July 1-3, 2012
Martin Peak (8511′)
——————– Summary ——————–
Starting Point: Holden Village
Way Points: Railroad Creek & Holden Creek & Holden Lake (hike)
Campsite: Holden Lake
Summit: Martin Peak (climb via Southwest Gullies—West Ridge)
——————– Full Report ——————–
Eileen and I managed to tuck in Martin Peak just before the Pre-Independence Day Storm set in last Monday and Tuesday. This was our fourth consecutive Fourth of July trip into the Stehekin Mountains and carried on what has become a very enjoyable and satisfying tradition. Appropriately, the widely varying conditions served up a patriotic color scheme of red (sunburn), white (numb fingers), and blue (bruises).
We began our trip at Fields Point Landing and promptly bumped into Roy McMurtrey, who was heading up the Lady Express to solo-climb Wy’North Mountain. Roy is 83 years young and still going strong! He related a quick anecdote about climbing Martin Peak some years back and then dashed off to catch the boat. Eileen and I took the later boat to Lucerne and bussed up to Holden with about 75 other village visitors. Construction vehicles and workers—all associated with the ongoing mine cleanup efforts—were prevalent on the road and in the village. The trail to Holden Lake was in excellent shape, thanks in part to a WTA crew who was starting a week of trail maintenance. Holden Lake was about half snow-covered, as were the surroundings. We made camp on a bare patch within a large avalanche swath.
The next day started out sunny and mild but gradually turned cloudy and chilly. We ascended avalanche chutes and upper snowfields to a mid-mountain cliff band at about 7000 feet. Rock scrambling led up to a 7400-foot notch in Martin’s west ridge (3.0 hours from camp). From there, we roped up and climbed Class 3-4 rock along the lower ridge crest, then traversed a series of ribs and gullies until closer to the summit block. A broad, shallow gully of grippy, loose, beige marble took us back up to the crest, where some more Class 3-4 climbing along the upper west ridge gave way to a final steep face on the northwestern side of the summit block. Eileen deftly dodged a rock that I kicked loose in this area but came away with an assortment of cuts and bruises when she collided with the rock face. We topped out in early afternoon (5.6 hours from camp).
The summit cairn held a 1930’s vintage register tube placed by the Wy’East Climbing Club, with a 2000’s vintage register booklet placed by Fay Pullen. Martin Peak is the second highest summit in the Stehekin Mountains, but it is so overshadowed by Bonanza Peak as to attract only a few parties per year. I was surprised to see several entries by climbers who had soloed both Bonanza and Martin in one day!
Due to the darkening sky, we headed down after a short stay. Our descent route closely followed our ascent route except that we were able to avoid most of the Class 4 (fun) rock by staying a bit below the ridge crest. Rain started to fall just after we reached our camp (3.5 hours from summit). While cooking dinner in the tent doorway, we were entertained by an unusually friendly marmot who appeared to live nearby. Eileen named him Henry.
It rained intermittently all night, and we awoke to dramatically colder temperatures, with fresh snow on the surrounding peaks. A cold front had arrived just in time for Independence Day. We hiked down in the rain, passing the WTA crew heading up-trail for the day. The crew leader asked us if we’d seen any fallen logs or other maintenance work that needed to be done, and he showed obvious disappointment when we reported that the trail was pretty much immaculate. It was going to be a slow week for his crew.
———————– Complete Photo Gallery ————————-