Mt Olympus Blue Glacier

Mt Olympus- Only 7969'?

After many rain outs and reschedules this season, I didn't expect Olympus would go. Access to Mt Olympus is thru the Hoh Rainforest which receive 143" of average annual rainfall. In the weeks before the climb I watched the forecast and I didn't see a cloud in the sky, hope began to flicker.

Wild Bill had a traverse of the neighboring Bailey range planned on the same dates, because this was the only weekend I had available, it looked like we were going to have a side by side trip. So lets see, that put Bills team (AKA Princess Leah Impersonators, name chosen by Bill himself) of 9 and my team (AKA Jedi Warriors) 10 deep. 19 Chemeketans Oh My!

Ok, so the trees are really big!
The area had been receiving record lows of precip and record high temps. This didn't bode well for snow bridges but w/ 19 people we figured we could build a human chain acrossed any impassable crevasses. Let me give you a run down of the teams. The Leah Impersonators were: Wild Bill, Tom Davidson, Gary Stephenson, Mike Mchugh (his 16th peak!), Sue Nelson, Linda Bedard, Keith Hill, Tim Donovon and Jade Ajani. Basically the biggest sissies the club has to offer.
Now the Jedi Warriors. Me, Amy, John and Joanna, Dan Domrose, Bryon Snapp, Vaqas Malik, Tony Carleson, Markian and Jerry "the Tomb Raider" Croft. Basically the Chemeketan allstars;-)

After a 6 1/2 hour drive and a 9 mile hike, both teams met out on the sandbar to avoid the biting fly's that almost singlehandedly ruined the trip. The breeze down the sandbar kept the bugs at bay. Seing this mammoth group of friends was really something. As Bill stated, about 1/3 of the active Chemeketans were all sitting on the sandbar. I'll never forget how good the sand felt between my toes as I took this picture.

Shawn, the ranger, was very pleasant. As we'd later find out, You can count on him if you have trouble, but you'll have to wait for that story. You begin the climb at about 500' elevation. The first day is basically a flat hike through a beautiful rainforest that was a bit parched on this trip, I think it was like 80 degrees on the way in.

The prevailing theme on Mt Olympus is variety. A flat hike on day one, day two had elevation gain. Summit day begins in the the woods, enters the Alpine zone at +/- 4500'. You start up a moraine, decend to the massive Blue Glacier, climb the Snow Dome which included lots of scrambling. You then traverse the upper Blue to Crystal Pass, around the back and scramble to gain access to the summit block. A steep snow pitch and then you actually gain the summit block. A little bit of everything. As Snappy Bryon said, there are very distinct chapters.

Like the climb, we were quite a variety ourselves. One of my favorite parts of climbing. We had senior citizens, (55 and over?) too many to list...OK I'll do it. Jerry, Bill, Tom, John, Joanna and several more pushing it. We had strong, young folks, Me ;-). OK, Tony was the baby of the group at 28 years old. As matter of fact, if you add Tony and My age up, we'd still be younger than Bill or Tom! What a wise guy I can be, I'm not sorry.
We had vegans (Tim) and carnivores (I only eat veggies when I'm trapped). We had tons of experience (Bill, Tom, Keith, Markian) and newish climbers (Dan Domrose, Tony Carleson) We had retired, semi-retired and working folk. Good lookin ole gals, good lookin young gals, ugly ole guys and ugly young guys! We had tall Tim at 6'4" and short Sue 4'6". We had Mazi's, chemeks and hybrids. We even had a guy who can beat a bear in a wrestling match! Keith Hill of course.

Back to the Climb. We crossed the High Hoh bridge which is actually alot higher than it looks in the picture. It kind of takes your breath away for a second. We had to defibulate John to get him going again. On day two, you gain +/- 3500'. It felt like alot more, I'm guessing the temps were in the high 80's.
There's a traverse in the trail that gets washed out by avy's every year. This year, they built a rope ladder, that dropped 200'. It was very, very hot. No shade, lots of dust and 5 day packs.

We got our first views of the Snow Dome. The snow dome is a massive shoulder-like portion of the mountain. You gain it from the left on summit day. It looked real close. But this portion of the approach stretched on and on.

We set up camp at Glacier Meadows. The ranger here was the anti-thesis of Shawn, the friendly ranger back at Olympic Guard station. He was some power hungry little rodent. He hassled us and made everybody in the whole campground move around so that he could have his way. We had a bit of trouble on my first visit to the mountain but nothing like this. I was diplomatic but I already had visions of digging a cathole and burying him. A few people in the group were losing patience w/ him as he lectured us. I feared he wouldn't survive the night.

We were greated by the largest Billy Goat I had ever seen. I was waiting for the Ranger to come out and tell the goat to stay on the trail, and that the rocks are there for a reason.

I'm happily married but I've got to say, this Goat was the Brad Pitt of mountain goats. He was the best looking goat I've seen. He wasn't molting and he was very majestic looking. It appeared he just got back from the stylist and and had his Goat-tee sculpted. It was the first mtn goat Amy had seen close up, he didn't dissapoint.

