Mount Cruiser/Southwest Corner

A two pitch, low 5th class, climb with lots of exposure, following a steep snow climb to the ridge. Mount Cruiser is in the southeast corner of the Olympic Mountains and is considered a classic climb of the Olympics by many. Flapjack Lakes is a limited use area so reservations may be a good idea. Times: 5-7 hr hike to camp, 4-5 hr climb to summit.

getting there

Drive US 101 along Hood Canal to Hoodsport. Take the Lake Cushman Road 15 mi to the Staircase Ranger Station (770 ft). 


From the Staircase Ranger Station, hike up the old road 3.8 mi to the road end. Take the Flapjack Lakes Trail 4.1 mi to camp at Flapjack Lakes. Otherwise, bivy sites are available near Gladys Divide.


From Flapjack Lakes, hike 1.5 mi on trail to Gladys Divide. Just before the Divide, ascend southeast up the steep snow couloir to Needle Pass. Crampons and an ice axe are usually desired most of the year. From Needle Pass, turn left and scramble exposed 3rd class to the top of Beta. Take the right-most notch at the summit of Beta and descend one 4th class move and a short gully, then traverse high toward Cruiser until forced to descend a longer gulley that arrives at Cruiser’s base. Rope up and ascend the class 4 gully leading to the giant chockstone. Go left around the chockstone and squeeze through a short tunnel to access a large platform about 200 ft up. Be aware that the tunnel makes communication difficult.

Move the belay across the platform to its end below the south corner of Cruiser. From there, climb the 5.0 face to a belay spot on the ridge crest. There are modern bolts just beyond the rusty pitons. The remaining ridge crest to the summit is easy class 3, but very exposed. Return to the modern bolts to rappel.

Minimal pro can be placed, but minimal pro is needed. Bring nuts or a few cams smaller than 1.5” There are a few rusty quarter-inch bolts on some pitches that should be treated with suspicion.


Downclimb the class 3 pitch, then rappel directly down to the platform 25 meters below. From the platform, two more 30 meter rappels reach the ground.


Seattle to Trailhead 2.5
Trailhead to Camp 5-7 2,700
Camp to Summit 4-5 2,600
Summit to Camp 2-3
Camp to Trailhead 3-4


Standard rock equipment plus crampons, ice ax, and a few small chocks.


Obtain the required permit and pay the overnight fee at the Staircase Ranger Station. Flapjack Lakes is a limited use area so reservations are advisable.  There are a limited number of overnight permits available on a first come basis. For current regulations and possible openings, call Olympic National Park.

The snow in the couloir is steep and often icy. In late season, it may be best to crawl the moat.

The rock on the climb is sound; the exposure on the final two pitches is high.

One could make a shorter (steeper) approach via the Hamma River Road and Mildred Lakes trail. Bivy sites are available at about 6540 ft. The Climber’s Guide to the Olympics says, after reaching notch above Gladys Divide, to traverse east 50 ft, then ascend ridge and scramble north towards Cruiser. Easier terrain is found by ascending up cracks and ledges directly north from notch.

  • Suitable Activities: Climbing
  • Climbing Category: Basic Alpine
  • Seasons: June, July, August, September, October
  • Weather: View weather forecast.
  • Difficulty: Basic Rock Climb, Strenuous 3, Technical 2
  • Length: 20.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 5,300 ft
  • 6,104 ft
  • USGS Mt Skokomish
  • USGS Mt Steel
  • Green Trails Mt Steel No. 167

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