Ascent of Mount Olympus on 2016-08-02

Climber: Hal Watrous

Date:Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Olympus
    Elevation:7969 ft / 2428 m

Ascent Trip Report

Successfully summited with party of 9 Seattle Mountaineers team. Did a 4 day trip July 30 to Wednesday nite and clocked probably 47 miles. This was a difficult trip for an above average strength, and experienced group. We did a 14 hour summit day with low visibility. Here are some key pieces of info that we learned on this trip that will hopefully help the reader.

1)Permits at Elk Lake and Glacier Meadows are limited, yet when we were in both places, there were always unused spots open to camp. With our large party, we had to camp at Elk Lake end of Day 1. Move up to Glacier Meadows for Day 2 and rest and prepare. Packup and leave camping gear there and depart 4am on Day 3 returning to a reserved campsite at Elk Lake(none available that night at Glacier Meadows.(i.e. we had to pick up our gear on the way down to Elk Lake. Depart early Day 4 for the 15/5 mile hike out done in about 7 hours. there are bear wires at both locations.
2) We never encountered a ranger on trip, and there are no "fixed" rangers on this route. A retired ranger explained that they have moved to a "roving" ranger system. Still we wanted to be legal.
3) We originally could only reserve a backcountry permit to camp adjacent to the Blue Glacier. We were all set to haul bear cannisters and cancelled that when Olympic NP reservation office in Port Angeles advised the day before thatwe could get into the established camps. We suspect but were never sure whether this was due to cancellations of reservations. Also, The rule is they will require a bear canister if not camping at an established camp site with bear wire. We were very relieved not to have to haul up to the glacier,. Also, It is a nasty descent with heavy pack dropping down from the lateral moraine to a campsite. When we went through here on our approach and descent, we found how nasty it would be to haul all your gear up there. The option of taking the summer route below was not considered feasible either.
4) Ascent Route: we found navigation difficulties beyond Crystal Pass when on the west side behind the False summit, we came to a low ridge of rock perpendicular to the traverse route We had heard some parties made the mistake of going over the false summit only to find the descent off the false summit too exposed, and they had to settle for summiting the false summit. Importantly, the route turns to rock so proceed over the short ridge to a steep class 3 boot path traversing in a northwesterly direction behind the false summit. In low visability it was hard to spot. We left crampons on for ascent reaching the snowfield on other side in about 300 yards?. Once there, you are right below the summit block and just ascend the steep snow without roping up worked for us. It was steep but not hard and there were no crevases immediately below, so doing it unroped was safe. Again, the path is steep in places but doable. Just keep at a bearing toward the summit block and consider that there really only the one way on that westside we found to reach the summit block. Low visability contributed to our difficulties.
5) Summit Block: we had someone lay pro to the multiple slings and ring at top, throw down a hand line, and we each individually prusiked up the rope. The top is not large but will accommodate maybe 20 people if hard pressed. We rapped off the top down the same route we came up. The views opened up a few times which was nice !
6) Water on Route: we packed in all our water, yet found a spot with open runoff halfway up to the Snow Dome. So, if we had known it was there we wouldn't have packed in the 3-4 liters for the long ascent day. The water should be easy to find as you will hear it as you go up and it was reachable to us. We took a standard ascent route getting up to the Snow Dome as there is really only a few ways to navigate throught the rock outcroppings. If returning this year, I would expect to find water somewhere below the Snow Dome.
7) Trail between Elk ad Glacier Meadows: there is a very large slide that to out a major part of trail. Park has installed a wooden ladder and a climbing rope. Its a pain with heavy pack but manageable. coming back to the trail on the way up to Glacier Meadows past this slide is steep. I triggered a major rock just feet above one of other party members which broke his pole and could have broken a leg, but he barely escaped with a scraped foot. So the rock is real loose and nasty here. Watch out for the big ones !
8) Summer traffic to the visitors Center and trailhead is overwhelming parking there, and on a Wednesday visitors were lined up all along the access roads ! Might be a problem finding a place to park for 3-4 days. We arrived early Sunday morning and had no problem. On Wednesday, a lot of day trippers had arrived.
9) goats were hanging around at Glacier Meadows so watch where you pee !

For me, this was #31 of the Ultra Prominence 57. Having scrambled and climbed for 35 years, and in good condition, and having hiked the PCT in one year in 2007, I found this trip to be the most strenuous of any of them. There are parties doing the trip in 3 days, which means they probably are taking a week off to recover from their ordeal. We did cache some gear and food at Elk Lake for our return out, but pack weights with climbing gear and all still exceeded 38 lbs on the approach to camp. While the trail is excellent, 15-17 miles each way on approach and descent from base camp, with elevation gain is tough. Your feet take a lot of punishment. FYI, we used 8.3 mm glacier ropes which saved considerable weight. I felt secure.

All in all I'm glad this one is done !!
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