Ascent of Mount Olympus on 2016-09-04

Climber: Connor McEntee

Date:Sunday, September 4, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Olympus
    Elevation:7969 ft / 2428 m

Ascent Trip Report

We climbed Olympus over Labor Day weekend and encountered late season conditions. I suspect that we may be the last to summit for the year. We saw no other parties make summit bids, and the weather deteriorated as we were leaving and rain continued for weeks after.

Anyway, the forecast was marginal with rain supposed to occur every day. We tentatively planned on going car-to-car in two days, but included a tentative third day to be used if needed. (It was needed.) I spent the night before in my car at the Hoh River Trailhead. It was raining when I arrived and rained through the night.

My partners showed up the next morning, and we took off for glacier meadows. The approach is flat and easy gaining gradually until the last few miles where it climbs steadily to Glacier Meadows. The trail is still wiped out by a landslide just before the campsites at the meadows, but ropes and a ladder are in place to help with that section. It rained lightly for the last hour of the approach, so we were glad to arrive. We reached the meadows by mid afternoon and encountered several parties there. We found a spot, took care of the usual camp business and managed to eat dinner and get in our tents right before it started to pour. The waterproofing on my old tent is failing, but it managed to keep us mostly dry through the night.

We woke up early the next morning and left around 5. We quickly discovered that the rangers had already packed out for the season as we passed their site. The use trail up to the moraine is well established and the descent to the Blue Glacier is straight-forward albeit loose. We roped up on the glacier, which was completely free of snow. There are enormous crevasses dropping at least 40 feet into pools of water, and the traverse across the glacier tends to go with the creases rather than bisect them. (Be aware early season people who choose to not rope up). We got off the glacier on the back side of the pinnacle and ascended the rocks to the glacier below the snow dome. (Beyond here there was no more running water.) There were also big open crevasses on the glacier going up the gradual slope to the snow dome, but they were not hard to navigate around. Conditions were icy in places, which would require care when descending. From the snow dome the traverse to Crystal Pass was very clear, and we had a clear boot path to follow.

Upon going through the pass, the route become more complicated. There was still a boot path, but it traversed the glacier and went up the middle peak. The GPS tracks showing the standard route toward the false summit and then the west peak were no good. There is an enormous bergshrund (60+ feet) that that those tracks crossed over, and we weren’t interested in going near it. We instead navigated the middle of the glacier jumping over the exposed crevasses or winding in between them. It was not difficult, but added distance and took longer. We finally reached a flat area on the glacier due south of the false peak and were puzzled on what the proper route was from there. I knew that parties that go over the false summit often end up rappelling down the far side, we wanted to avoid that and the time involved. I got off the glacier and found a ledge system with mild exposure that traversed around the south side of the false summit and put us out in the saddle between the true and false summits. The others followed me. I can only assume that that is a standard route.

We ascended the final glacier to the moat due north of the summit, dropped our glacier gear, and pulled out our climbing gear. The party member who was going to lead the pitch to the summit had read trip reports indicating that we should scramble up to a clear belay ledge on the NW side and climb from there. We scrambled over what was probably low class 5 in retrospect to a very nice belay ledge and proceeded to climb up using a 40m rope, a couple cams, and nuts. There was fresh snow on all the rocks, which made it more difficult for the lead climber. I was the last to ascend and upon reaching the top we concluded that the route we took is probably Becky Class 4. I would have been comfortable climbing the pitch without pro, but it’s a good idea especially when you’re tired from going so far. Since we could see that the weather was deteriorating quickly, we spent just a few minutes on the summit and quickly repelled down the standard 5.4 route. Our rope was not long enough to make it to the glacier in one rappel, so we had to use an intermediate station, which could barely fit three people. The descent down was uneventful but tiring. The storm moved in and we had low visibility for stretches. The ascent back up the lateral moraine is terrible. We ran into several mountain goats cruising around the top of the moraine. We came back to find Glacier Meadows empty. None of use were interested in packing up and hoofing it 17 more miles, so we crashed there another night.

We woke up the next morning and made it all the way out to the car racing the afternoon rain. My boots were not broken in as well as I had hoped and my feet were bloodied by the time I got to the car.

TLDR: The approach is not strenuous, but the rainforest is wet. I would take approach shoes and carry boots, even though I’m generally reluctant to do so and often opt for lightweight boots the whole way. Late season adds route finding complications and makes the route longer, because there are lots of crevasses to negotiate. It is also possible to encounter new snow complicating the summit block and ledges. I would not use a rope shorter than 40m.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
View of the false peak from the summit. The ledge we took from the glacier around the false peak to the notch is clearly visible in the bottom center of the photo (2016-09-04). Photo by Connor McEntee.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Grade/Class:YDS 4/5.4
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Weather:Raining, Cool, Breezy, Overcast
Ascent Statistics
    Route:Crystal Pass
    Start Trailhead:Hoh River Trailhead  
Descent Statistics
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Connor McEntee
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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