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rubywrangler
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PostSat Sep 17, 2022 4:10 pm 
The OMCG lists two Class 1 routes for Mt Steel:
I hoped to use these routes to make a loop with a summit camp, and visit a few other new places along the way. But I could only find one previous climb that used Route 2 - a 2011 CC report that says something to the effect of: at first glance everything on the west side looked to be class 4 so we rapped off the summit, but there is probably an easier route we didn't see. This seemed like a reasonable conclusion to me since the OMCG says Class 1. And while I know the OMCG has a reputation for sandbagging... the route is rated Class 1... I mean really, how hard could it be?? suuure.gif shakehead.gif frown.gif bawl.gif Sunday 9/11 Bears: 1 I arranged a permit during the Steelers game and left Seattle as soon as overtime ended. Started hiking from Staircase just before 5pm. Within 45 min of leaving the trailhead, I encountered bear #1 - a teenager upslope of the trail. By the time I sputtered a surprised "hi!", it had already scrambled up a log into the forest and disappeared. I arrived at Camp Pleasant ~7:15 and had it all to myself. Monday 9/12 Bears: 4 The bushwhack from the Skokomish trail to Nine stream basin sounds pretty terrible in some reports on this site - so bad that I had to really talk myself into doing it at all, let alone solo. 12 hours to go 3.5 miles! Yuck. But, as with most places I've been in the Olympics, it turns out there is a TRAIL almost the entire way. Following the route from previous TRs, I hiked upriver past the Eight stream bridge and left the trail heading southwest. I screwed up at first (too far west, not enough south) and had trouble finding a way through cliffs about 200' above the trail. Eventually I got where I needed to be and climbed a steep mossy slope at the nose of the ridge. The ridge was initially brushy but eventually a game trail materialized. That took me up another 1000' to where the ridge gets steeper, and I found yet another trail. This one seemed to be of the man-made variety - wide, switchbacks, etc. I was pretty elated. This reputedly hellacious bushwhack was going swimmingly so far...
steep, mossy nose of the ridge
steep, mossy nose of the ridge
trail!
trail!
nice trees out here in the middle of nowhere
nice trees out here in the middle of nowhere
After another 800 feet of gain, I found a couple flags which didn't seem to lead anywhere, and then I popped out of the forest below some cliffs. The trail contoured around the base of these cliffs for awhile and then split. The right trail (which I believe is also the WRONG trail) continued climbing and then dead ended in steep terrain below more mossy cliffs. After an hour of veggie belays and other hijinks I finally made it up the last 200' onto the ridge. This had not been my intent, but I was too stubborn to turn around and try the other (left) trail. The ridge became impassable almost immediately but travel on the adjacent slopes was relatively easy. After maybe 30 mins I saw the meadows at the head of the north fork of Eight stream below me - that was actually where I intended to be. I continued hiking adjacent to the ridge and happened upon another game trail that led me to a higher meadowy bench that is obvious on the map.
steep rock guarding the ridge
steep rock guarding the ridge
south fork eight stream
south fork eight stream
on the ridge
on the ridge
off the ridge
off the ridge
The previous parties had continued climbing up and over the ridge separating Eight stream from Nine stream, but I went to the north side of the bench and found yet another trail which ended up leading me all the way to Nine stream basin on the east facing slopes below the ridge. At one point the trail headed downhill which seemed wrong so I left it and went straight, toward some trees. As I approached I heard some noises ahead of me, which I suspect were a mama bear and a treed cub. I "hey bear"-ed and asked them to move but they weren't budging, so I got back on the game trail - still yammering away so they would know where I was. Suddenly, a totally different bear (#2) came flying out of some other trees on my opposite side and ran away in the direction I had come!
trail!
trail!
across the valley to hopper, the brothers, stone and skokomish
across the valley to hopper, the brothers, stone and skokomish
cruiser
cruiser
Once I got back on the trail it was only 15-20 minutes to the basin. I dropped my pack and wandered around the three lower lakes. There is a faint trail in places but no other signs of humanity that I could find - awesome. As I came around the biggest central lake, tons of frogs leapt off the shore into the water every time I put my foot down. I went into the lake up to mid-thigh to rinse off and as I was scrubbing away, bear #3 sauntered down from the upper basin to the shore. Again I hey bear-ed and tried to say hello but this one ignored me completely. Too hard at work I guess. He hung around the lake and lower basin until dusk munching on berries, and then I lost track of him. In the meantime, I wandered to the upper basin and checked out the route to lake Ben. Eventually it was happy hour so I went back to camp and made a nuun margarita, then took a stroll to the east side. At the edge of the basin I saw a shiny black thing in the brush so said "hey!" and a cub popped up, along with mama (#4 and #5). Then they went back to their dinner and I went to have mine.
