The Slog BeginsTwo friends and I decided to make an attempt on Mt. Olympus for an end of the summer adventure, boy was it a slog. We heard the term "slog" said numerous times by the folks in the area, including the rangers. This was our first time hearing this descriptor used multiple times, so we were certain to experience it.
We opted to do two nights for the 45 miles trip, 17.5 miles in, summit attempt and possible retreat, then all the way out on day three.
We started at 10 am after a stay at a friends cabin in Port Angeles and retrieval of our permits. We did not get to Glacier Meadows until 7 pm, 9 hours later! The first 12 miles were not terrible as it was mostly flat, but i gotta tell ya, the last 5.5 miles is a real SLOG! It seemed to take forever. The worst part was finding a mile post that said 13.6, then down the trail a ways finding one that says 13.2! Dampers the mood quickly after such a long hike! Along the trail, many hikers were talking about this mysterious rope ladder and warning us to be safe.
It was tame!
The ClimbUpon arriving to glacier meadows we determined that no one had brought an alarm clock of any type, so we hung the camera in the middle of the tent so whenever someone woke up they could check the time. We thought about camping next to the guided group of 9 in the camps but opted to not bother them.
When we finally awoke it was 4 am and mostly clear. We were moving up toward the moraine at about 5 am after signing the climbers registry. `
We roped up after dropping off the moraine and headed across the lower blue glacier. Miles crampons were not agreeing with his boots so he opted for trekking poles instead. We followed a set of tracks across the glacier, however it was easy going with no large crevasses. After crossing we headed up towards snowdome. This section was steep but the snow was soft and easy to travel. Miles was not having problems despite not wearing crampons.
We reached snow dome and found ourselves of the guided group who had gone straight up from the saddle-like area below the dome instead of traversing back west-ish like us. They began retreat at this point as the clouds were really moving in and some were getting quite dark and nasty looking. We took a break but kept on moving, following a decent boot marked trail.
We crossed to crystal pass by traversing over a massive crevasse (sorry no pictures of this guy) followed but one quick zig-zag into the pass. From there the boot-pack route took us around several blocks and dumped us onto the rock next to the summit block. We ascended up and over this block and down into the saddle below the summit block. There we began discussing our route up the block. Kayla, a now-famous park ranger in the front country, had shown us a picture of the block on her desktop which we took mental note of and were at this point trying to overlay onto the rock in front of us.
We ascended up from the saddle and started on what we thought was the correct route up the north side. In the image above, we took a route starting from the point where the snow cuts back from block, the closest one to the top. I lead the group up along what we all decided was the route.
Kayla had told us there would be one "move" on this climb that was technical. I came to (and unfortunately did not have the camera at this point) a large crack in the wall that was a bit too much for me to tackle comfortably without protection and told the guys i did not want to do it. They both agreed that if I felt uncomfortable they would as well. At this point were sooooooooo close to the top! Better safe than sorry tho we decided!
After discussing it and playing around with another possible route we headed back toward the snow and glissaded down into the saddle for snack before the wind and clouds really began to pick up. It was now 11:20 am. The Trip back down was mostly uneventful. Below snowdome we played the game "rip the other person off the mountain" where two of three start running while roped up and the third tries to arrest the system. It quickly turned into group glissading/dogsledding so to speak.
Once at the lower blue it began raining and we headed directly across straight for the trail at the end of the lateral moraine. There were many puddles but few soft spots. Only twice did our feet plunge through some snow but no more than 8 inches or so deep. We made it back to camp by 4 and headed back into the tent.There we fell asleep quickly...
The Slog out!... and for too long. It was 6 when we woke up and the rain had not stopped. We had about 2 hours of daylight at max and opted to stay in the tent and do the hike out in one push. We woke up at 6 am and started our way out. It was too damn long. We made it out to the car at 3:11 pm. The one funny thing about hiking this trail is you can tell how close you are to the trailhead based on the type of people you see walking the trail. Ranging from leather jackets, no packs, no water bottles, even Colonel Sanders walking around in suspenders! All said and done, i had the worst blisters of my life on the insides of both big toes which are currently wrapped in gauze.
All in all, we were all dissapointed that we were ultimately unprepared for the summit block and were just soo close to making it but all of us were thrilled to still be able to go back and try again instead of do something we'd regret later! The rappel off the top sure did look sweet tho...