Hal Foss Peak was named after the first director of SAR (Search And Rescue), which is now known as NASAR. Harald A. Foss was an avid outdoors-man and also a climber. He created SAR to improve the chance of survival in the wilderness when things go awry. Today SAR is the primary organization that executes rescue operations in wilderness environments, especially the mountains. When someone is hurt or lost and they need help, SAR is the first on the scene. Hal died of a heart attack, doing what he loved in 1974, during a pre-eruption climb of Mount Saint Helens. Hal Foss Peak was named in 1977 to remember the man who created an organization that has saved so many lives. PDF Hal Foss Memorium
At 7179 feet, Hal Foss Peak is the 14th highest in the entire Olympic Range, out of which only 20 are over 7000 feet, following the 400 feet of prominence rule. Another 10 of those 7000 foot peaks are in the near vicinity of Hal Foss, so its general neighborhood contains many of the highest peaks in the Olympic Range. From the summit, views of Buckhorn, Warrior, Constance, Mystery, and Deception will not soon be forgotten. Geographically speaking, Hal Foss is on a ridge between Mount Fricaba to the northeast and Mount Mystery to the southwest. On the northwest side is Deception Basin while to the southeast is the Heather Creek drainage which marks the start of the Dungeness River.
The high peaks in this area also make for high basins. Those that attempt Hal Foss Peak will see some of the most rugged terrain the Olympics has to offer. Not many trees or plants grow in Upper Royal and Upper Deception basins. One gets the feel that glaciers only recently receded, leaving moraines of broken rock and slopes of talus and scree. Snow may remain, especially on northern slopes until late summer while in other nearby basins such as Surprise Basin, it might not fully melt at all. For those with more energy and more time, the routes of many of the other 7000ers overlap, so a multi-day peakbagging trip is a good choice. Here is the Trip Report about such an endeavor.
The Route - NE RidgeWhether one chooses to come in from the Dose or Dungeness side, the goal is the same. The standard route starts in Deception Basin. There are no trails leading up Deception Creek, in Royal Basin, or in Deception Basin, so some good, old-fashioned, cross-country route finding skills will be imperative. If coming from Royal Basin Look for the lowest point in the pass immediately east of Mount Deception. Also, be prepared for steep scree in several places around Deception Basin.
From Deception Basin ascend eastward aiming for the lowest point in the ridge connecting Fricaba with Hal Foss. Those who are following the ridge between the two peaks will find that one high point near the saddle makes for a couple tricky moves. From the saddle, follow the ridge crest south to a false summit around 7020 feet. This false summit or "shoulder" as some may call it marks the top of a permanent snowfield on the north face.
From the shoulder the true summit is visible to the southwest. Up to this point the scrambling over blocky boulders and rotten scree should not have exceeded Class 2. Continuing on the ridge narrows with some exposure to the south. Depending on the time of year, walking along the top of the snowfield might provide some protection and make for an easier finish. The last 20 vertical feet is an easy but slightly exposed Class 3 scramble. There are plenty of pointy lichen-covered rocks which make good hand holds. There are two summit registers (both dry when I was there).
When descending back to Deception Basin, with proper snow cover and an ice axe, it is possible to go straight down the north face. This will save time but it is steep. In fact one could ascend this way as well, but it wouldn't be as scenic or enjoyable as the northeast ridge.
Getting There / Driving Directions
Royal Basin Approach
From Sequim, take Highway 101, 2.8 miles east. Turn south onto Palo Alto road and continue another 7.5 miles to the beginning of Forest Road 2880. Less than a mile after crossing the Dungeness River, stay left at the fork with Forest Road 2870 and follow it to Forest Road 2860. Stay right at any forks and follow 2860 to a sharp turn where the road crosses the Dungeness River. There is a large parking lot on the far side of the bridge but you will have to walk back to the other side for the trailhead, which has a sign board.
* ROAD CLOSURE: The Dosewallips Road (#2610) is washed out 4 miles short of the park boundary, 5.5 miles from the trailhead. A trail has been built around the washout. There is no projection for a repair date of the road. Also call 360-565-3131 for road information.
From US 101 in Brinnon, turn onto Road 2610 (which follows the north bank of the Dosewallips River) and follow it just over 13 miles to Constance Creek. At the begining of this road watch for Roosevelt Elk grazing on private land! If you are only doing a day trip (very ambitious if you plan to summit), park here and locate the trail on the north side of the road and the west side of the cascading creek. If you plan to camp, take a quick glance at the meager parking spaces (nothing more than a few cramped turnouts) and continue to the road's end at Muscott Flats (14.7 miles; 1600 ft) to register with the park ranger. Then drive back to Constance Creek and pray that there is still room to park
(The Dosewallips approach was copied with gratitude from MountainJeff's Fricaba Page)
Red TapeA Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the Royal Basin trailhead.
You need a reservation and a permit to camp in Royal Basin because this is one of the most sought after destinations in the park. There is usually a resident ranger who camps in the basin and goes around checking tents every night, so make sure you display your permit on the outside of your tent. Furthermore, the park is now requiring people staying in Royal Basin to carry Bear Canisters for food. They can be rented at the Olympic National Park visitor center.
To make a reservation see the contact info below:
Olympic National Park
Wilderness Information Center
600 East Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362