Mount Olympus via Hoh River + Blue Glacier in Olympic Mountains / 奧林帕斯山

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Mount Olympus above Hoh River and Blue Glacier is the tallest peak in the Olympic Mountains. This Olympic National Park‘s centerpiece rises in one of the remote places in Washington State. Even the closest higher peak, Seward Peak on Mount Baker, sits over 100 miles away in the North Cascades.

Mount Olympus in hiding
Mount Olympus in hiding

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Mount Olympus at a Glance

Access: Hoh River Trailhead
Round Trip: 43.5 miles
Elevation Range: 600′-7969′
Gear: helmet, ice ax, snow, rock
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

July 7-9, 2019

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

It’s been over three years since I went on a Mountaineers trip. So together, the four of us, including two new faces, carpooled to the Hoh River Trailhead. Then we spent the night at the Hoh Rain Forest Campground.

We began the 17.5-mile hike through Hoh Rainforest to Glacier Meadows Camp the following day. The distance was comparable to Thunder Basin en route to Mount Logan. Here, we met several groups on their exit.

17.5 miles to go
17.5 miles to go

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Olympus Guard Station

It was an overcast sky, with Hoh River and low ridges comprising the bulk of the views. Then when we reached the Olympus Guard Station, we were over halfway to camp. Woot! There we helped two ladies photograph before continuing.

Afterward, we took a break by the Lewis Meadow Camp. So I could also dress the hot spots on my feet from the approach shoes. Then we met two men after their Mount Olympus climb.

Guard Station junction
Guard Station junction

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High Hoh Bridge Plus Hoh River

So far, the elevation gain over the mostly flat terrain was minimal. But the best part was gaining only 900′ in 13.5 miles! Later, we dropped onto the High Hoh Bridge and went south after crossing the Hoh River.

Soon, the elevation increase was steady as we strolled alongside Glacier Creek. By the time we reached Elk Lake Camp at 2600′, we had climbed another 1100′. Unfortunately, it rained just as we hiked above the lake.

Hoh River below High Hoh Bridge
Hoh River below High Hoh Bridge

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Rope and Ladder Over the Landslide

The rest 2.3 miles to Glacier Meadows felt long. Then at less than half a mile before the camp was the infamous landslide that had been around since 2011. Later we took turns to drop 60′ on a fixed rope.

The ladder worked in our favor on the way up. Overall, we’ve gained 3600′ over 17.5-mile to our camp at 4200′. But that’s barely over half of the attitude to reach the summit.

Landslide with rope and ladder
Landslide with rope and ladder

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Glacier Meadows Camp

We were ready to crash by the time we rolled into Glacier Meadows Camp. 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 one camp in many years. But I bet the toilet was exquisite, though I didn’t use it. It drizzled again in the evening. At the same time, we kept our fingers crossed for the weather to improve.

Glacier Meadows Camp at last
Glacier Meadows Camp at last

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Seattle Mountaineers and Squirrels

Later we met the team of Seattle Mountaineers with the dozen tents. They had planned on starting at 3 AM the following day. But the group was on a leisurely five-day itinerary. Right then, it sounded way better than our 3-day trip.

We didn’t do much at the camp besides continually keeping the squirrels out of our things. So we all went inside our tents after dinner. But I couldn’t fall asleep until well after dark. Being a light sleeper also didn’t help.

Home sweet home
Home sweet home

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Day 2

Mount Olympus

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Mount Olympus Climb

The sky had cleared up during the night. So when I peeked outside the tent at 4 AM, it was starry. It was a good sign in terms of the weather ahead! We started walking at 5 AM, and then we hiked through Glacier Meadows as it became light.

The defined path took us through to the moraine after sunrise. Then 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 alpine glacier was incredible!

This way to Mount Olympus
This way to Mount Olympus

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Blue Glacier on Mount Olympus

The hiking part of the climb ended at the top of the moraine. Then we each found a way through loose rocks down to the glacier’s edge. Soon, we caught up to the other group and started to prepare.

It was a bit chilly as we were still in the shade. Though, I couldn’t wait to go into the sun gleaming on the other end of the snow. Later we enjoyed a leisurely one-mile walk on blue ice.

Mount Olympus plus Blue Glacier panoramic view
Mount Olympus plus Blue Glacier panoramic view

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Snow Dome and Beyond

The steepest part of the glacier went from the lower Blue Glacier up to the Snow Dome. The 600′ steep slope seemed to go on forever. But once we reached the Snow Dome, we were back on mild terrain for another 600′.

The direct route, aka Fourth of July, was impassable due to the number of bergschrunds. So at 7200′, we followed existing tracks and moved east to Crystal Pass. The reroute then took us through the gap to the east of Mount Olympus.

One step closer to Mount Olympus
One step closer to Mount Olympus

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Mount Olympus False Peak

From there, we traversed southwest along the south of Five Fingers Ridge. Then at the tip of the glacier, we climbed onto the false peak via a short section of loose rocks. Finally, we got our first look at Mount Olympussummit.

Later we dropped to the saddle between the false summit and the actual peak. From there, we moved up on steep snow. Then that put us at the bottom of the 4th class rock climb.

Through Crystal Pass
Through Crystal Pass

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The Final Stretch on Mount Olympus

After a short group discussion and gear exchange, I led the pitch. Our 30m rope worked out perfectly for this pitch. Then 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. Then the 70% cloud coverage forecast looked about to come true.

Mount Olympus summit dome
Mount Olympus summit dome

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Mount Olympus Summit Views

Being the first one on top, I had more time to take photos. To reduce congestion, the other group came up from the west instead. But by the time both teams reached the summit, the clouds had taken over the mountain.

Mount Tom and Mount Olympus’ sub-peaks were in and out of the mist. Other than that, we didn’t see much off to the distance. But at least we still had blue sky above us.

View to Middle Peak and East Peak
View to Middle Peak and East Peak

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Leaving Mount Olympus

After we all had our summit fix, it was time to rappel off the top. Then our 60m rope worked out great in going through this part. Later at the bottom, we made our way back to the false peak.

We scrambled down the short section of loose rocks to go back on the glacier. Then we tied into the rope again and used our tracks back through Crystal Pass.

On rappel
On rappel

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Back Through Blue Glacier

Clouds had fast moved into the area when we went through Snow Dome. Then we dropped down on the steep snow back to lower Blue Glacier. So far, everything had worked out as planned.

Later we saw another group in the distance. They were going up the alternate route through the rocks. The one-mile crossing on the ice felt like forever. Soon, ridgelines started to fade into the mist.

Back to the mist
Back to the mist

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Leaving Glacier Meadows Camp

Our goal was to leave Glacier Meadows Camp today. So we could shorten the final day and be back at the car early. We had hoped to reach the Olympus Guard Station before dark as well.

Soon, we packed up and left the meadows after chowing down some food. Crossing the landslide went much smoother using the ladder. Other than water breaks, the group kept walking.

Back to the mist
Glacier Meadows Ranger Station

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Back to Olympus Guard Station

Later, at Lewis Meadow Camp, one member started having foot issues. So we let him lead at his pace as he toughed it out like a champion. But I’m lousy when it comes to pain, not sure if I’d keep walking.

We made it to the Guard Station despite the minor setback as darkness fell. Two people spent the night in the shelter. Then 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 to finish the long trip!

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. Paul

    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. onehikeaweek

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

  2. Paul

    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. onehikeaweek

    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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