This week David D and I took advantage of the extended stretch of great weather to climb Mt Olympus. The route conditions were just as the rangers we spoke to said… “some of the best we’ve seen in years”. Pictures and a trip summary follow.
We got off to a leisurely start on Tuesday the 27th leaving the trail head about 2pm and hiking to Olympus Guard Station camp along the Hoh (9 miles, 900 ft elevation).
On day two we finished the hike to Glacier Meadows where it was hot and buggy (17.3 miles, 4300 ft elevation). The reports coming off the summit were of great but sloppy snow conditions in the afternoon and everyone was recommending a very early start.
We set off at 1:30am Thursday morning under a rising moon so bright that we were able to travel with out headlamps. The Blue Glacier had very few crevasses showing and we made good time crossing it. We put crampons on mid way across the lower Blue and did not take them off until the summit block. Bridging the moat to gain the rock posed no problem and by 9:30am we were the first party of the day on top. Two additional teams of three reached the summit shortly after us for the only other groups going up this beautiful day.
Once back down we packed up camp and started the long hike out, pulling into Lewis camp at 8pm (10.5 miles from the TH, 980 ft elevation). We finished the hike out Friday after sleeping in until being chased out of the tent by the warmth of the morning sun. It was another great trip to a beautiful peak in an amazing alpine setting.
Trip totals: 45 miles and ~9000 total elevation gain/loss.
Postscript: If you are looking for mountain solitude on Mt Olympus you are in for a surprise. We signed in on page 19 of the summit register book placed on July 20, 2010 and we passed people each day of our trip either returning from the climb or heading in. Still, it is a great climb in an inspiring area. Also, if you are planning to climb Olympus you might consider doing it sooner rather than later. The trail above Elk Lake (completed in 1933) crosses three avalanche chutes before reaching Glacier Meadows. The third chute has been undergoing some pretty dynamic changes over the past few years. The Park service has placed a ~100+ ft ladder and rope down the steep north side to safely allow passage through this section. In speaking with the ranger at Glacier Meadows about this and other narrow sections of the traverse high above Jemrod Creek, he told me that a significant amount of damage in the chute occurred after the 2007 winter season, it is getting worse each year, and that if it gets much worse the Park could consider closing Glacier Meadows camp and the trail at Elk lake. If that were to happen the upper trail would return to unmaintained status making the logistics of getting to the peak a more difficult proposition (see the change since just last year here http://www.cohp.org/wa/images/Jefferson/Mount_Olympus_2009/rope_ladder_50.jpg).
Great job!!! I cannot believe how damaged that avalanche chute has become! I hiked to Glacier Meadows back in 2000, and I recall one very sketchy side-traverse then... and now it is totally wiped-out. Yowsers!
Your next biggest "must do" is Big Horn, and also the Skamania CoHP... you are in the home stretch!!!
(I just got back tonight from a successful summit of Glacier Peak, so now I am 2/3 complete for WA CoHPs)
I was one of the throng that signed the summit log the week before.
Your trip report and pictures are great, but I think you downplay the challenge of the summit block. When we arrived there we thought the snow path across to the rocks was quite dicey. You had a moat on one side, a two foot wide flat path on top and a very steep drop off with rocks below on the other side. Walking on a two foot wide path is no big deal unless it's made of snow and it might collapse below you and send you careening downward.
As we thought about our options, we met up with a climbing club from Portland and they set up a fixed rope across this snow path and then all the way to the top which I hooked into with a prusik knot. With this bit of protection I felt safer than I do on some scrambles around I-90, but there was a lot of exposure and one class 5 move to gain the summit. There is also the 90+ foot rappel off the summit which you humbly forgot to mention. For climbers, no big deal, but for hikers this might be more than they are expecting.
Overall a great trip. I'd highly recommend. Also, just backpacking in the area would be very enjoyable.
Thanks for the observations on conditions the week prior. The ranger did mention when we were getting our permit that the bridge to the rock was sharper last week but that it had since "collapsed" a bit making the access easier. At any rate we found it pretty straight forward. Here is the pic of me looking down at David as he arrives at the start of the rock.
We also found the rock part mostly class 2-3 with a class 5 off-width crack (1-2 moves) directly below a rap station on the ridge about 50 feet south of the summit. Instead of the off-width crack there also is a variation that has you stepping around to the North for a class 4 move or two but I never looked at that. We did a short rap of ~50 ft back down to the ramp then scrambled across to the snow.
There are two additional rap anchors off the north ridge back to the snow if people prefer that route. One of the parties coming up after us came that way and also reported mostly class 3 with about 10 feet of mid class 5.
Great work getting up there! I love the views from the top of Olympus. Oh, there is a class three route to the top as well, even manageable in ski boots. It is extremely exposed for a about 15 feet. You can carry a 8mm 40-ft rope and rap back down to easy ledges which you walk back to the snow (class II). It helps save weight.
Per you postscript at the end, one annoying thing I find especially with national parks is the closing of trails. The crossing you mention isn't very difficult with or without the ladder (done both). People should be warned of it and be prepared for crossing by either dropping low through the forest or crossing over steep loose rock. Don't see why they should be climbing the mountain if they can't do that.
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