Holliway Mountain by Golden Horn via Mount Hardy + PCT / 霍利威山

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Holliway Mountain by Golden Horn ranks the #8 tallest peak in North Washington Pass after Cutthroat Peak. Despite being close to North Cascades Highway, the climbing isn’t direct. Even the shortest route involves going around Mount Hardy over Methow Valley.

Holliway Mountain's actual summit
Holliway Mountain’s actual summit

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Holliway Mountain at a Glance

Access: Swamp Creek
Round Trip: 15.4 miles
Elevation Range: 3960′-8000′
Gear: helmet, crampons, ice ax, snowshoes
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no

The Preface

Holliway Mountain was a time-consuming endeavor involving bypassing Mount Hardy and through Methow River Valley. With snow en route, I wasn’t sure if we could make it to the top and be back in a day.

After reading through reports, Highway 20 above Swamp Creek looked the most direct. The weather was iffy during the week. But glad this weekend was full of sunshine.

See more trip photos here.

Mount Hardy South Ridge

The pup and I slept in the car by the Swamp Creek pullout to get an early start. The following day, we crossed Highway 20 to the east side. Then we scrambled up Mount Hardy‘s south ridge.

I vividly remembered the first time we went too far east in the trees. So we ended up swimming through down trees mixed with dense brush. But this time, we moved farther west in the forest to try and avoid all that mess.

Open terrain
Open terrain

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Going Around Mount Hardy

The minute we went above the forest, the views around us expanded. Then we continued through the burned area while stepping over down trees. Afterward, I put on snowshoes at 5400′ to move more efficiently.

From 7200′, we traveled northeast across the southern slopes. So we could be on the east ridge at 7400′. Then from there, we got our first view of the classic Tower Mountain and Golden Horn. But there were still no signs of Holliway Mountain.

The first sighting of Golden Horn and Tower Mountain
The first sighting of Golden Horn and Tower Mountain

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Methow River Valley

We walked down the ridge and stopped before Point 6818. Then we found an ideal entry point into the West Fork Methow River Valley on steep terrain. Since we had full snow coverage, it made sense to bypass Methow Pass entirely.

It would have been great to use the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). But the snow-covered path did us no good. So once we were in the basin, we moved through the forest along the east of the river. But the farther north we walked, the more the elevation we were losing.

Down tree-infested clearing
Down tree-infested clearing

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Holliway Mountain via Nugget Lakes Basin

We stayed at an elevation between 4900′ and 5100′. At the same time, we scrambled through the forest and went through many down trees strewing the clearings. Snowshoes stayed on or off, depending on the amount of snow. Soon, we crossed Golden Creek at 5000′ to the north.

From there, we moved southeast while going uphill. Afterward, we were in the Nugget Lakes Basin at 5850′. I had been waiting for this moment since we left the car. But it seemed all so surreal after I saw it in person. The sheer north face of Golden Horn came into view suddenly.

The north face of Golden Horn
The north face of Golden Horn

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The Access Gully

By the time we saw the lakes, we were above them. So we stayed high, moved southeast, and later found the snow gully at 6800′. By now, we were low on energy, and so the final 1200′ of climbing felt like miles. Snow ended below the summit, and then the massive choss followed. We took turns going through this section to avoid falling rocks.

At first glance, I mistook the tower directly overhead for the peak. But the higher we went, the better I could discern the actual summit to the left. Above the loose rocks, solid holds, and ledges helped finish the last bit of climbing. The few 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

I wasn’t sure where to start with the views. But the landscape was breathtaking everywhere! The enormous Golden Horn and Tower Mountain felt like they were only within arm’s reach. Azurite Peak and Mount Ballard were looming behind us. Best of all, the impressive north faces of many recognizable high points filled the southwestern skyline.

After an extended break, we then wrapped up our stay. But it was hard to leave behind all the views. Afterward, we went back down to the snow gully. Then we crossed Golden Creek again at the same place. We traveled south toward the head of the valley while gaining elevation. Dang! After two more hours of hiking, we found a semi-dry spot under a tree and then bivvied.

Tower Mountain and Golden Horn
Tower Mountain and Golden Horn

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Back to Mount Hardy Plus Exit

We finished the last bit of steep climbing up to the pas in the mornings in the morning. So we were out of the Methow River drainage finally. Hurray! Having to go up on the way out from a trip felt like the crux of the climb! After a short photo break, we followed our steps back around Mount Hardy.

My right crampon came off on the south slopes at some point and rolled down the snow. I only realized it until halfway through crossing. But by then, it wasn’t even a concern, as I couldn’t have been happier to be back on the Highway 20 side. Now we only needed to make our way down to the car.

Swamp Creek panoramic view
Swamp Creek panoramic view

See more trip photos here.

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