Mount Olympus Hasn’t Fallen / 奧林帕斯山未淪陷

Mount Olympus in hiding
Mount Olympus in hiding

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Mount Olympus didn’t enter my mind until this summer, but it’s quite famous among mountaineers. The mountain is also one of the faraway objectives I’ve been avoiding. Being a classic climb, it’s one of the few on my list that piqued anyone’s interest. Go figure! The pup had to sit out for the first time this season. But I bet he enjoyed having some time off after our recent trip.

The Lowdown on Mount Olympus

Access: Hoh River Trailhead
Round Trip: 43.5 miles
Elevation Range: 600′-7969′
Gear: helmet, ice axe, snow, rock
GPS Track: available

Logistics Overview

July 7-9, 2019

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Day 1 – Sunday, July 7
Hoh River Trail
Night 1 – Glacier Meadows Camp

Day 2 – Monday, July 8
Mount Olympus
Night 2 – Olympus Guard Station

Day 3 – Tuesday, July 9
Exit


Day 1

Hoh River Trail

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Hoh River Trail Approach

It’s been over three years since I went on a Mountaineers trip. Together, the four of us, including two new faces, carpooled to the Hoh River Trailhead. We car camped at the Hoh Rain Forest Campground. Then the next morning we began the 17.5-mile hike through Hoh Rainforest to Glacier Meadow Camp. The distance was comparable to that of Thunder Basin, but with 100 times more people. We met many groups on their way out.

The Hoh River and nearby low ridges comprised the bulk of our views under an overcast sky. When we arrived at the Olympus Guard Station, we were over halfway to camp. Woot! There we helped two ladies take photos before continuing. Soon afterward, we stopped for a break by the Lewis Meadow Camp. I dressed the hot spots on my feet from the approach shoes. We met two men heading out from their Mount Olympus climb.

Guard Station junction
Guard Station junction

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Continuing to Glacier Meadow Camp

So far, the elevation gain over the largely flat terrain was minimal. Not to mention that we’ve only gained 900′ in 13.5 miles! After a short descent to High Hoh Bridge, we began to travel southbound at the Hoh River crossing. Soon, the elevation gain became steady as we moved alongside Glacier Creek. Then when we got to Elk Lake Camp at 2600′, we’ve gained another 1100′. It began to rain just as we got above the lake.

The rest 2.3 miles to Glacier Meadows felt longer than it was. At less than half a mile before the camp was the infamous landslide. It appeared to have been around since 2011. We took turns to descend 60′ using a fixed rope. The ladder worked better on the way up. Overall, we’ve gained 3600′ in the 17.5-mile hike to our camp at 4200′. That’s only over half of the elevation needed to get to the summit.

Landslide with rope and ladder
Landslide with rope and ladder

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Glacier Meadows Camp

By the time we rolled into Glacier Meadows Camp, we were all ready to crash. As I surveyed the area, I noticed a dozen tents behind one of the two old shelters. The number of campsites showed the area’s popularity. I haven’t seen this many people at a camp in many years. I bet the toilet was exquisite even though I didn’t get to check it out. It started to drizzle again in the evening. We kept our fingers crossed for better weather.

We met the group of Seattle Mountaineers (the dozen tents) who planned on starting at 3 AM the next day. They were on a leisurely five-day itinerary, which right then sounded better than our 3-day trip. Other than constantly getting the squirrels out of our things, we didn’t do much for the rest of the evening. So after dinner, we all went inside our tents. But I couldn’t fall asleep until well after dark. Being a light sleeper also didn’t help.

Glacier Meadows Camp at last
Glacier Meadows Camp at last

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Day 2

Mount Olympus

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Mount Olympus Climb

Miraculously, the sky cleared up during the night. It was starry when I peeked outside the tent at 4 AM. So that was a good sign in terms of the weather ahead! We left at 5 AM and hiked through Glacier Meadows as it’s getting light. The well-beaten path took us through to the moraine after sunrise. I was in awe when the sunlit Mount Olympus and Blue Glacier first came into view. The sudden shift from rainforest and lush meadows to the hidden glacier was just incredible!

