Ascent of Mount Olympus on 2014-08-03

Climber: James Barlow

Others in Party:Samuel Hahn
Date:Sunday, August 3, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Olympus
    Elevation:7969 ft / 2428 m

Ascent Trip Report

Tough peak.

Our day began just after 4am at my apartment in Seattle. We caught the 5:35 ferry from Edmonds to Kingston and were at the Port Angeles Ranger Station just before they opened so that we could acquire our permit. After getting that out of the way, we headed to the Hoh River trailhead to begin our long trek to Glacier Meadows. My buddy Dave had just finished Olympus car-to-car in 20 hours - pretty crazy (His buddy's TR). He shared some beta with us via text as we probably passed each other going opposite directions. (#daveschultz) The approach through the Hoh rain forest was long, hot, and dry. 12.3 miles until you hit your first real uphill. Ugh. We opted to put our mountaineering boots in our packs and hike into Glacier Meadows in tennis shoes. Excellent decision in my opinion! We arrived at Glacier Meadows with enough time to pitch camp and eat dinner before dark. Sam asked around for beta on conditions above and all reports were positive with the ranger telling us that there has been a lot of success up top!

Day 2 began early, before sunrise for our initial hike up to the Blue Glacier. The trail from Glacier Meadows to the lateral moraine is in excellent condition. The descent to the glacier is scree, oh boy... We opted not to rope up for the Blue Glacier as it was wide open and the sun was starting to come up. We did use crampons as it was solid blue ice. By the time we arrived at the other side, we were getting into the sun. We packed the crampons up and made our way up the slabs and open terrain to the lower reaches of Snow Dome around 5,900 ft. The terrain was wide open and flat from 6,800 ft to 7,000 ft, where we finally opted to pull the rope out as the number of crevasses increased. I wouldn't say that a rope was 100% necessary, but I think Sam felt better with it. I put him out on the lead as he is lighter and therefore easier to get out of a crevasse and I was also more experienced at setting pickets in T-trenches for crevasse rescue, so it was better to put me last. I carried the pickets and pulleys, which we luckily never touched. We cut through the notch at 7,240 ft to the upper reaches of the Blue Glacier east of the main summit and Five Fingers. There were a few more crevasses that we went around on this side, so the rope was finally necessary for peace of mind. The false summit is a no-fun scree dump, but we had to go over it, though just shy of the top. We made our way up a steep, but unexposed snow slope to the final summit block where we encountered another party descending. They had left camp 2 hours ahead of us and were just pulling their rope from the rappel. Very convenient for both us and them. The group leader shared his beta: The moat is making the 3rd class route tougher, so just do the 5.4. I opted to heed his advice and we set the rope up for me to lead the rock pitch. I'm glad that I brought a few cams and nuts. The climbing was easy and it was nice to be out on the sharp end for this short rock pitch. I used 1 nut and 1 sling around a rock horn until I hit a natural belay platform below the final anchors. I set a quick anchor and Sam cleaned my gear as he followed the route. We then made our way left to the top of the summit block just above the rappel anchors. The summit was hot and sunny. The rocks were hot to sit on. Not exactly normal for the Olympics from what I have seen in other trip reports! We lounged on the summit snapping photos and eating for nearly an hour. We earned it, so we were going to enjoy it. This is Sam's fourth CONUS ultra, and he was loving it!

Our descent was unremarkable except for the fact that I brought a 30 meter rope and you need a 50-60 meter rope to do the full rappel. I ended up lowering Sam from the main anchor as 30 meters is enough to get him to the snow. Then I rapped to my belay station, downclimbed a bit, then slung the rope around a rock horn to rap a bit more, then downclimb a bit more. It was not gracious, but I didn't need to leave anything behind, though I had a few slings that I didn't need for the glacier descent that I was willing to leave behind had I needed to. We glissaded down the steep snow step, made our way over the false summit, and then roped up again on the other side, stowing the rope when we reached 7,000 ft or so. We retraced our steps through the slabs and beautiful alpine vegetation from Snow Dome to the Blue Glacier and again threw crampons on for the traverse of the glacier, opting to skip the rope again. We filled our bottles full of the freshest water in the world on the Blue Glacier and chugged a bit. The climb up to the lateral moraine was not as miserable as we expected and we were soon on our way to camp. I sped up and told Sam that I would meet him in camp as I was looking forward to using the privy and pulling the food bag down from the bear wires for dinner.

The hike out was unremarkable other than the fact that I had a small smile on my face every step I took in my sneakers with my boots in my pack! It was hot and dry, as to be expected in the Hoh rain forest... We discussed at length the idea of bringing a raft to ride the Hoh River for 12 miles on our hike out or using the climbing rope to lash our sleeping pads together... At least we don't have to hike this trail again anytime soon! One day approach, one day doing the summit, and one day hiking out. On both the hike in and the hike out, we ate a number of wild blackberries and salmon berries. Both were excellent and tasty.

Of note, on summit day, we left camp in t-shirts and returned to camp in t-shirts, only adding a thin mid-layer for the Blue Glacier traverse (morning only) the entire day! Also, while we did the entire approach hike with only 1 full liter at a time due to significant amounts of refill locations, we took 3 liters up the summit on the second day. This is unnecessary. I would take 2 at most as you can refill on the slopes below Snow Dome and again on the Blue Glacier (but only in the afternoon, not the morning). There are pit toilets and bear wires at Glacier Meadows. So, don't waste the weight of a bear can! We left ours in the car once we confirmed with the ranger that Glacier Meadows has bear wires. Sam's sleeping bag stuff sack served as our food bag for the 2 nights we were there. Some of the other lower camps have bear wires too, but we are not sure which ones other than Lewis Meadows and the Olympic Ranger Station campsites. This peak throws everything at you: lengthy approach, glacier travel, scrambling, and a rock climb/rappel to/from the summit. Probably one of my proudest accomplishments as a mountaineer (& trip leader) to date in Washington.

GPS notes:
I didn't turn my GPS on until we had descended from the lateral moraine to the Blue Glacier. No need to burn batteries on trail mileage...

Other notes:
Somebody added the "false summit" to peakbagger. Pretty lame in our opinion. We did not walk up the last 20 ft of scree to this non-prominent, non-peak just to log another nothing-bump. We opted to climb the real peak instead. However, I read the reports for this bump and feel pretty bad for the folks who ended up on it in driving rain/snow and couldn't get the main peak. We may have encountered a similar fate had the weather not been so perfect. Good luck next time guys!

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:7796 ft / 2376 m
    Total Elevation Loss:400 ft / 121 m
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:7796 ft / 2376 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 7396 ft / 2254 m; Extra: 400 ft / 121m
    Loss on way in:400 ft / 121 m
    Route:Hoh River/Blue Glacier/5.4 summit block variation
    Start Trailhead:573 ft / 174 m
Descent Statistics
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by James Barlow
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