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About Us > Adventures > Mt Olympus 2002

Mt Olympus 7/19-22/02

One of our most memorable climbs this past summer – and over the past 10 years -- involves the beautiful, long approach along the Hoh River Valley to Blue Glacier and up the rocky pyramid to the summit of Olympus. We planned for a 4-day Mountaineers climb, and 11 of us successfully reached the summit on Sunday, July 21. Mike Strauss, Rick Anderson, Laura Nugent, Doug Schurman, and Courtenay Schurman lead 6 Basic grads and students (Anna Hundt, Jack Mclaughlin, Nancy Egaas, Deborah Greenleaf, Josh Piper, and Lori Jones) up the mountain and along the 22 mile approach and descent route.

We were very fortunate to have dry, clear weather (were we REALLY in a “rain forest”??) and the bugs were only bad between 4-6 p.m. Luckily, we camped near streams all three nights, away from the meadows where the bugs were the worst, and did most of our hiking early in the mornings before the biting flies and mosquitoes could wake up. If you’ve never been to the rain forest, we highly recommend it. Cool and comfortable even during one of the hottest weekends in Seattle.

We hiked in to our reserved group camping spot at Lewis Meadows at 10.5 miles, but there are camping spots all along the way, well marked with mile markers so that you can accurately estimate your miles-per-hour progress. Another very comfortable-looking camping spot (for perhaps 2-3 tents) is at mile marker 12.4 before the climbing begins in earnest (up until then, you only gain about 1200’ in 12 miles.) At 13.1 we crossed a very high foot bridge overlooking the rushing Hoh hundreds of feet below – on the way in I made a mental note that I wanted to stop and get some pictures as we came back down that way. In the rain forest, trees grow on trees; moss drapes cedars that are as thick as cars, and wildlife is plentiful – we even saw several deer as well as a mother black bear and two cubs on two separate days!

On day 2, the plan was to leave camp in the morning around 7 a.m. and hike the remaining 7 miles to “base camp” at Glacier Meadows, then stroll up to the moraine (another 1-2 miles away) to scout out the route. Jack, Rick, Laura, Doug, Courtenay and Mike took some water bottles, binoculars and the map and compass with us on the jaunt to make sure we knew where to exit the moraine onto the glacier below, since we’d be coming up that way in the dark the next day. The views from the moraine were absolutely spectacular, and we were able to see several parties on the route including a solo snowboarder ascending, and 2 16-year-olds and their French-speaking guide just coming up the moraine after their climb to the summit.

Many hikers and backpackers from around the world hike in as far as the moraine. Those who prefer to get technical can bring along gear for an added day of climbing. Our plan was to climb to the summit on day 3 and then break camp and return to Lewis Meadows (a 17-mile day) to make the fourth day an easy, flat 10.5 miles back to the cars. The mood at camp was jovial; we’d talked with climbers who said the route was in great condition; Rick had taken a plane ride with a friend, Brad Gibson, the weekend before and had bird’s-eye pictures with him to help us with route finding; and the rangers assured us the weather forecast was for continued clear, glorious weather. Nothing was going to stop us now!

On summit day (Sunday, July 21) we started out from camp at 2 a.m., some of us in short sleeved shirts! Nary a breeze, all the stars were out, and we were confident the weather would not be a factor. We had no difficulty finding the entry to the glacier and by 3 a.m. were heading out over the Blue, a gentle path leading across ice toward the Snow Dome, where the climbing began in earnest. By the time we were halfway up Snow Dome, the sun was just starting to come up, and as we topped the Dome and could see the remaining approach to the true and false summits, the views were spectacular and the red sun poking up over the Cascades shed its light over the entire mountain, bathing it in cotton-candy pink. The white sky turned to blue as the sun climbed higher, and we made our way along the path through several large crevasses and bergschrunds until we finally were at the false summit, peering across at the summit pyramid, waiting for climbers.

First, however, we had to descend some nasty loose scree (in crampons, no less) and then scamper up a rather steep snow slope, and most of our group was at the base of the summit pyramid by about 8 a.m. Mike led out, followed by Josh, then Rick led out with a hand line attached to set up for anyone wanting assurance on the scramble route. Doug followed, and belayed most of the students up to the anchor and beyond to the summit. The summit itself can probably hold 6-8 people (in a tight squeeze) but we preferred to have only one person up there at a time, so we could keep everyone safely on belay. To get to the summit itself you have to gingerly pick through loose scree and talus, ever aware of the other climbers coming up behind you and of your belayer down below. Nasty stuff. But the view is fantastic. From 8-10:30, we worked to get everyone to the top of the summit pyramid and safely back down, and then it was a very quick descent (primarily plunge stepping, short standing glissades) back to the moraine and we retuned to camp by 1 p.m. After a brief lunch, foot soak in the icy cold river, and time to break down camp, the group made their way back to Lewis Meadows by 6:30 p.m.

The 7 miles out from base camp to Lewis Meadows felt like some of the toughest – full backpack, after a long morning of climbing, on feet that have already covered more than 30 miles – but better to hurt on day 3 and recover in time to feel great on day 4, than to end the climb with 17 miles of hiking on feet that hurt with every step (in our opinion!) Rick, Laura, Doug and I headed out on Day 4 at 7 a.m. and were back to the cars by 11:30 for fresh fruit and stretches, along with a change into clean clothes and time to soak our feet in ice cold water! Refreshing! A fantastic climb under the right conditions; we were fortunate to succeed on our very first try.

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Josh demonstrates the wrong way to carry gear for a 44 mile trip: loose and outside of backpack!

Hike in along the Hoh River Trail.

Anna and Jack pause under an enormous tree.

Lush rain forest along the Hoh River; the first 12.4 miles are relatively flat (gain about 1200' total).

Tree fallen across the river.

Laurie and Mike take a water and snack break.

Deborah rests her feet beside the river.

Doug and Josh kick back for a break.

Bibler camp site on sandy river bank

Dinner at camp 1.

Hoh River, Day 2

Elk Lake shelter at about 2800' elevation

Laura relaxes on a stone throne at camp 2

Court sits on Doug's lap at camp 2

Doug on Ridgerest to pad stone throne.

Mike at Glacier Meadows, 2nd afternoon to scout route for summit day

Blue Glacier from moraine at about 5000'.

View of climbing route across Blue Glacier

View west toward Snow Dome, the flat-looking dome in center

Laura studies route from moraine

Mike figures out which of the 5 summits is the actual summit

Rick, Mike and Court pull out Jack's binoculars to see climbers descending from summit

Climbing Route up Blue Glacier

Tree scarred by bear claws earlier in the afternoon

Sunrise day 3 (summit day)

Puget Sound with the sun coming up

Snow Dome headed due south

Water break on the Snow Dome with false summits in the background

Alpen glow as the sun starts above the horizon

Sunrise Day 3

Rainier to the southeast

Our favorite: cotton candy pink Olympus summit on our approach

Icefall at sunrise

Fale summit and crevasse on a gorgeous, still, clear morning

Anna reaches rock


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