The rugged Olympic Mountain territory we traveled through. This is a labeled aerial photo taken from the east of the Mt Olympus Massif. We traveled from the Valhallas (in the distance on the left), over Mt. Olympus to Bear Pass (in the foreground), and continued on the Bailey Range and High Divide to the right (not in the photo).
In 2008, I published an article about this trip in the Northwest Mountaineering Journal. Here is the link to the online article, where the story is more polished but there are less photos than in the following TR.
PREFACE TO THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME
I often use my parents’ old climbing photos as inspiration for my trips into the Olympics and North Cascades. This spring, as I was planning for an excursion into the Olympic Mountains, I was finding it difficult to choose amongst bushwhacking into the mysterious Valhallas, climbing Mt. Olympus, traversing the rugged Bailey Range, or hiking on the popular High Divide. So, I decided to do them all – in one trip! It didn’t take too much to convince my friend Douglas to join the adventure. (By the way, I couldn't have asked for a better partner for this trip than Douglas - not only was he friendly and physically capable, but he never complained once about my frequent stopping to oohh and aahh over a "pretty flower" or "nice lighting" or "great climbing shot." Thanks Douglas for joining me in this trip of a lifetime!)
Below is a map showing this ambitious 8-day, 77-mile traverse of some of the most rugged and beautiful parts of the Olympic Mountains. We pretty much experienced the alpine highlights of the entire Olympic Mountain National Park in one trip!
This Tour de Mount Olympus brought Douglas and I through some of the most rugged and beautiful parts of the Olympic Mountains. We began with a 2-day bushwhack up the South Fork of the Hoh River and up the steep ridge just north of Valkyrie Creek, which brought us to a range of peaks to the southwest of Mount Olympus known as the Valhallas. Despite it’s jaw-dropping scenery, this area is probably only accessed by a couple parties a year. After a day of climbing in the Valhallas (a day of rain – our only day of poor weather the entire trip - prevented more peak-bagging), we traversed over to Olympus via the rarely-traveled Hubert Glacier. We crossed over the summit, and headed for Bear Pass at the south end of the Bailey Range. Two days of traversing the Bailey Range brought us to the High Divide. On the eighth day of our adventure we hiked out the North Fork of the Hoh River (on a trail!).
Fortunately, Douglas and I picked the perfect time to do this trip. We were blessed with sunny skies, and the early-summer snow made the traversing more straightforward. Despite our heavy packs, I took along my digital SLR, and got some amazing photos, some of which you will see in the following trip report.
When putting this trip report, I thought it would be interesting to scan in some of my parents’ old photos of their travels through this area. My parents had done our "Tour de Mount Olympus" as 2 separate trips: (1) In September 1975, a couple of months after their marriage, they traversed the Bailey Range and hiked out the High Divide (they began this trip via the Elwha Snowfinger and Queets Basin); (2) In July 1980, they traversed from the Valhallas to Olympus (and exited over Queets, Meany, Noyes, Seattle, and out via the Low Divide).
July 1980 – Valhallas and Mt. Olympus (exited via Low Divide)
(first half of our "Tour de Mount Olympus")
Scott and Barb (my future aunt and uncle). The beginning of Valhallas to Low Divide Traverse - 9 miles of bushes ahead!
Camp in the South fork of Hoh River, orange ribbon marks rescue route for Mike Lonac.
Camp below the Valhallas (Baldur on left, Vili on right).
Mt. Olympus from the southwest.
Mt. Tom from the South; from the ridge above Valkyrie Creek.
Marty (my future dad) on the summit of Frigga, 3rd ascent (Hugin on left, Woden in middle, Munin on right).
Marty (my future dad) dad on the summit of Baldur, 5th ascent, Mt. Tom in background.
Barb and Scott (my future aunt and uncle) on the ridge leading to Olympus, with Valhallas in background.
Sue and Marty (my future parents), Valhallas with Geri-Freki Glacier.
Scott and Barb (my future aunt and uncle). On the 5th day (Woden in back); beginning the traverse to Olympus.
Traversing from the Valhallas to Olympus - Olympus Massif (from SW); summit 2nd from left, Hubert Glacier in center.
Mt. Olympus in 1980.
Athena’s Owl from camp at the head of the Hoh Glacier.
September 1975 – Bailey Range and High Divide (came in via Queets basin)
(second half of our "Tour de Mount Olympus")
Scenic views from Bear Pass.
Sunrise on Mt. Olympus.
Mt. Olympus from Bear Pass.
View of Olympus from Bailey Range near Bear Pass.
Sue (my future mom) descending hard snow on the Bailey Range.
