Wellesley Peak Overview
One of the hidden gems of the Olympic Mountains, as well as one of the most beautiful peaks of the range, Wellesley Peak is an isolated peak, rugged, and precipitous from almost any angle. Wellesley is one of those peaks that captures your eye, especially when viewed from the northwest or northeast. The furrowed cliffs that drop into the Knerr Creek valley are an impressive sight indeed. Wellesley Peak is the dominant peak between the Dosewallips and Knerr/Silt Creek drainage of the eastern Olympic Range.
Wellesley commands the skyline from Gray Wolf Pass, Lost Pass and the ridge to the east above Thousand Acre Meadow, West Wellesley Peak, though not visible from the meadow itself. The sheer north face leads to twin summit pinnacles, with the eastern pinnacle being the true summit. One is easily lost in the beauty of Wellesley Peak in a range of beautiful summits.
With 958 feet of prominence, Wellesley Peak is the 100th most prominent peak in the Olympic Range, and is the 42nd highest peak overall. Wellesley Peak has one of the longest approaches in the Olympic Range, with almost 24 miles of trail, bushwhacking and scrambling to reach the summit. It occupies a rarely explored area of the range. Less than a handful of climbers reach its summit each year, and probably less than that.
This class two/three mountain contains mostly loose talus and shale rock. Scrambling is a must, as the ridgeline steepens into an almost vertical climb near the summit. The ridge to the summit is very exposed, dropping off on both sides into either Wellesley Basin or the Silt Creek Valley. Only a narrow, jagged ridge leading from an unnamed 6490 foot peak(West Wellesley Peak) west of Wellesley Peak provides access to the summit. The ridge offers some of the finest views of hidden peaks and ridges around Diamond Mountain and the Piro's Spire area of the central/eastern Olympics. To reach the summit of Wellesley Peak from this ridge is a bit of a hassle, with some exposed sections, but can be done in about 1-2 hours with careful bushwacking and scrambling. The rock is very loose, and care should be taken before making hand or foot holds.
The ridge to Wellesley Peak can be reached via Thousand Acre Meadow. Upon reaching the unnamed 6490 foot peak on the Southeast corner of the meadow head up and down onto a boulder filled shelf ridgeline. This easy walk can take a climber halfway down the exposed ridge without any danger at all. An arrow like rock spire is the point at which the broad walking shelf ends and actual scrambling along the ridge begins. Approaching to the south of this arrow is the best way. From there on out its a scratchy bushwack through Fir, Cedar and dead tree limbs to reach the rounded secondary summit on the southwest shoulder of Wellesley Peak. The tree's provide nice handholds the whole way down the ridge. However, once the high point of the ridgeline is reached it is only exposed scrambling the rest of the way to the summit. The last pitch requires good hand holds and quick scrambling, as the rock gives way and plummets down into Wellesley Basin.
Commanding superb views of the beautiful Silt Creek valley to the south, and the drier rugged peaks bordering the Dosewallips to the north and east, Wellesley Peak offers a view of the 10 highest peaks in the Olympic Range. To the south above Silt Creek, Piro's Spire, Diamond Mountain and the Anderson Massif rise in pinnacled beauty. Eel Glacier clings to the spires of West Peak as it thrusts itself higher than its neighbor, Mount Anderson. White Mountain, Mount Stone, The Brother's and Mount Washington fill in the gaps to the south. The western view is just as spectacular with Mount's Olympus, Meany, Queets and Seattle dominating the horizon behind Crystal Peak, Sentinel Peak, Mount Fromme and Mount Claywood.
Thousand Acre Meadow captures the view in the foreground above Wellesley's western buttresses. Tiny lakes and tarns dot its spacious lushness. Looking north the view only takes on a more unique beauty. The drier Olympics leading to the mass of Mount Deception rise, ridge upon jagged ridge, above the Dosewallips River Valley. Mount Cameron, Lost Peak, Peak 7060 and the Needles lead the beholder to the heights of Mount Deception. Deception Basin is visible to the north of Mount Mystery, which stands prominently in the foreground of Mount Fricaba, Mount Constance and Inner Constance to the east.
The beautiful Wellesley Basin lies at the base of Wellesley Peak. Knerr Creek drains from Wellesley Peak into the Dosewallips River to the north. This meadow expanse of boulders, snowfields, small streams and wildflowers, is a perfect home for Elk and Marmots. Kestrels and Hawks can be seen soaring upon the heights around the basin and over into Thousand Acre Meadow. From the basin Wellesley appears ruggedly jagged. Steep slopes of shale and talus fall away from the summit of Wellesley into this beautiful untouched piece of Olympic Wilderness. A stunning outcrop of Wellesley's northern ridge overlooks the basin on the north end of the basin. Snow lingers in the basin during the hotter months of August and September, feeding Knerr Creek on it's journy to the Dosewallips.
Getting to Wellesley Peak
The approach to Wellesley Peak is a long one. Backpacking up the entire length of the main Dosewallips River trail to near Hayden Pass is the easiest route. The road is still, and probably will always still be, washed out, so it adds five miles onto the main fork of the Dosewallips River Trail. It's about 20 miles from the trailhead to the turn off into cross country bushwacking near Hayden Pass from the trailhead.
From the open meadows beneath Hayden Pass head east into Thousand Acre Meadow. Sentinel Peak rises to the west here, and a 6,000 foot plus spur rises off of its eastern face. Head to the south of this peak and into the tree-lined expanse of Thousand Acre Meadow. Rolling ridgelines carpeted with moss, wildflowers, blueberry bushes and small copses of Sub-Alpine Fir dot the landscape to the east. Several small creeks cross the meadow from south to north. Beyond these streams are small lakes and tarns, hidden in the bowls of the gradually sloping smooth ridges. Head up past the meadow.
After reaching Thousand Acre Meadow a short scramble up the 6,490 foot peak (West Wellesley Peak) on the southeast corner of the meadow can be made. From there, a jagged and exposed ridge leads about a quarter mile to the summit of Wellesley Peak. Scramble up a rotten chute, between two summit blocks, to the true summit hidden behind this point. This is almost class 3 climbing by this point, because the ascent is almost vertical the last 30-40 feet to the summit. The rock is terribly loose, so exercise care and caution on the final summit pitch.
Beauty of the Peak
Camping Around Wellesley Peak
Camping can be done at either Dose Meadows (about 4-5 miles from Wellesley Peak) or at Bear Camp (about 6-7 miles from Wellesley Peak). Thousand Acre Meadow is also an option, but tread softly on the soft marshy meadows. Bears abound. For a unique view of Wellesley Peak's southeast face check out this photo by Long Nguyen
The Dosewallips River trail requires a $5.00 dollar fee for each person to enter the park and $2.00 per night per person to spend the night. Make sure and fill out the appropriate paper work not far from the trailhead before entering the National Park. Be sure to check in with the ranger at the ranger station (if he's there) if you have any further questions regarding this permit.
The Constance fire has left numerous trail obstructions and destroyed trail so proceed with caution