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Trip Report    

Mount Olympus/Blue Glacier

July 13-16
We headed in to Olympus Guard Station the first night. Quite buggy. One of the group campsites is much nicer than the other--go for the one in the forest rather than the meadow if you can. One of our party was having leg pain and weakness due to sciatica and had to turn around at this point. The rangers and some other hikers helped her get out safely. The next day, we passed Glacier Meadows and continued on across the foot of the Blue Glacier looking for campsites that had been recommended to us at the "Caltech Moraine". We never found them, but camped 2/3 up to Snow Dome on a lovely flat snow col. Spectacular views and no bugs, although it made for a long day. There is running water up to halfway up Snow Dome but we didn't see any after that. We had a leisurely start on summit day, proceeding up Snow Dome and through Crystal Pass to traverse behind and up to the false summit, then scrambled down (quite icy here--crampons definitely required). The steep snow ramp presented no difficulties given the perfect snow conditions and we proceeded to examine our options on the summit block. As a solo climber navigated the 4th class scramble on the front (east) face, we opted for the northwest face, where we climbed the short (20-30') low 5th class vertical pitch directly up to the rappel anchor (but not the 5.4 north face). It was relatively easy to step across the moat from the snow to the rock and then scramble up to an obvious belay ledge where we started the climb. I led on double 30m glacier ropes. Gear was the same as the previous post, although I also slung an additional flake or two and placed two small nuts. I then attached one rope to the rappel anchor for the other climbers to ascend using their prussiks to attach to the rope. This worked quite well to speed up the ascent rather than belaying each climber. We used a double rope rappel to descend to the snow (having to climb up and out of the moat) then descended to Elk Lake. A wonderful camp with few bugs and an awesome swim in the warm but weedy and muddy lake. Then a long slog out to the cars.
Take home notes:
Going to the high camp worked great and resulted in a much more spectacular experience than camping at Glacier Meadows.
The northwest face has decent rock and is a fun alternative to the 4th class scramble on the east face recommended by the Park Service (if you're willing to carry in a light rack).
Come for the peakbagging. Stay for the awesome old-growth forest--one of the supreme wilderness climbs in the world.

 

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