Mount Steel is a majestic peak that guards the head of the Duckabush and North Fork of the Skokomish River valley's in the southeast Olympics. Steel overlooks First Divide, a pass along the North Fork Skokomish River. It shares a picturesquely pinnacled ridge with Mount Duckabush, its closest neighbor. Both peaks are some of the most scenic in the entire Olympic Wilderness ecosystem. Certainly, Mount Steel is nearly in every beautiful shot taken from Lacke Lacrosse or Hart Lake to the south. It also has an appearance of being bigger than it really is, because there is so much rock on its northern and western faces. One might think it is much higher than the 6200+ elevation implies.
Steel itself is composed of a shapely summit block. Overlooking it's domain, Steel towers above nameless lakes and countless waterfalls. Several small glaciers and permanent snowfields occupy it's northern flanks, while dozens of waterfalls cascade down it's steep slopes. Home to Roosevelet Elk,Black Bear and other creatures, Mount Steel is relatively secluded from day hikers and backpackers. View's from the summit include the beautiful LaCrosse Basin to the north and major peaks in the Olympic Mountains such as Mount's Olympus, Anderson, Skokomish and Stone, as well as a host of lesser peaks. Mount Hopper, another close neighbor, is just more than a mile to the east.
The mountain is summited by very few people each year. The fact that Mount Steel is a fairly rural peak in the range keeps it a sought after destination by only most hardcore peak baggers and climbers. The peak season for climbing Mt Steel is in later summer to early fall.
The easiest route up Steel is from First Divide, 14 miles from the North Fork of the Skokomish trail head. From First Divide follow a ridge to the west where it drops down into a beautiful basin. There's a gorgeous nameless lake here. Hike around the north side of the lake and cross several creeks. From here, begin the descent southwest, eventually working towards the saddle between the two peaks of Mt Steel. Upon reaching the crest of the ridge proceed north along the ridge to the summit block.
The second, less popular route is from Marmot Lake where it leaves the trail three miles above Duckabush Camp. "This route follows a little creek into an ampitheater on the west side of the summit where easy slopes lead to the summit(Climber's Guide to the Olympic Mountains, P. 65. Olympic Mountain Rescue)."
Getting ThereThere are several ways of reaching the base of Mount Steel by trail. The North fork of the Skokomish trail is about 14 miles to First Divide at the base of Mount Steel. The second way is from the Duckabush trail head and includes a 21 mile hike up the Duckabush river to the base of Mount Steel near Marmot Lake. Follow U.S. Highway 101 from Olympia, WA north to Hoodsport where there is a turn off to Staircase, which is where the trail head of the Skokomish River starts. To reach the Duckabush trail head drive north past Eldon until you see the sign for the Duckabush River campground turn off.
A Wilderness Permit, which can be obtained at any Ranger Station on the Olympic Peninsula, is required when spending the night in Olympic National Park. Olympic National Park charges $15 Dollars for an entrance fee into the park and $5 per person for backcountry permits, as well as $2 per night/person. Since Mt Steel is probably an overnight trip then these fees would apply.
When To Climb
The best time of year to climb Mount Steel is from early July until late September. There are some nasty cornices near the summit ridge until late June. So be aware of possible avalanche hazard on the east facing slope. The nice thing about the Olympics is that the river trails are generally clear in the winter, except for the passes and divides. However, Staircase is often closed after November.
Good camping is available at Home Sweet Home (13.5 miles from the North Fork of the Skokomish River trailhead) and at Marmot Lake (21.3 miles from the Duckabush River trailhead). Other great camping areas include the Hart Lake/Lake LaCrosse areas where inspiring views of Mount Steel can be had.
Call any Ranger Station in the Olympic National Park service for current conditions on trails and/or mountain conditions.
Personally, I google weather at Brinnon and Hoodsport, or look at a good webcam view of weather conditions at Drdale.com.
Basically, conditions are wet from during early June thru early July. It tends to be drier and warmer from middle July thru early September, but this may not always be the case. Plan on always carrying the ten essentials and any emergency camping gear. Sudden rains can cause the Skokomish and tributary creek crossings below Steel to fill up quickly. Just use good judgment and common sense.
External Linkshref=http://phlumf.com/other/photos/steel/steel.htm>Mount Steel
Trip photographs of Mount Steel