new Trango Tech mountaineering boots to their death on just one peak here.

Plodding up another long stretch of easy terrain with Bonanza Peak behind
Getting closer to the meat of this route
Selena and Max with Bonanza Peak and Mary Green Glacier behind
Typical, typical…
Copper Peak/Mt. Fernow massif to the south

Towards the top we started to encounter difficult terrain that would soon become sketchy. The worst section was a gully of white and red down-sloping ledges and the ledges were coated with scree and dirt. The gully did not appear too bad but after a few moves I suddenly felt committed. Max followed behind but turned around after seeing me struggling with finding good holds. Max then led Selena up climber’s left side on more exposed but slightly better ground. Above this section I found a piece of rappelling cord indicating that we were on route, but the route’s more difficult than anticipated. Had we had a rope we would have rappelled this zone on the descent, but that was not an option. Immediately above this gully-of-shit I climbed a smaller, similar but easier gully and Max and Selena again, bypassed by sticking to a 4th class but uber exposed ridge on climber’s left side. The official 4th class crux near the summit felt trivial comparing to the chossy gullies we just did. I think there are three options. I climbed up the middle line and descended the climber’s right while Max and Selena went up and down the vertical chimney on climber’s left. All three options would be 4th class with solid holds but I think climber’s right is the easiest.

Ahead would be the first crux section, that red/white down-sloping gully…
Selena slogging up to this point
Max traversing to follow me briefly but soon decided against it
Selena waited until both Max and I finished our respective lines to make a decision
Selena and Max after their gully bypass.
The north side of this ridge has huge exposure that reminded me Goodsirs…
Plodding up the next loose gully right next to the edge
Selena high up on Martin Peak’s west ridge
Selena traversing around another corner
Just one of the many rightwards traverses
Max went ahead to scout out the final stretch of this route
Selena on yet another sketchy-looking rightwards traverse
Max stemming up the 4th class final chimney
Max approaching the summit of Martin Peak, happy to have checked off this Bulger
Summit Panorama from Martin Peak. Click to view large size.
Copper Peak and Mt. Fernow blend together in one picture
Bonanza Peak and Mary Green Glacier that we climbed earlier in the morning
In the foreground is the rugged tower of Mt. Tupshin, with Gardners behind
Goode Mountain and Mt. Logan in the far distance
Glacier Peak to the west
Me on the summit of Martin Peak with Tupshin/Devore/Flora area behind
Selena and Max on the summit of Martin Peak. Happy to be here but never come back.

We did not linger too long on the summit as the descent might need just as much time as the ascent. After the solid rock crux we came to a decision point to debate whether my route was better or theirs. We decided to all down-climb Selena and Max’s route. I felt the ridge part was quite exposed and committing but that might due to the fact it’s new ground to me (I didn’t go up that way). The lower zone near that rappel anchor had one exposed and down-sloping corner with at least one or two awkward moves, but overall much easier than the red/white dirt gully I ascended. The rest of the descent was relatively uneventful but careful route-finding was needed to reverse the exact route we took on the way up, and we eventually made back to camp with less than 1 hour of spare daylight time. I don’t think any of us enjoyed this climb but with extensive Rockies experience I didn’t find it to be that bad neither. I think I liked the descent more than the ascent as I could scree-surf some gullies to make fast work.

Max down-climbing his chimney
The terrain’s a like-up of gullies, ridges and traversing ledges
Max and Selena carefully down-scrambling the typical terrain for hundreds of meters
Max and Selena now climbing the exposed ridge variation
Max surveying his bypass of the white/red gully
We then all down-climbed his bypass which was exposed but much easier
Max said no to the red/white gully and I would agree. That part was garbage
Another look at Bonanza Peak
I triggered a rock avalanche while plunging down this huge scree cone
It went on and on. If you don’t like this terrain and don’t come up here.
Copper Peak is that distinct pyramid with Mt. Fernow being the tallest of the massif
After a section of easy ridge we had to drop down into loose gullies again
And then traverse horizontally across more loose terrain
Finally back onto easy terrain
A review shot of Martin Peak and its west ridge facing us
One last look at Bonanza Peak and Mary Green Glacier before dropping back to camp
Almost back to camp with spare daylight

The plan of the 3rd day was to dash down to Holden Village, drop the heavy gears and make a whooping ascent of Copper Peak so we must wake up early. It’s very easy to get lazy and orphan Copper Peak but we are all peak-baggers here such that being lazy would not be an excuse to skip a summit. The alarm was set at 5 am and we eventually started the descent at 6:20 am. I debated whether to wear the boots or the trail-runners on the initial stretch of the hike-out and opted for the trail-runners. I figured with more concentration I could have managed the slippery grass and the boulder fields in the runners and the purpose was to save one annoying footwear transition. The descent to the lake was a bit confusing at places so we took our time. Selena then led a blistering pace down the trail such that we all dashed down to Holden Ballpark campground in a single shot from the pass without any unnecessary stop. We actually took our time to set up the tents and have a proper meal before gearing up for the 1700+ meters of grunt up Copper Peak, which was also not as easy as we thought.

Max in the morning of Day 3, pretending to be stoked about another long ass day
Max leading us down towards Holden Lake
Selena negotiating the boulder fields now with a heavier pack
The quadruple-log crossing.. I learnt that dead-falls are to be expected on WA trails
Copper Peak, our objective later in this day…
Selena plodding down Holden Lake trail
Back to the valley floor and our next stop would be the campground to drop the packs