Looking back over country traveled and camped from Snagtooth.
Mt. Pulitzer (Snagtooth) and my dad’s favorite tree (interesting note: This tree is on page 330 of the second, third, and fourth editions of the Climber’s Guide, which calls this saddle area "Lone Tree Pass").
Sue (my future mom) at Oasis Basin (Cream Lake Basin).
Marty (my future dad) looking at areas traveled on the Bailey Range.
Traversing open slopes near Mt. Carrie.
Hoh River drainage, Olympics.
Marty (my future dad) resting his blistered feet and finishing off the food near the High Divide.
Sue (my future mom) at the Catwalk at the east end of the High Divide.
Heart Lake - High Divide.
What's this - a trail? Near trip's end - High Divide.
Now for some of my photos from our trip into the Valhallas, over Mt. Olympus, across the Bailey Range, and out the High Divide. I have organized our trip by day. Enjoy!
DAY 1 - JULY 5
Bushwhacking up the South Fork of the Hoh River
8 miles - 12:15pm to 6:45pm
The sign at the trailhead of the South Fork of the Hoh River. There is only a trail for a few miles (probably used mostly by fishermen), and then the fun begins! It is about 15 miles to Valkyrie Creek, our line of access to the Valhallas.
Bushwhacking up the South Fork of the Hoh. Several miles of crawling over and under downed logs, beating our way through dense brush, and clinging onto various roots for dear life. Sometimes the river valley was wide and flat, allowing for easier travel along sandbars and the forest floor, but steep river banks and washouts would frequently force us to grunt our way up and across steep slopes. It was slow going, but visions of the mysterious Valhallas inspired us onward.
An orchid growing in the river valley.
We camped on a sandbar just beside the river. And we are not even half done with the bushwhacking yet!
In retrospect, we should have hiked an hour or 2 further the first day, since the next day was quite a long and rigorous bushwhack and we nearly didn't make it to the top of the hillside beside Valkyrie Creek before it got dark. There are some nice sandbars to camp on in the next couple of miles along the S. Fork.
Evening light on the South Fork of the Hoh.
DAY 2 - JULY 6
More Bushwhacking up the South Fork of the Hoh and a rather treacherous bushwhack up the hillside to the east of Valkyrie Creek
9 miles - 8:40am to 9:00pm
Looking up the South Fork of the Hoh, getting a brief glimpse of the Valhallas in the distance before they moved back behind the hills.
Valkyrie Creek on the south side of the South Fork.
The short description in the Climber’s Guide to the Olympic Mountains suggests crossing about 0.5 miles upstream from the creek and ascending the hillside on the left (east) of the creek. Bushwhacking was particularly steep and tedious for the next 0.5 miles along the South Fork, since the riverbanks were steepening as we moved upstream.
We found a downed log about 0.5 miles upstream from Valkyrie Creek along the South Fork of the Hoh. We climbed the root wad and used a rope to lower ourselves and packs onto the trunk we then crossed on.
We ascended the hillside on the east side of Valkyrie Creek, as suggested in the short description in the Climber’s Guide to the Olympic Mountains. We got on some pretty sketchy steep mossy cliffs, and I think the best line of ascent is probably along the hill's ridge a bit closer to Valkyrie Creek. It's all steep and nasty, but probably less dangerous closer to the creek.
(What about the possibility of continuing up the S. Fork another mile and accessing the Valhallas via the Geri-Freki drainage?).
After 4 hours, 2000 feet, and some nearly epic bushwhacking, we popped out onto a heather slope. We found a small pool of meltwater and bedded down for the night. Valhallas, here we come!
DAY 3 - JULY 7
Arrival into the Valhallas and ascent of Frigga (5300ft, Class 3) and Baldur (5750ft, Class 2)
3 miles - 8:40am to 3:00pm
A schematic of the Valhallas from the Climber’s Guide to the Olympic Mountains.
The peaks of the Valhallas and our route, as taken from Olympus on Day 5.
I woke up in a bed of avalanche lilies (or white fawn lilies?) – a nice reminder that the bushwhacking was over!
We accessed the Valhallas by ascending the Frigga-Baldur Col in the center of the photo (Frigga on left, Baldur on right).
Just about to get my first view of the Valhallas at the top of the Frigga-Baldur Col.
Doug climbing Frigga, a fun (but loose) Class 3 climb just east of the Frigga-Baldur Col.
On the summit of Frigga. My parents had climbed Frigga in 1980 but I couldn’t find the summit register they remember. The peaks in the background across the Geri-Freki Glacier are, from left to right: Thor, Loki, Hugin, Woden, and Munin.
