From my apartment in Seattle, I have a great view of sunsets to the West over Lake Union, Queen Anne, and the Olympics—I see those mountains most days (ok, when it's clear in Seattle), but hadn't ever climbed them before. Mount Olympus has been on my list since a trip to the peninsula with my parents back in 2011 when we drove up to Hurricane Ridge and caught a view of the snow-capped peak. Until now, it had been hard to prioritize the climb—it's long and not very technical. But with my thumb out of commission following UCL surgery, it made the perfect weekend objective.
Most ascents of Olympus take 3-4 days because the approach is so long—it's about 17.5 miles from the Hoh Rainforest trailhead to Glacier Meadows. From there, the route ascends almost another 4,000 feet and goes another 4 miles or so over the lateral moraine, across the glacier, onto the snow dome, and around the false summit before ascending the final summit block.
Kelsey and I had read some car-to-car trip reports and considered that approach, but decided that adding a few pounds in form of a sleeping pad and bag was worth the ability to sleep comfortably on Saturday night and break up the hike out. We drove to the trailhead on Friday after work, packed, and slept in the car given how many bugs were buzzing around the parking lot. After breakfast, we hit the trail around 5:15am.
Other than rustling up a black bear larger than me, the approach was pretty uneventful. We were in misty clouds with low visibility until just before camp. It took about 6 hours to travel the 17.5 miles, which was pretty good in our minds. We ate lunch at Glacier Meadows, dropped our sleeping gear, and headed for the lateral moraine.
The glacier was larger than I'd expected and it took a while to travel up, then across it. In the heat of the day, streams were flowing rapidly down the center of the glacier, cutting deep troughs and running into moulins which we steered well clear of. The route ascended moderate snow diagonally across the snow dome, cutting across some rock bands, and then gained the upper plateau, which had some crevasses, but also hosted a nice boot pack. The slog around the false summit and then up to the final ridge was a bit painful, but the view was really nice. We scampered across some loose rock to the saddle below the summit, put our crampons back on for the steep snow, and then opted to climb the 4th class ledges rather than the low-5th class rap route since both of us had injured hands.
It was easy going to the summit and we hung out for a few minutes before scampering down. It had taken us about 11.5 hours to reach the summit from the car. The rap went without incident (we'd brought two 30m glacier lines and tied them together), though we could have likely down-climbed the 4th class without much trouble and saved ourselves the weight. The rest of the descent was pretty easy and we were down on top of the moraine before 8pm, where we shared some whiskey to ease the pain in our feet and watched most of the sunset before scampering down to camp at dusk without needing headlamps.
Having a hot dinner and sleeping for almost 8 hours was huge. Both of our feet were pretty sore when we woke up. They loosened up a bit for the first 5 miles or so before they got worse again. We napped at the half-way mark and rested our feet, then trudged out with the help of podcasts and music, finishing the hike out in about 7 hours all told. Our feet hurt like they hadn't ever hurt before, but we'd done it and were at the car by 2pm, ready for burgers, coffee, a jaunt at Ruby Beach, and a drive home with a stop in Olympia to hang out with a friend who lives on a boat there. I'll chalk it up as a win.