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Trip Report    

Mount Olympus/Blue Glacier

We did this as a four day climb, Friday-Monday, July 11-14, 2014. The original plan was to camp at Lewis Meadows nights 1 and 3 and Glacier Meadows night 2, but the extremely long summit day and having to move camp did not seem appealing so we arrived at the Hoh Visitor Center Friday at 9am when it opened and changed the third night to Glacier Meadows as well. It turns out Lewis Meadows is outside the quota zone so we'd have the option to go there the third night after all, but we were happy to return to Glacier Meadows on summit day. The Hoh Visitor Center can be used to pick up and/or change your permit during the summer season. Surprisingly on a beautiful if very warm summer weekend we had almost no company at Glacier Meadows either night.

The hike into Lewis Meadows was quite hot and muggy. We got a good camp site next to the river with a breeze. Mosquitos were a problem every day but they weren't overly aggressive. If you camp at Lewis Meadows get water from the creek a half mile or so before the camp since the Hoh River water has a lot of silt in it and the next closest creek is maybe a half mile after the camp.

The rangers had just put in a trail along the avalanche slope that is right before Glacier Meadows, perhaps a week before our climb. Before you had to use a rope ladder to descend the slope. The ladder was still there but the trail was very solid and we were happy to use it.

We had six people and three tents and were worried about getting a site that would fit us all at Glacier Meadows, but luckily the biggest and nicest non-group site (#17, near the ranger cabin) was open. There were a couple other possibilities that would have just barely fit us--most of the sites are small. We got in early the second day and a couple of us checked out both the Terminal Moraine and Lateral Moraine trails. Everyone was using the latter this time of year and we did as well. We got some beta from climbers just returning that afternoon, the most interesting being that there were sources of running water on the way up to Snow Dome, and we stopped both going up and down to get water. Summit day was also hot and three liters per climber was not enough.

Saturday we got started at 4am, making it up to the Lateral Moraine by 4:45am just when it was getting light. We stopped for almost a half hour to take pictures of the stunning view as the lighting changed. The descent down to the glacier is unpleasant but not too bad if you stick to the established "trail". Note that it starts a little bit before the large boulder with the metal pole sticking out of it.

On the flat lower glacier there is a mix of snow and ice with many narrow crevasses but the gaps are clear and everything seemed very solid. We had no real crevasse issues on the climb but there was one section behind the Five Fingers in which we had to weave between a couple close crevasses. We did protect the descent from the false summit on the way down with two pickets since there was a moat in the fall line close to the route, and probably should have protected the ascent there as well.

We arrived at the base of the summit block at about 10:40am. After some investigation we decided to try the route just west of the north face--this is option 2 of the climb description. The description is excellent except the climb from the belay ledge to the rap station is only 25 or 30 feet. There are two short class 5 sections and the rest is class 3/4. I protected the first section with a 0.75 cam and a slung chockstone, and the second section with a 0.5 cam. Double runners for all three. Short but very fun climbing--this is an excellent choice. I led on our twin 30m 8mm glacier ropes, and we used foot prusiks tied together around a block as the belay anchor. The second prusiked up the ropes and cleaned gear, and then we had the other four tie into either the middle or end of one of the ropes and were belayed up one by one, which turned out to be quite efficient.

While we were climbing this route someone else free soloed up and down the 5.4 north face. He had started at 9am and would finish at 3:30pm and then hike out that day. We saw another pair of climbers in the distance but surprisingly never ran into them, and four people walking unroped on the lower glacier with heavy packs as we headed out. Otherwise we had the mountain to ourselves.

We rappelled down the north face, getting all down by about 1:30pm. We were back at camp by 5:50pm for a 13:50 day. To beat the heat we decided to leave camp at 7am Monday morning, and made it down to the cars just after 3pm so just over 8 hours, and indeed the hike out didn't get too hot until just the very end.

All in all a wonderful four days with a terrific group. Tremendous variety and scenery, this climb is really a unique experience.

 

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