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Ascent of Mount Olympus on 2018-07-17

Climber: Mark Smith

Others in Party:Austin D. Smith -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Glenn Campbell
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Olympus
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:7969 ft / 2428 m

Ascent Trip Report

We headed for Mount Olympus because of its iconic status and to complete a list. Along the way we found a surprisingly icy and spectacular alpine world at less than 8,000 feet, accessed by an amazing old-growth forest. We planned our trip for mid-July, hoping to be late enough in the season to find stable weather but early enough to catch a snow bridge to Crystal Pass. We left Portland with our map app pointed to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. A better choice would have been “Quinault WIC” (or “Pacific Ranger District Quinault Office”) which is two miles off the highway and well before reaching the park entrance. Although we had a reservation in hand and had prepaid the unreasonably large fee of $96 for a party of three, actually obtaining the permit was 45 minute delay. The sole ranger running the desk seemed in no hurry to move the line along. Had we arrived 30 minutes later, the delay would have been 90 minutes, or so we were told by someone in line behind us who we met later on the trail. Evidently an hour’s delay here is common. The permit fee is calculated by night, and we should have only purchased three nights.

We hoped to reach Lewis Meadow, but the permit delay took out that opportunity. As sunset neared we reached the Guard Station in 3 hours, 45 minutes. The trail passes through miles of spectacular old-growth forest dominated by cedars of 3 to 6 feet in diameter, with a number of larger specimens. The trail has little overall elevation gain, minimal up-and-downs, and a generally flat surface apart from a network of tree roots. Thankfully the trail was mostly shaded, since an unusually strong heat wave pushed the temp within the forest into the 80’s. Seattle’s high hit a record-tying 92 degrees for the day!

On Day 2, at the 12.4 mile mark, the trail starts a significant incline, gaining some 3,000’ over the next 5 miles. After hours of hiking in hot weather we landed at Glacier Meadow and found one of many nice campsites.

We left camp on Day 3 at 1:20 AM. After about a mile and a half we reached the end of the lateral moraine. A climbers trail pointed downward but soon became too obscure to follow by headlamp. We found ourselves on very steep hardpack dirt with some embedded rocks serving as marginal handholds. Safely descending to the Blue Glacier proved to be crux of the climb.

With no moon to guide us we crossed the Blue Glacier too low down where the glacier is a sheet of ice crisscrossed with small crevasses flowing with water. After a slow and tedious crossing, we reached easy climbing as we traversed the base of the snow dome, surmounted it, and traversed back toward Crystal Pass. The left-side snow bridge had recently collapsed, but a good bridge on the right side gave us access to the pass, although we had to gain and drop about 50 vertical feet in order to use the right-side bridge.

From here the elevation gain was soon over. We followed the boot path until the snow gave out just shy of a saddle on the spire next to the summit. After scrambling around the back of the spire we descended to the base of the actual summit block. It may be that the easiest ascent would have been to climb somewhat steep snow on summit block’s shoulder, drop into its mote, and following the mote back the other direction (left) to reach easy scrambling to the summit. However, we approached the spire head-on. After some 3rd class and a short 4th class section we encountered a vertical rock step that, in my opinion, was low-level rock climbing. Glenn soloed this section and belayed the rest of us up. In a few moments we were atop the Olympic Range, 9 hours and 40 minutes after leaving camp.

From perhaps 15 feet below the summit we spied an obvious rappel station from a slung block. On a single, 60m rope we reached the snow with a few feet of rope to spare. Including the rappel, we descended to camp in less than five hours, and the car was reached 73 hours from our departure.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:8889 ft / 2708 m
    Extra Gain:750 ft / 228 m
    Distance:45 mi / 72.4 km
    Trailhead:580 ft / 176 m
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Tent Camp
    Weather:clear, warm
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:1 Days 17 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:1 Days 6 Hours 43 Minutes



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