“On the false summit I felt the star ignite. And it would burn bright so long as that fang of basalt was poised to rend me, that sea of space awaited to drown my dying howl. Bob hadn't told the half. Monie was too preoccupied to try to laugh me out of jaw-drooping, bug-eyed silence. What was scaring her? I didn't know. What was scaring me was the Thing of nightmares when I was a kid terrified by God and Hell, the Thing now symbolized in broad daylight by that horrid thrust of lava.” Read more from this climb.
The previous quote is how Harvey Manning described his reaction when he first laid eyes upon the summit block of Mount Cruiser. Mount Cruiser is the high point of Sawtooth Ridge in the Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Nestled between Flapjack Lakes to the west, Mildred Lakes to the east and Murdock Lakes to the north, Mount Cruiser is probably one of the best classic climbs of the Olympic Mountains. Sawtooth Ridge itself features numerous craggy spires from Alpha at the northwest terminus to Mount Lincoln at the southeast terminus. The first ascent of Mount Cruiser took place in 1937 by Paul Crews and Ray Layton and they named it Cruiser after their club the Bremerton Ski Cruisers. This first climb was completed with a 30 meter rope which made the initial descent problematic. The ski club built a ski cabin at Flapjack Lakes in that same year of 1937 and had planned to build a road to access the cabin, but the creation of Olympic National Park stopped the road building plans and in 1948 the cabin was dismantled and removed by the park service.
There is no scrambling route to the summit of Cruiser and the easiest “south corner” route is a technical rock climb rated at 5.0. Olympic rock in general is known for being loose and dangerous, however, the rock on Sawtooth Ridge is considered fairly solid by Olympic Mountains standards, albeit difficult to protect. For the more advanced climbers there are a number of more technical routes to choose from.
There is extreme exposure on all side of Mount Cruiser with exposed 4th class on the approach. The standard approach also features a snow gully below Needle Pass, which can be icy and will require crampons and ice axe for most of the year. Later in the season this gully can melt out completely revealing chossy steep dirt. Some parties prefer to rappel the upper half of this gully during the descent. Do not attempt to ascend the gully if it is snow free and another group or goats are above you. Rock fall is a serious hazard!
South Corner - Standard Route
Cross the bridge over the North Fork Skokomish River and hike 2.7 miles to the next bridge crossing. Turn right at the junction and cross the bridge to the north side of the river. Turn left at the junction on the far side of the river and hike another 3.5 miles to the signed Gladys Divide / Flapjack Lakes trail junction. Turn right and hike uphill for another 2.2 miles crossing Madeline Creek bridge along the way. The trail becomes steep as it enters the Donahue creek drainage. Turn right at the signed junction towards Flapjack Lakes. The left fork goes to Black and White Lakes. Between the bottom of the valley and Flapjack Lakes, the trail gains 2300 feet.
Above the gully and cannon hole is a large platform big enough for several groups. The platform narrows at the northeast edge and becomes a ledge. This ledge is where the "south corner" 5.0 climbing route begins. The first move is overhanging but a nice crack can be used to place initial protection. Furthermore, the ledge has a large boulder which contacts the wall and this can be slung for a belay anchor. Overall, the first 70 foot pitch offers little in the way of protection aside from a few bolts. Some are new and trustworthy. Others are old, rusty and loose. There is a slightly loose 1/4 inch bolt about halfway up just to the left of the route. There's also a very very old rusty 1/4inch bolt backed up by an even worse looking piton next to it some 10 - 15 feetbelow the belay station (look left near ridge crest).
Getting ThereFrom US Highway 101 at Hoodsport, WA, turn west on Lake Cushman Rd / WA-119 N and proceed for 9.2 miles to a T intersection (Forest Rd 24). Turn left (west) onto Forest Rd 24 and continue 6.5 miles along the north shore of Lake Cushman to the Staircase Ranger Station parking lot.
MapsMaps: USGS 7 ½ minute series, Mt. Steel, Green Trails #167
Red TapeMount Cruiser although not officially part of Olympic National Park will require permits if using any of the National Park such as trailhead, base camps, etc. This is a limited use area so reservations are a good idea, however, 50% of overnight permits are available on a first come first served basis. For current regulations and possible openings call Olympic National Park.
Olympic Nat Park HQ: 360-452-4501
Staircase Ranger Station: 360-877-5569
Permit & Regulations Web Info
$10.00 park entry fee good for 7 days.
$5.00 group fee.
$2.00 per night
Flapjack Lakes is a limited use area so reservations are a good idea, however, there are a limited number of overnight permits available on a first come basis. For current regulations and possible openings call Olympic National Park.
When To ClimbThe earlier in the season the more snow to contend with, however, this may also reduce the amount of rockfall, which is plentiful on the approach. Use of helmets strongly advised.
CampingCar camping is available near the trailhead.
Possible basecamps for Mount Cruiser include.
Black & White Lakes
Various trailside camps on the approach
Suggested Gear List (Partial)Camping Gear for 2 -3 Days
Food & Water 2-3 Days (Water available at Flapjack Lakes and sometimes in a creek above)
A single 50 Meter Rope will work fine, but is just barely enough
Full set nuts
#3 Camalot, 0.5 Camalot
Webbing, Quick Links/Rap Rings (for backing up Rappels)
Ice Axe & Crampons
2 Locking Biners
External Trip Reports