A quick disclaimer: This is not a common/safe/proper method of mountaineering (solo) and should not be attempted by novice mountaineers/trail runners. Death/serious injury is something that could happen without notice up on the glaciated sections. Please don't attempt unless you completely accept this risk and are 100% confident in your abilities.
I climbed Mount Olympus, round trip in 16 hours 3 minutes completely unsupported.
I’ve wanted to climb Mount Olympus since I was a teenager but didn’t want to hike 45 miles over two or three days with a ton of gear. The thought of doing it in a day, running the majority of it, came to mind about a year ago when I started running a lot more and never left the back of my mind. For the last three months I trained specifically for it, running between 40-45 miles a week on mountainous terrain (not all that much but all I had time for) . I also ran with a 5 pound pack to try to get used to it even though my pack ended up weighing more like 8 pounds on the day of the run.
With three hours of sleep I woke at 1:20am, downed a big cup of coffee, and left the trailhead at 1:50 with a headlamp and a small flashlight. The first few miles were pretty technical with roots and cobbles covering the trails so the running was pretty slow. By mile 3 the trail smoothed out and I soon found myself at the 12 mile mark where I repacked a few things and began hiking the long climb up towards Glacier Meadows. I ran any flat portions along the way, sometimes for only 10 seconds. I also aquired a hiking stick that helped propel me up some of the steeper terrain.
Within a mile of the uphill I hit a little bit of a low so I put some headphones in and listened to some music for a few hours. The low went away as the sun came up and the surrounding beauty came into view. I climbed and climbed and climbed and eventually I came to the rope ladder leading down the avalanche shoot. I ditched the hiking stick and enjoyed the fun romp down the ladder and then back up to the trail.
Within 10 minutes I was at Glacier Meadows which isn’t actually a meadow at all as far as I could tell. After a bit of confusion I found my way up towards the moraine. This section turned out to be pretty steep and technical but a lot of fun and I was super excited to see Olympus for the first time all day. I jogged along the ridge of the moraine then slid down the hill to some snow sitting above the Blue Glacier.
I took a minute to look at my surroundings and noticed a party of three really far off about to head through Crystal Pass. Seeing how far away they were was quite intimidating but kind of exciting at the same time. I put on microspikes, slid to the Blue and began the trek across the flat glacier. Although it was icy in spots it was more slush than anything and I soon realized that the hike to the summit was going to take a while in sub-optimum conditions. Before turning the corner to make the climb up to Snow Dome Flats I looked at my map and made the decision to climb the 1000 foot rock band leading directly up to within 500ft of the top of The snow dome. This section was a lot of fun on really high quality rock.
Back on the snow I continued the trudge up to Snow Dome, Crystal Pass, and finally, after meandering around a few crevasses and a steep slushy snow climb, the false summit. I talked with a party of four for a moment then slid down to the base of the true summit. I had a quick chat with the party of three I had seen at Crystal Pass while on the moraine and one of them informed me of the death that occurred the day before. “Oh my god!” Truly terrible. He then gave me some beta and I followed it the best I could. I moved quickly on easy ramps on the east face that eventually led to a chossy dihedral with a full 50-60 ft of exposure below. I moved slowly for the three or four 5.6/5.7 moves revolving around a good edge and a in-cut three finger pocket. I mantled onto the ridge and a minute later I was on the summit! I let out a howl, signed the registry, took a few pictures, and headed down.
I was on the summit for maybe 5 minutes and was determined to find a better way down. I soon found an easy ramp on the west face that then meandered around to the east face but through much easier terrain. Within 10 minutes I was on the ground. Back over the false summit, hopped the two crevasses, and caught up to the party of three on snow dome flats where we had another short chat. I moved on, pushing my way through the slush. It seemed like forever but I eventually came to the bottom of the climb. After crossing a small snow bridge I began the walk across the Blue.
At one point I completely punched through the slush with my right leg, submerged to my waste…Scary!!! The heat has been taking its toll on the glacier! I stayed on anything close to ice the rest of the way to the moraine and greeted the dirt with gratitude. On top of the moraine I ate something, took in the views, watched the party of three cross the Blue, and repacked.
It took about 20 minutes to get back into a good running groove but that eventually brought me down to the High Hoh Bridge without event. Now 32 miles in I started to feel the day’s full effect and the thought of running another 13 miles in the heat seemed daunting. But with no injuries or major bonks I had no excuse but to run, however slow it might be. To keep cool I splashed water on my face and down my back at every creek crossing. I spoke with a ranger at the Olympic Ranger Station at mile 9.1 telling her about my trek. She looked concerned but I assured her I was fine, just tired.
It was kind of exciting to see the rainforest now, not being able to see much of anything when I ran through it in the early morning. The last 6 miles I gave it everything I had, running what felt like 7 minute miles but was probably more like 10. A runner passed me right before the trailhead and I asked if she could take my picture. She did and asked how far I went. When I said to the top she looked at me funny, congratulated me, and gave me a high five before I walked slowly to my car. After a quick chat with my wife I downed some chocolate milk and a Red Bull and drove the three and half hours home. What an amazing day!
The only thing that could have been better was the super slow snow conditions but can’t complain that much with how perfect the conditions were otherwise!
Gear and stuff.
Ultimate Direction Anton Krupicka Vest, ice axe, Microspikes, windbreaker, Buff headband, Pearl Izumi N1 trail running shoes, medical tape, Steri Pen, Ipod Nano, long john's, compression socks, toe socks, Iphone, Petzl headlamp, small flashlight
20 gels (consumed 19), Cliff Blocks, Nuun's.