Holliway Mountain Ain’t No Holiday / 霍利威山得來不易

Holliway Mountain's real summit

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The Lowdown on Holliway Mountain

Access: Swamp Creek
Round Trip:
TBD
Elevation Range: 3960′-8000′
Gear: helmet, crampons, ice axe, snowshoes
GPS Track:
available

Getting Around Mount Hardy

Holliway Mountain was a time-consuming endeavor. It involved getting into the Methow River Valley through Methow Pass. So we used the same approach for Mount Hardy. Pup and I slept t the Swamp Creek pullout west of Highway 20 so that we could start early. In the morning, after crossing the highway, we immediately scrambled up Mount Hardy‘s south ridge. This time in the forest, we moved farther west to avoid swimming in down trees and dense brush again.

Immediately after we got above the forest, we were in the open terrain. Then we proceeded to get through the burned area. I put on snowshoes at 5400′ to move more efficiently. A northeast rising traverse from 7200′ to 7400′ got us onto the east ridge. From there, we had our first look at the classic Tower Mountain and Golden Horn. But there were still no signs of Holliway Mountain, yet.

The first look at Golden Horn and Tower Mountain
The first look at Golden Horn and Tower Mountain

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En Route to Nugget Lakes Basin

We first walked down the ridge to just before Point 6818. Then we found a good entry to get into the West Fork Methow River Valley on steep slopes. With excellent snow coverage, it made sense to bypass Methow Pass. As we wouldn’t have been able to make use of the snow-covered Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Staying east of the river, the farther north we traveled, the more the elevation we lost.

Keeping an elevation between 4900′ and 5100′, we scrambled through the forest and a few clearings strewn with many down trees. Snowshoes stayed on or off depending on the amount of snow coverage. First, we crossed Golden Creek at 5000′ to the north side. Then we traveled east upslope to reach Nugget Lakes Basin at 5850′. My jaw dropped when the daunting, sheer north face of Golden Horn suddenly came into view.

North face of Golden Horn
North face of Golden Horn

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Climbing via the Access Gully

By the time we could see the lakes, we were already well above them. So we stayed high and continued to head east. Soon, we located the snow finger gully at 6800′. By now, our energy level was low. So the final 1200′ climb felt like a mile-long slog. Snow ended below the summit block, and the massive choss immediately took over. We took time getting through this section to avoid kicking down rocks at each other.

At first glance, I mistook the tower directly overhead for the summit. But I was able to slowly discern the real summit on climbers left as we went up higher. Lots of good holds and ledges beyond the chossy gully helped finish the last bit of scramble. A few large stacked boulders marked the highest point on the broad summit.

Azurite Peak and Mount Ballard
Azurite Peak and Mount Ballard

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Holliway Mountain Summit

Not sure where to begin with all the views. But I wasn’t complaining! The enormous Golden Horn and Tower Mountain felt like they were only within arm’s reach. Azurite Peak and Mount Ballard were quietly looming behind us. Best of all, the southwestern skyline was full of dramatic north faces of many familiar high points.

After an extended break on top, we then slowly wrapped up our stay. So hard to leave behind all these gorgeous views. But alas, the show must go on. We safely got back down to the snow finger gully and then crossed Golden Creek again at the same spot. As we headed southbound toward the head of the valley, we were also gaining elevation at the same time. Dang! After a couple of hours of hiking, we found a somewhat dry spot under a tree and bivyed.

Tower Mountain and Golden Horn
Tower Mountain and Golden Horn

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Getting Back Around Mount Hardy and Out

In the morning, we slowly did the last bit of steep climb back onto the pass. Getting up on the ridge meant that we were finally out of the Methow River drainage. Woohoo! Gaining elevation on the way back from a trip always felt like the crux of the climb! A quick photo break, and then we retraced our steps around Mount Hardy.

My right crampon strap had come undone somewhere on the mountain’s steep south face. But I didn’t realize I had lost a crampon until after we finished traversing the slopes. But I couldn’t be any happier to be back on the Highway 20 side to complete the descent.

Swamp Creek panoramic view
Swamp Creek panoramic view

See more trip photos here.

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