nine stream basin
nine stream basin
nine stream basin
nine stream basin
nine stream basin
nine stream basin
bear #3
bear #3
nine stream basin
nine stream basin
nine stream basin
nine stream basin
duckabush
duckabush
steel
steel
Tuesday 9/13 Bears: 9 I headed to Lake Ben under overcast skies. The InReach forecast said slight chance of light rain all day, and then slight chance of heavy rain starting at 8pm. The climb and descent are straightforward and the saddle in between has great views. From up there I saw bear #6 hanging out at lake(s) Ben. As I dropped into the basin, I also noticed bear #7 grazing on a slope northeast of me. When I reached the lakes I could no longer see #6 but I knew he was around, so I took a circuitous route around the biggest lake (again with the frogs! even more frogs!) and through a swampy, elk-beaten meadow to stay out of his way. In his report, ethorson had mentioned that the meadows at lake Ben are so heavily visited by elk that they smell like a horse pasture. I can confirm this is still true. A huge, solo bull elk emerged from the trees on the ridge I was heading for. I should have been paying attention to where he came from but I was not, he was spectacular. There are several elk trails leading out of the meadows, and I had some trouble finding the correct one to go over the ridge. It's the high one, and it doesn't go to the low point on the ridge - the crossing is further east.
nine stream basin
nine stream basin
lake ben pano
lake ben pano
nine stream basin pano
nine stream basin pano
nine stream basin
nine stream basin
bumbershoot and scrambler
bumbershoot and scrambler
bear #6
bear #6
lake ben
lake ben
backside of duckabush arm
backside of duckabush arm
frogs
frogs
lone bull
lone bull
looking back to lake ben
looking back to lake ben
Once I got to the correct spot on the ridge I could see bear #8 on the trail ahead of me, and bear #9 a little further south. #8 moved just far enough to get out of the way as I approached, but seemed pretty curious about me. He also kept looking past me which tipped me off that bear #10 was around the corner - that one took off as soon as he saw me. Met another hiker daytripping to Ben just below O'neill pass. I considered going up Duckabush arm to see the lake again, but decided to check out the other side. Spent too long lingering here, taking photos and trying to discern whether the OMCG route to Duckabush's main summit would be doable, but I don't think I had a view of the correct ridge from where I was. Has anyone tried to get up there? Surprisingly there is only one ascent reported on peakbagger.
on route again
on route again
bear #8
bear #8
looking back, en route to o'neill pass
looking back, en route to o'neill pass
duckabush
duckabush
duckabush
duckabush
anderson zoom
anderson zoom
steel
steel
After lunch I headed down the O'neill pass trail. Bear #12 was grazing in the meadow north of the pass. At Marmot lake I met a few hikers, one of which said I was the third person that day who was coming or going from Nine Stream Basin, and that she had seen the recent report on here mentioning it. eek.gif nwhikers effect? yikes.
bear #12
bear #12
oneill pass trail
oneill pass trail
duckbush outlet falls
duckbush outlet falls
I continued onward toward the Duckabush... and kept going for about 10 minutes past the stream where I had intended to leave the trail. Oops. I considered whether this was a sign from the universe that I should abandon my plan and just keep hiking to First Divide, but decided to push onward (er, backward). I had admired the basin below Steel on my previous trip out here and really wanted to see it, so I figured that I could at least look at the route from the river and give it a try if the bushwhacking wasn't too gnarly. It turned out to look pretty open, so I headed across the river. On the first step, I slipped and fell in. Again, I wondered if the universe was trying to tell me something. If so, I ignored it. Miraculously, the new rx100 stayed dry even though it was in the hipbelt pocket that was submerged. I gained about 400 feet following the path of least resistance up a ridge south of two streams. I tried to cut north to cross the more southerly stream, but it was in a deep gorge. However next to the gorge I found a convenient shallow, mossy gully leading uphill so I followed it. Though initially brushy, this gully led to a game trail, and then a full-fledged bootpath which took me across the stream and all the way up to my destination! Where I promptly spooked bear #13 who ran away downhill. The "amphitheater" below Mts Steel and Duckabush is a vast meadow that is intermittently rocky and swampy with basically no sign of human visitation (unsurprisingly), and great views up to Mt Steel and across the Duckabush.
