Olympic National Park Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Olympus (7,969 ft)

Dates: August 2-5, 2003
Author: Bob Bolton

On Saturday, August 2, 2003, eight climbers met at the Hoh River entrance to Olympic National Park to begin an assault on Mount Olympus. The eight were Edward Earl, Duane Gilliland, Dennis Gilliland, Neil Myers, Todd Lindell, Jim Byrne, Chris Verdugo, and myself. The plan was to split the hike to Glacier Meadows into two days, thus giving us time for a good sleep before summit day. On Saturday we hiked 10.5 miles, where six of us decided to camp, while Edward and Chris preferred to hike on up the trail for another mile and a half or so.

Unbelievably in a temperate rain forest, both camps were dry except for the glacial silted Hoh River itself. It's been an extremely dry summer in the Pacific Northwest after a strange winter where hardly any snow fell until March and April. Before I was aware of the lack of water, I loaned my water filter with a brand new element to Edward and Chris, since neither of them were carrying one. They decided to filter the silt, rendering my filter largely plugged. Those elements are spendy, so I extracted a Mexican dinner from Chris on the way home. The rest of us dipped from the river and boiled it, using that nasty stuff for drinking and cooking until we once again found some clear streams. Jim had planned to join us only for the hike to Glacier Meadows, but when Dennis reported that he had blisters on the soles of his feet, the two of them decided to retreat.

So on Sunday the remaining six completed the hike to Glacier Meadows. (Net elevation gain from the trailhead to Glacier Meadows is just under 4,000 feet in 17.5 miles.) Edward made a prusiking and crevasse rescue practice setup on a huge boulder near camp, and we all honed our rather rusty skills before hitting the sack early.

At 4 AM Monday, we were ready to head up the trail to the lateral moraine on the lower reaches of the Blue Glacier. Just at daylight we arrived at the glacier's edge and practiced one more technique - setting a snow anchor with a picket. Then we roped up and headed across the glacier toward the Snow Dome. There were many spots on the glacier where the free-running water from yesterday had turned to solid-looking slush, so several of us managed to get our boots wet even before hitting the soft snow above. On the west flank of the glacier we found what we quickly dubbed the "freeway", and followed its winding way up the slopes toward the Snow Dome, then south toward the summit. The freeway passed between a number of crevasses before turning east and skirting above a rather large crevasse en route to the saddle west of the Five Fingers, where it U-turned to the south side of Five Fingers toward the West Peak of Olympus. The route skirted and crossed a few smaller crevasses, and wound up on a rock rib southeast of the summit. From here, we followed a use trail leading to the eastern base of the summit block where we again roped up for an ascent of steep snow to just north of the summit, then around to its west side. Edward led the final pitch, which he estimated to be class 5.3, using three pieces of protection, and then belayed the rest of us to the short summit ridge scramble.

After reveling in the fabulous, brilliant weather, shooting photos, signing the register, and generally enjoying ourselves immensely, we headed back down the ridge where Edward set up the rappel. It was not a long rappel, but it was fun. The return trip was mostly uneventful, however what had been slush on the lower Blue Glacier was now either standing or running water, and it was hard to avoid getting our feet even wetter out there on the ice. It was a long but fantastic day, dampened only by the dread of hauling our packs for those 17.5 miles on Tuesday. That hike out was quite an ordeal for the tenderfeet among us, but the foot pain was soon forgotten, and the memories of Olympus are of four glorious days of perfect weather and joyous mountaineering in the continental United State's wettest region.