So this is the Blue glacier, it's more than a mile across if that gives you some idea of the scale. I didn't hike up to have a look before summit day. If I had, I would have seen that the center of the glacier was closed, the far side was openened up. Plus the whole thing was oblated. (fancy word that means all the snow was gone) We took this pic on the way out after summit day.
As I was crossing this in the moonless night, I felt like I was in a labrinth. On the far side, there were several man-eating crevasses. I had to pull together all of my Jedi power to navigate. In the end, it was pretty fun and not very dangerous at all.

This shot was also on the way down. I just wanted to give some idea of the route. I'm standing on top of the snow dome looking toward the summit. (the rounded feature dead center of the pic) You traverse from where I'm standing all the way passed the left edge of the photo to Crystal Pass. You arc back on the back side of the rock formations toward the summit. You have to go over or around a false summit and your there.

OK, back to the summit morning. After navigating the Blue, we started up the snow dome. There was lots more rock showing here than on my previous climb. It made for some fun and interesting unexposed scrambling on solid rock. If you fell here, you'd land on the person behind you and laugh. Unlike the other kind of fun scrambling where you can't fall.

Better yet, how bout nobody falls and we all laugh. We crossed through Crystal pass as the sun was rising. Because the overnight lows were in the low 60's, we started out at 12:30 am. Surprisingly, everybody felt great and we left before our scheduled departure time. The sunrise was awesome, pictures don't really show how it felt to be standing there.

Vaqas and I pose, doing our best to look like were not questioning why do this crazy stuff. Hey I've got a great idea, lets hike 18 miles in record temps and the wake up BEFORE the middle of the night, go climb a mountain, fall in a crevasse and then hike out, we'll sleep for a bit and then hike out some more! Yeah, I fell up to my hip in a completely hidden crevasse. It was a bit exciting. I'm sure my rope team had my back, right?

Bryon enjoys a 3 day old PB&J, mmm. Ok, so the sunrise turning the snow pink is worth it but still, we're all idiots.

Joanna enjoys some organic snack made from only the wholest of grains and from the most localest of ingredients. Having been on this route before, it was nice for me to just sit back and enjoy. I didn't have to be running ahead to try and guess what way we should be going and acting like I got it all together.

Vaqas, takes in the sunrise. It's always weird when it's 5:30 am and I'm craving a Deluxe Bacon cheeseburger. Though it was nice to not have to figure out the way, it is a part I enjoy. Some people don't like the uncertainty of not knowing for sure where they're going, I kind of thrive on the feeling and I think it brings out the best in me. If only I had a burger.

Bryon gets ready to move his rope team. Another solid effort by Bryon as a co-pilot. He's such a good assistant, I don't want him to work toward's leadership. I know it sounds selfish, but that's me.
After working our way around the back side of crystal pass, we now had to find a way over/around/through the false summit.

When I climbed this route w/ Steve Dougherty a few years ago, we went over the top of 5 fingers (the false summit) It looks good on the way up but going down the back is a nasty scree funnel. Somebody almost got brained by a basketball sized zinger. I talked w/ Herb Fecker and he explained that you could go around it on the left. I thought what the heck, I'll give it a shot. The team waited as I pretended to know what I was doing and where I was going, still burgerless.

I like the look on my face, it says, that I don't know where I'm going and I'm almost certain half of us are going to die. If I play my cards right, I'll be amongst the remnant.

The traverse looked very improbable. It had a section w/ lots of exposure. I was ready to turn around but then I thought what the heck, w/ a team of ten, it's very unlikely that they'll all fall. Even 5 summitters is a success right? We already had the ropes out so I I was able to set a fixed line in the time it took people to remove their crampons. It proved easier than it looked.

Dan, works throught the traverse. The view down the gully was pretty phenomenol. You looked down a gully, off a cliff and onto a hanging glacier.

Joanna, finished up the traverse. On the way back down, everybody was comfortable enough that we didn't use a rope.

The moat (generally the crux of the route) was a non-factor. There was a huge hole you could fall into but you could easily step onto the rock. A fall would have been unlikely but I set up an anchor. Mostly because we carried the dang pickets, it would be a drag to fall in the hole and stab my self w/ them.

Tony built me slings out of everybody's long prussik's and their non lockers. No need to carry a bunch of additional slings, a Steve Dougherty trick.

We scrambled across the summit pinnacle unroped to the end of the traverse where I prepped the last fixed line. The route seems obvious now that I know it. A few years ago, we had a bit of trouble that almost put our trip in the epic category. As you traverse around the nose, there's some awesome exposure. A couple of exciting 5.4 moves on good rock and you're on the summit!
Because Johns head is so dense, he doesn't need a helmet.

Markian tops out. Markian is from Bend but it seems like I get to climb w/ him once a year.

Tony, 1st year Chemeketan, tops out on one of the elusive of the 18 peaks.