mossy gully to trail
mossy gully to trail
crossing the stream (thanks trail)
crossing the stream (thanks trail)
trail!
trail!
almost to the the "amphitheater"
almost to the the "amphitheater"
amphitheater
amphitheater
across the duck to lacrosse basin
across the duck to lacrosse basin
I stopped to fill up on water for my summit camp and then kept climbing. Saw bear #14 ahead and followed his route for a few hundred feet, then lost him. The slopes were straightforward, just steep and had some slippery vegetation at first. Higher up, the terrain changed to steep scree which I followed to a saddle. It was about 5:30 at this point and while I had been climbing, clouds had moved back in so visibility was decreasing. The only "easy slope" I could see was the obvious one directly in front of me, so I followed it. After another couple hundred feet the slope steepened and I found myself in a rotten, rocky chute filled with loose crappy rock.
went up the green slope @ center, came down on the left (better)
went up the green slope @ center, came down on the left (better)
looking back down
looking back down
looks almost friendly from here...
looks almost friendly from here...
looking back
looking back
hart lake
hart lake
keep this spot in mind for later...
keep this spot in mind for later...
Things began to get a bit terrifying here. Nothing I touched or stepped on was solid and I could only see for about 20 yards. I scrambled around searching for holds and zig-zagged up to another higher chute. I considered turning around a couple times but the prospect of descending the crap I had climbed was even less appealing than continuing. Near the top of the second chute I found downsloping slabs with minimal holds. I was able to get myself to a relatively level spot where I could look around the edge of the chute and saw...not much. According to GPS I was <50 vertical feet from the summit but I couldn't see where it was, or any way to get off the high point of the ridge I was on, which was ~15 feet above me. Below the high point, I saw what appeared to be a knife-edge ridge running north and it did not look very friendly. If I had seen any indication of a reasonable path forward, I *might* have been able to climb that last 15 feet, but seeing nothing, losing daylight, and with rain potentially impending, I called it. I slowly descended back to the saddle, moderately heartbroken but overwhelmingly relieved to get off that pile of sh##ty rock. Consolation prize was a really sweet campsite on a shelf with some tarns. I finished dinner and made it into the tent just as sprinkles began at 8pm on the dot.
oof
oof
Wednesday 9/14 Bears: 2 Visibility was better on Wed morning so I spent a little time taking photos of where I had been on Tues and looking around for other potentially "easy slopes" that could get me to Steel's summit.
pretty sweet spot
pretty sweet spot
almost sunrise color
almost sunrise color
steel west slopes
steel west slopes
ascent ridge; drops off left to a snowfield with a huge moat
ascent ridge; drops off left to a snowfield with a huge moat
photo does not convey the misery
photo does not convey the misery
steel west slopes
steel west slopes
steel west slopes
steel west slopes
steel west slopes
steel west slopes
Didn't see anything promising so tucked tail and began the long descent and hike out. Very frustrating! But I was still so happy to be back on solid ground, and that kept me going for most of the day. I took a more efficient route down to the amphitheater and had no trouble finding the path below it, so I was back to the trail in under 2 hours. Then it was just a long slog down the duck, up to first divide and then out to Staircase. There are numerous blowdowns between upper duck and first divide which were annoying, but passable. Saw bear #15 grazing in the meadows at Home Sweet Home and bear #16 on a slope across from the divide. Lots of beautiful huge trees to look at along both rivers. Made it back to Staircase before 6 pm which gave me ample time to get back to Three Magnets in Olympia for post hike refreshments!
duck
duck
awesome trees along the upper duck
awesome trees along the upper duck
bear #16
bear #16
eight stream
eight stream
lovely forest
lovely forest
now THAT is trail maintenance
now THAT is trail maintenance
looking upstream from the bridge above big log
looking upstream from the bridge above big log
fried chicken blt sliders, garlic fries, pay to play pale ale
fried chicken blt sliders, garlic fries, pay to play pale ale
In spite of the route fail, this was a pretty fun adventure! I'm glad to have picked up some of Julia's trail-sniffing skills which were super helpful, and I'm looking forward to checking out the west side route on Steel from the summit when I eventually make it up there... from First Divide clown.gif Totals: 73 hours ~35 miles ~11k gain 16 bear sightings