We were out of water, but we found some melt water we could collect in little pools, although it was somewhat gritty….
Summit of Baldur. Baldur is a short Class 2 from the west end of the Geri-Freki Glacier. My parents had climbed Baldur in 1980 but I did not find the summit register they remember signing.
Our amazing campsite in the Valhallas. We found a perfect shelf perched above the Geri-Freki Glacier just below Baldur.
Evening light on the Valhallas. From left to right: Bragi, Mimir, Thor, Loki, Hugin, Woden. You can see why the Valhallas are sometimes described as miniature Bugaboos (although solely in appearance, since the crumbly Olympic rock is nothing like Bugaboo granite!).
Interesting lighting that night as a short weather system moved in (this was the only bad weather we experienced the entire trip). This photo was taken from the summit of Baldur looking east (Thor and Loki – 2 of the Valhalla peaks - are on the right side of the photo).
DAY 4 - JULY 8
Traverse from the Valhallas to the Hubert Glacier on Olympus
5 miles - 10:20am to 3:20pm
Our route from the Valhallas to the summit of Olympus, taken from the top of Frigga. We had originally planned on traversing around to the east of Athena, but after getting a good look at the mountain, we decided to traverse Olympus by dropping down to the Hubert Glacier and then climbing some snowfields that linked to make a continuous path of snow to the Mt. Tom ridge.
We woke up to a drizzle and socked in clouds and fog. We made a decision to forgo any more peak-bagging in the Valhallas (I’ll have to come back!) and continue towards Olympus.
Straightforward traversing along the ridge between the Valhallas and Olympus. The visibility had fortunately improved – route finding on Olympus would not be simple in a whiteout.
Doug came up with an ingenious way of getting the water streaming down the rock. There was never a lack of water during the trip, just sometimes the question of how best to collect it.
We had a pretty cool (albeit sloped) campsite on a knoll at the base of the Hubert Glacier.
Enjoying the improving weather and a good book. Nothing better than reading a book after a successful day of mountain adventuring!
Mt. Tom ridge at night. The clouds gave way to stars as the short weather system passed through.
DAY 5 - JULY 9
Ascent of Olympus (7965ft, Class 2 plus one pitch of 5.4)
9 miles - 6:30am to 4:15pm
We woke up to clear skies. From a distance, we had noticed a continuous line of snowfields from the Hubert Glacier to the Mt. Tom ridge, which we were pleased to find to be a good line of approach. This photo was taken from the first ridgeline we had to cross before heading onto another snowfield which carried us up to the Mt. Tom ridge.
A rock pinnacle close to where we met up with the standard climbing route up the Blue Glacier.
Crossing a rib of rock east of the west peak to circle onto the usual climbing route up the Blue Glacier.
Descending a rock gully east of the west peak before ascending the steep snowfield and then climbing a short pitch of rock to the summit.
Doug climbing up the short rock pitch (Class 5.4) on the north side to the summit.
On the west summit of Mt. Olympus. So nice to have such nice weather!
The Middle Peak across the Blue Glacier. We descended the Blue Glacier to the Hoh Glacier and spent the night at Camp Pan.
Doug jumping a crevasse on the Blue Glacier.
A crevasse on the Blue Glacier below the Middle Peak of Olympus.
Our campsite on the knoll at Camp Pan, Mt. Mathias across the Hoh Glacier. We had the place to ourselves, which was nice.
Silky Phacelia at Camp Pan, the Hoh Glacier in the distance.
Looking down from Camp Pan at some crevasses on the Hoh Glacier.
Stars above the Hoh Glacier from Camp Pan.
DAY 6 - JULY 10
Traverse over to the southern end of the Bailey Range, and then a Bailey Range traverse as far as Mt. Ferry
11 miles - 8:05am to 5:00pm
The image above shows the route line of our high traverse between Camp Pan and Bear Pass (I have received a lot of inquiries about this route, which is not described in the current Climber's Guide as of 2007).Note that we did the traverse in the early summer, when there was significant snowcover; the ridge route between Camp Pan and Bear Pass might not be as feasible in the later season. The image above also shows a photo taken by my parents in 1975.
The Hoh Glacier in the morning light.
We decided to try to traverse the ridge between Camp Pan and Bear Pass in order to access the southern end of the Bailey Range. In planning the trip, we had been unable to find any record of someone who had done this (although I am sure someone has), so we were not sure if we would encounter any impasses. (The other option would be to drop down the Humes Glacier into Queets Basin and then climb up to Bear Pass.) Not far into the traverse to Bear Pass, we encountered some peaks in our way, but we were able to pick our way around on loose rock and regain the snow on the ridge. The above photo shows Doug as we circled around the peak, with the Humes Glacier stretching below.