Tony, Jerry "Tomb Raider" Croft, Markian and John Coyier were the first to the summit. Sorry, I forgot to take a summit shot of the whole team.
Dan stands on the summit ridge. What a view! Dan is quietly getting lots of experience in his two yeas w/ the club.
Amy will probably beat me for putting this pic in here but I like that kind of stuff too.

Bryon's future screensaver!
Vaqas is a good guy and a great person to have on your team but he's not nearly as cool as he looks in this pic!

Ahhh, how sweet.

If you look closely, on the edge of the snow field, you can see some dots, that's the Princess Leah Impersonators! They kindly "allowed" us to have the first shift on the mountain. They came up the summit a different way and we didn't get in each others way. I was looking forward to dropping rock on them.
We started heading down. It was demoralizing looking down the summit, down the Blue and seeing where camp was. It looked sooo far away. That was the good news. The bad news was we were heading back another nine miles today! Our permits where for Olympus Gaurd station.
Jerry lead us down the snow dome, staying on snow all but 30', very nice. He gained the glacier high and found the very easy way down glacier. Very Yoda like. The oldest of the Jedi's.
The temps were in the high 80's low 90's on the glacier! I was very glad to have left early. As we crossed the Blue, there were tons of spots where you could have gone tubing all the way down to the glacial terminus, unless of course you fell in a crevasse. Some of the biggest crevasses were full of water, very interesting. We arrived at camp and the Jedi warriors packed up and headed out. We dispensed beta to the teams that were heading up the next night. They told us that they had to shew a bear out of camp. Where's Keith when we need him! We made it to camp at the Guard station and it's hard to express how beat up our feet felt. Imagaine a blacksmith, an anvil and the bottom of your feet. Something like that.
Tim and Jade headed down a few hours behind us. In the morning of day four, my team began trickling out of camp and headed to the car. I figured after such a long haul, I should go last to make sure everybody made it out OK. Jade had said Tim wasn't feeling well, I figured I should check on the Princess Leah wanna - bee's. Tim had begun puking and was getting dehydrated. I stopped John Coyier, Amy and Bryon. We split some of Tim's gear and help haul it out.
Amy and John went on to catch the group and let them know Bryon and I would be slow coming out. Bryon and I decided we'd hike out w/ Tim and Jade. We started out making a 100 yards progress at a time. Tim was overheating and he couldn't sweat anymore. Soon he was down to 100' per break. He was severly dehydrated (puking every hundred feet will do that to you), it was almost 100 degrees. We did our best to keep him cool. Dumping cold water on him was kind of fun and he started cussing at me. It was still fun.
I'm guessing he had a spoiled carrot? Maybe heat exhaustion/low electrolytes? Either way, he's toughest vegetarian I know. I'm going to have to start rethinking my ideas on vegetarians.
It was evident that we needed to stop him, get him some shade and cool his core before he died. At just the right time, Wild bill's group began trickling in, they abondoned their Bailey trip because of wicked blisters and crazy heat. A good call as their route had no shade. Keith "the Bear Wrestler" Hill scouted a head and found a good shady spot by the river for us to store Tim. Bill showed up and offered to stay w/ Tim and Jade. Bryon and I were free!
Bryon and I shared double carrying Tim's pack. I like this picture because it makes it look like I rescued Tim and carried all of his stuff. The facts are Tim didn't need rescuing and four of us carried his stuff. John Coyier had so much energy that he went for a four mile jog. (he forgot his camera) Bryon and I drank about 2 gallons of water each getting to the cars. We had 3 ropes, 4 pairs of crampons 3 tents four pairs of footwear, some clothes and 3 ice axes. Did I mention it was 100 degrees. By the time we got to the cars, a rescue was initiated.
The group hearing of the semi-emergency told the rangers. The rangers thought the symptoms sounded severe enough to warrant a horse evacuation. I tried to tell them that Tim was doing better but I think they wanted to be on the safe side. Heatsroke is deadly, one minute your hot, the next your dead. The Rangers caught up w/ him and he was making steady progress. He told them that he didn't need the horse and wanted to walk it out. The horse was never deployed. The Rangers were crazy helpful. I give them an A+. They were very kind and did everything right, which was in huge contrast to the guy at high camp. No rangers were harmed BTW.
While we were waiting to receive Tim and Crew, we went down the road for some real food. I had the Olympus burger and a deluxe double cheese burger, you can never be too safe.
The Chemeketans put 19 people on the summit of Olympus on the hottest day on record. Including 7 people over the age of 50! The foggies are setting the bar very high. I'm in awe of their ability to put in long days, especially our summit day, return to camp and then half way out. Very impressive, If I can be half as good, when I'm their age, it'll be a victory. I know it's hard to tell if this paragraph is a compliment or a put down but trust me its both!


  1. Great humor as usual Jess. Nice write up and photos. Captures the essence of the climb.

  2. Don't blink, Jess, 'cause you'll be an old fogey before you know it.

    Nice read. Congrats on the perfect journey.

    ~Big John