Eric Gilbertson, williswall, Midnight Slogger, Brushbuffalo, RodF, DWB27, Bootpathguy, bbqiguana, Nancyann, Pyrites, Gimpilator, geyer, chiwakum, kite, neek, fffej50, half fast, HitTheTrail, John Mac, Prosit, RAW-dad, IanB, raising3hikers, contour5, Hesman, RichP, meck, reststep  silence
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reststep
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reststep
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PostSat Sep 17, 2022 4:52 pm 
Great report and pictures. Thanks for sharing. That is interesting about finding an easier route to Nine Stream Basin. If I go there I hope I can find it.

"The mountains are calling and I must go." - John Muir

rubywrangler
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RAW-dad
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PostSat Sep 17, 2022 11:24 pm 
Impressive bear count, interesting route, and great narrative/photos! up.gif up.gif up.gif Some years ago, I climbed Steel from FD and remember looking west thinking how nice it would be to descend into the amphitheater and take a "short cut" to Marmot Lake. Seemed kinda gnarling looking down where you were!

rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostSun Sep 18, 2022 11:14 am 
reststep, feel free to PM me if you decide to go to nine stream basin - I have some more waypoints I can share.

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Gimpilator
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PostMon Sep 19, 2022 3:38 pm 
You saw 16 bears in one trip! eek.gif My annual average is 2, and I think the record in a year is 8.

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Stefan
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PostMon Sep 19, 2022 4:07 pm 
rubywrangler wrote:
I hiked upriver past the Eight stream bridge and left the trail heading southeast. I screwed up at first (too far south, not enough east) and had trouble finding a way through cliffs about 200' above the trail. Eventually I got where I needed to be and climbed a steep mossy slope at the nose of the ridge.
I am trying to follow you. Do you mean NORTHWEST or SOUTHWEST where you said "southeast" ???? Because if you went southeast from the North Fork Skokomish river, wouldn't you end up in the North Fork Skokomish river from the trail heading towards Mount Henderson and Mount Gladys area?

Art is an adventure.
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Stefan
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PostMon Sep 19, 2022 4:25 pm 
rubywrangler wrote:
I considered going up Duckabush arm to see the lake again, but decided to check out the other side. Spent too long lingering here, taking photos and trying to discern whether the OMCG route to Duckabush's main summit would be doable, but I don't think I had a view of the correct ridge from where I was. Has anyone tried to get up there?
Yes, I know of two different parties who have been up Mt. Duckabush....I can't seem to figure out if they believe the east or west peak of Mt. Duckabush is higher.

Art is an adventure.
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rubywrangler
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PostMon Sep 19, 2022 4:41 pm 
Stefan wrote:
Do you mean NORTHWEST or SOUTHWEST where you said "southeast" ????
southwest! thanks for catching that. fixed it. map ETA: map was hand-drawn prior to the trip and doesn't reflect my actual route

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PostMon Sep 19, 2022 10:56 pm 
From the map and route description it sounds like you were more successful at staying on the ridge line than we were a couple weeks back. It sounds like a better way to go, thanks for sharing!

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Tomlike
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PostTue Sep 20, 2022 7:49 am 
rubywrangler wrote:
And while I know the OMCG has a reputation for sandbagging... the route is rated Class 1... I mean really, how hard could it be??
the climber's guide is great for starting emergency fires clown.gif I enjoyed this report! I've camped at Lake Ben (after startling a herd of elk) and have also bivied on top of Mt Steel - fabulous corner of the park. Impressive bear count too! We saw 10 + 2 cubs last week while thrashing around the NF Soleduck/Boulder Peak area

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Stefan
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PostTue Sep 20, 2022 10:39 am 
the map is super helpful in understanding. thanks!

Art is an adventure.
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Brushbuffalo
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PostTue Sep 20, 2022 4:47 pm 
Rubywrangler, that was a fabulous report, but yours always are...detailed, lightly humorous, great pictures. I have only seen 16 bears in about the past 5 years total. What fortune you had! ( I also talk to bears, asking for their permission to come forward. They usually ignore me too. We need to learn better bear language). Climbing Mt. Steel when in Boy Scouts is what got me into climbing back in 1963. Mom directed me to the Tacoma Mountaineers climbing course before I went and got into trouble of the mountain sort. Worked so far!

Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still

silence
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rubywrangler
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PostTue Sep 20, 2022 7:01 pm 
Thanks Doug! And glad to know I'm not the only aspiring bear-whisperer among us smile.gif

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silence
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PostWed Sep 21, 2022 8:52 am 
I just read your trail report a 2nd time because it's so great. I really admire your independence and determination, not just on this trip, but on all you do. Plus, your photos, descriptions and observations are not only informational, but also inspirational. Keep it up girl and stay safe. BTW, we're also bear whisperers. It's worked so far after many encounters over the years.

PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33792231@N00/sets FILMMAKING: http://www.crestpictures.com/ Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb. Bob Dylan

IanB, RodF  rubywrangler
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PostSun Sep 25, 2022 6:22 pm 
+1 to Silence's comments

Off trail rambler

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