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

Holliway Mountain was a time-consuming endeavor. It involved going around Mount Hardy and through Methow River Valley. After reading through reports, this route seemed the most straightforward. The weather was iffy during the week. But glad this weekend was full of sunshine.

Holliway Mountain's real summit
Holliway Mountain’s real 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

Mount Hardy South Ridge

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

I vividly remembered the first time up 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, we were then out in the open. Views expanded around us. Then we continued through the burned area while stepping over down trees. Afterward, I put on snowshoes at 5400′. So we could 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 then stopped before Point 6818. There 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 make use of 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 could see the lakes, we were well above them. So we stayed high and continued to move southeast. Afterward, we found the snow gully at 6800′. By this point, we were low on energy. So the final 1200′ of climbing felt like miles. The 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 summit. But the higher we went, the better I could discern the real 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 bivyed.

Tower Mountain and Golden Horn
Tower Mountain and Golden Horn

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Going Back Around Mount Hardy Plus Exit

In the morning, we finished the last bit of steep climbing up to the pass. 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.

At some point, my right crampon strap came undone on the southern slopes. So the gear had rolled down the snowfield. I only realized it until halfway through crossing. But by then, it was my least concern. I couldn’t have been happier to be back on the Highway 20 side. Now we just 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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