After traversing around the peak, the high traverse from Olympus to Bear Pass was mostly easy traveling on snowfields on the north side. At one point (shortly before the above photo was taken and shortly after the previous photo was taken) we had to drop over 1000ft down a snowfield to access a snow-filled couloir between peaks to bring us back up to the ridge. This ridge traverse would probably be more difficult later in the season, but overall using this ridge to make the traverse between Olympus and the Bailey Range is a good option (with some fun tricky routefinding) that avoids the alternative of dropping down into Queets Basin.
"Happy Lake," near the ridge between Mt. Olympus and Bear Pass. In the distance are the mountains of the section of the Bailey Range we would traverse the next day.
The snow made for some easy ridge traversing on the Bailey Range (photo taken shortly after we began a ridge traverse of the Bailey Range from Bear Pass).
In his study at home, my dad has a picture of this tree taken during a traverse of the Bailey Range in 1975. The area is unchanged, except maybe for the name of the mountain in the distance, which is now called Mt. Pulitzer (previously it had been called Snagtooth). (Interesting note: This tree is on page 330 of the second, third, and fourth editions of the Climber’s Guide, which calls this saddle area "Lone Tree Pass.")
Early-summer ice on a lake. The lakes were still frozen in early July.
Our campsite at a lake just west of Mt. Ferry midway through the Bailey Range.
Milky Way and a planet above the mountains from camp. It was so great to be able to sleep under the stars and not worry about rain.
A longer exposure captured some star streaks. The most distinct streak is a planet.
DAY 7 - JULY 11
Side-hilling on the northern half of the Bailey Range to the High Divide
13 miles - 8:20am to 7:20pm
A view of the route traveled so far as seen from the Bailey Range on Day 7 of our adventure. This photo shows our travels on Day 5 (ascent of Olympus), Day 6 (the southern Bailey Range as far as Mt. Ferry), and part of Day 7 (the northern end of the Bailey Range and part of the High Divide).
It was our first night we had camped at a lake, so I made sure to wake up early for some reflection shots. The peak on the left is Snagtooth (also known as Mt. Pulitzer).
Another reflection shot.
And another. "Typical Olympic Mountain weather" was Doug’s idea as a caption for this shot. The Olympic Mountains are notorious for their rain and clouds, but except for a brief spell of "normal" weather that passed through on Day 4, we lucked out with awesome weather the entire trip.
Lots of side-hilling ahead on the northern half of the Bailey Range (the southern half we had hiked the previous day had been more low-angled ridge traversing). We followed heather terraces and animal tracks as much as we could, staying between 5000-5500ft. Eventually, a thin hiker’s trail appeared, which was a welcome rest on the ankles!
Taking a break from the side-hilling for awhile and enjoying views of the mountains we had traversed over the last few days.
Avalanche lilies (or white fawn lilies?) and mountains are a nice combination.
A trail appeared as we neared the High Divide at the end of the northern Bailey Range. The North Fork of the Hoh River courses 4000ft below.
Looking down at the "catwalk" between Mt. Carrie and Cat Peak. The "catwalk" is just a slightly exposed section of trail, with a bit of loose rock to watch out for (I had a rather sizable chunk come loose and give me a nice souvenir scar from the trip).
Our campsite along the High Divide. We set up the tent since there were some clouds (the general rule was that if there was so much as one puff of cloud in the sky, we would put the tent up to assure that it would not rain – during the trip, we put the tent up 3 of the 7 nights and only needed it once).
DAY 8 - JULY 12
Hiking the High Divide Trail and the trail along the North Fork of the Hoh River
19 miles - 7:50am to 4:40pm
I couldn’t resist more photos of avalanche lilies (or white fawn lilies?) in the morning sun..
Hiking along the High Divide. It took us a few moments to remember what a real trail looked like! I had expected to see some people, but we didn’t see anyone until we got down to the North Fork of the Hoh – there was a lot of snow on the High Divide, which probably kept people away.
The blow downs also kept people away from the High Divide. So much for an easy 19 miles on trail!
I had someone ask how we got back to our car we had left a the trailhead on the South Fork of the Hoh. Although the trailheads for the North Fork (where we came out) and South Fork (where we began) are actually only about 6 miles apart, there is a big ridge between them, and the shortest drive takes you all the way out to HWY 101 so you can access the road in the other Fork. So we had to find someone willing to drive us from the trailhead at the North Fork (which is about 20 miles from HWY 101) to the trailhead at the South Fork (which is about 20 miles from HWY 101 along a different road). Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait around long before we ran into a friendly artist from San Francisco and his elderly dad, who were willing to load 2 smelly backpackers into their station wagon and drive up the South Fork. Thanks guys!!