The hiking portion of the climb ended at the top of the moraine. So from there, we each found a way down to the edge of the glacier on loose rocks. We caught up to the other group there, and then we began to get ready. It was a bit chilly as we were still in the shade. I couldn’t wait to get to the sun gleaming on the other end of the glacier. We enjoyed a leisurely one-mile walk on blue ice.

Staring out
Staring out

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Snow Dome and Beyond

The steepest glacier travel was getting from the lower Blue Glacier up to the Snow Dome. The 600′ steep slope just seemed to go on forever. But once we reached the Snow Dome, we were back to moderate terrain for another 600′. The direct route (Fourth of July) was impassable due to the number of bergschrunds. So at 7200′, following the existing tracks, we moved east toward Crystal Pass. The reroute took us through the gap to the east slopes of Mount Olympus.

From there, we traversed southwest along the south side of Five Fingers Ridge. Then at the edge of the glacier, we climbed onto the false summit via a short section of loose rocks. Finally, we got our first real look at the summit block of Mount Olympus. We descended to the saddle between the two summits first before climbing up the steep snow slope. We were now at the base of the 4th class rock climb.

One step closer
One step closer

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Mount Olympus Has Risen

After a short group discussion and gear exchange, I proceeded to lead out. Our 30m rope worked out perfectly for this pitch. Then one by one, the other three team members prusiked their way up the rocks to the top. The weather was still decent at this point. Though, low clouds from earlier this morning were now starting to rise. It looked like the 70% cloud coverage forecast was about to come true.

Being the first one on the summit, I was able to get more photo time. To minimize congestion, the other group came up from the west instead. By the time both groups got up to the summit, the clouds had overtaken the mountain. Mount Tom and the sub-peaks of Mount Olympus were going in and out of the mist. But at least there was still blue sky above us.

East view
East view

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Back to Glacier Meadows and Camp

After we’ve had our summit fix, it was time to rappel off the top. Our 60m rope worked out great for this. From the base of the summit, we reversed our route back to the false summit. We scrambled back down the short section of loose rocks to get back onto the glacier. Then we roped up again and followed our tracks back through Crystal Pass.

Clouds were quickly moving into the area as we made it through Snow Dome. Then we descended the steep section back to lower Blue Glacier. From a distance, we noticed another climbing group. They were heading up the alternate route on rocks. The one-mile traverse on hard ice felt like an eternity. Pretty soon, ridgelines were beginning to fade into the mist.

Back to the mist
Back to the mist

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Back to Olympus Guard Station

Our goal was to get back to Glacier Meadows Camp and then head out. This way we could shorten the last day and get back to the car early. We were hoping to get to the Olympus Guard Station before dark. So after chowing down some food, we packed up and left. The landslide traverse went by much faster as we headed up using the ladder. Other than water breaks, we didn’t make too many stops along the way.

One member started having foot issues at Lewis Meadow Camp. So the group let him lead at his pace as he toughed it out like a champion. But despite the minor setback, we still made it to the Guard Station just as darkness fell. Two spent the night in the shelter, while the two of us took up an empty campsite by the stream.

The simpler life
The simpler life

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Day 3

Exit

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Outro

Morning came way too soon. Feeling refreshed, we began hitting the trail again at 8 AM. But at least we were now halfway back to the trailhead. In other words, only nine more miles to go!

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

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Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I’m surprised you didn’t solo this one! Looks like a nice climb except for the amount of people heading up, reminds me of Rainier.

    1. Ha, someone noticed! Luckily, only two groups were on the summit that day including ours. Climbing midweek also helped.

  2. Pressed ‘Post’ before I was complete … I have respected your solo ascents and your humble approach as I am much the same. I tried climbing with the Mountaineers but the group dynamics were tough for me and I felt lessor as I felt it was a pi**ing contest and bragging about who had done the most extreme climbs and even criticizing gear choices and that’s not why I climb. This pushed me out solo despite numerous attempts with different leaders etc. So thank you for encouraging folks like me that I dont need to “fit in” with these big groups and for showing the world that climbing can be authentic and a much deeper experience than “bagging the summit bro”. … happy trails 🙂

  3. Thanks for the feedback! I completely understand about the Mountaineers. The one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work for everyone. Enjoy your summer outings!

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