OUR VIEWS OF MOUNT OLYMPUS DURING THE TRIP
During our trip, we essentially circled around Mount Olympus. I have put together a series of photos that shows Mount Olympus from various angles during our trip.
Labeled panorama of Olympus as seen from the Bailey Range/High Divide, Day 7.
Our first views of Olympus as the ridge to the east of Valkyrie Creek finally broke open, Day 3.
Olympus from the summit of Frigga in the Valhallas, Day 3.
Looking towards the summit from our camp at the base of the Hubert Glacier, Day 4.
Looking back at the Olympus Massive we had climbed the day before; from the south end of the Bailey Range near Bear Pass, Day 6.
Mt. Olympus from ridge along the Bailey Range just south of Snagtooth (Mt. Pulitzer), Day 6.
Morning sun on Olympus from our camp midway through the Bailey Range, Day 7.
From the northern Bailey Range, Day 7.
From east end of High Divide, Day 7.
Our last views of Olympus before we dropped into the trees at the west end of High Divide, Day 8.
I discovered that my pack wasn’t heavy enough, so I collected some rocks during the trip:
MURPHY'S LAWS FOR THE TRIP
Doug and I made these up to pass the time bushwhacking…
1. The coolest rock is always the heaviest and you always find it the first day of the trip.
2. The brush is always thinner along the other side of the South Fork of the Hoh.
3. The edges of the map always lie along the line of travel.
4. A jacket’s zipper will only get stuck when it begins to rain.
5. If you set up the tent, it won’t rain. If you don’t set it up, it will.
6. Wildlife only appear when you have put your camera away.
7. Crampons and shoelaces will come undone at the worst possible moment.
8. The weather is always the nicest on the last day of the trip (although this was not true in our case, since besides for one day we had beautiful weather the whole time).
Update: Some route notes from a later-season trip
A few weeks after Doug's and my Olympics adventure described on this page, another hiker (Brent) embarked upon the rarely-traveled section of the route between Camp Pan and Bear Pass. With a lot of the snow that had simplified the traverse for us now melted away, he encountered some difficulties. I thought an excerpt from Brent's email (which was directed to the Olympic Mtn Climbing guide webmaster and passed on to me) would be a valuable addition to my trip report, especially for anyone considering doing this route in earlier versus later season. He writes:
"...Interestingly, and unbeknownst to either party at the time, I soloed this route about 3 weeks after miss Abegg's traverse with her climbing partner. I had been eyeballing the route for many years, ever since working as a climbing ranger for the NPS on Mount Olympus. Her comment that "(Note that mid- to late-summer might present unforeseen route-finding challenges)" is certainly correct, as I encountered both steep, hard glacier ice and steep, scrabbly shale where they likely had good snow cover. Briefly, the route was from Dodwell Rixon Pass east-->west to the Hoh Glacier, traversing the glaciers and cols on the north side of the ridge dividing Queets Basin from the major Hoh River north fork tributary. Once on the lower Hoh Glacier, rather than ascend over crevassed terrain unroped to Glacier Pass, I chose to descend off the bare glacier terminus, and then up a series of bench ponds, over a small scree col and down around the Ice River glacier terminus, then up over the ridge between Mercury & Peak 6351 and on down to Glacier Meadows. Certainly the crux of the route was the very steep glacier finger descent to the main body of the Hoh Glacier (from the col between Ares north peak - 6270' and Aphrodite); absolutely a "no-fall" zone here - and not recommended except by those experienced on steep ice - i certainly wished for a 2nd ice tool at the time. A couple of the scree cols along the traverse were tricky as well, though these would have have been simple earlier in the season (with snow cover). hope this is of interest to the high route updates. It is a spectacular traverse, and particularly amazing to be in the upper snow basins at sunrise. Unfortunately, my old SLR zoom lens chose that moment to lose its weather seal and completely fog up for hours. I wasn't carrying a backup point-and-shoot camera for this particular trip, so was unable to obtain any photographs after leaving Bear Pass the evening before. sincerely, Brent Eric Trim"
More on my website
This trip report is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere: http://www.stephabegg.com.
It's always fun for me (and my parents) to compare our photos from trips 30 years apart. There's been some glacial recession, some changes in gear and styles, but overall its cool to know I am seeing the same views and hiking the same rugged mountains as they did. They will get a kick out of being "historic" now! =)