Bailey Range Traverse
The Bailey Range Traverse is one of the most classic high routes in the Olympic Mountains and for that matter, the Pacific Northwest. Following a system of ridges that form the crescent shaped Bailey Range, the traverse involves rugged alpine travel, permanent snowfields, crevassed glaciers, exposed scrambling, bushwhacking, tricky route finding, and significant elevation gain/loss.
6 DAY SCHEDULED PROGRAM
Our 6 day scheduled program starts at the Sol Duc River and exits via the Hoh Rainforest. Our route gains the High Divide via Heart Lake, crosses the “The Catwalk” with a possible summit of Mt. Carrie along the way, and traverses to Cream Lake. From here we gain the crest of the Bailey Range, which takes us as far as Bear Pass before we drop into the Upper Queets Basin. From here we traverse to the Humes Glacier, gaining the Olympus Massif. After camping on Mt. Olympus, we descend the Blue Glacier and exit via the Hoh Rainforest.
THE HIGH ROUTE
This cool variation over the summit of Mt. Carrie is more strenuous than the standard route, but worth it. The route descends the wind sculpted glacier on the east side of Carrie before ascending up and over the shoulder of Mt. Ruth. Another long descent into the beautiful Stephan Lake basin, is followed by another big ascent of snow slopes on the shoulder of Stephan Peak. From here it’s ridge travel and a little bit of bushwhacking into Upper Ferry Basin, the confluence with the normal route.
There are numerous variations on the Bailey Range Traverse. Custom itineraries can include multiple peak ascents along the way including Mt. Olympus, with exit options including the Elwha River via Dodger Point, the Elwha Snow Finger, and the Queets River. Depending on itinerary, we recommend anywhere from 5 to 9 days for these trips.
6 DAY PROGRAM
Our exact camp locations will depend on weather, snow conditions, and timing. Below is a sample itinerary:
DAY 1 – SOL DUC TRAILHEAD TO THE HIGH DIVIDE
We meet at the Overnight Parking Lot of the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center at 8am for introductions and a gear check. Leaving one of our vehicles here, we then drive 2 hours to the Sol Duc River Trailhead, our starting point. Day 1 we’ll camp somewhere between Heart Lake and the Catwalk.
DAY 2 – CATWALK TO MT. FERRY
After crossing the Catwalk, our route predominantly traverses the flanks of Mt. Carrie and Mt. Ruth (lots of sidehilling on this section). We descend to Cream Lake and work our way into Upper Ferry Basin where we make our camp for the night.
DAY 3 – MT. FERRY TO QUEETS BASIN
With possible ascents of Mt. Ferry or Mt. Pulitzer to start off the day, we make our way south along what is arguably the most classic section of the route with breathtaking views in all directions, towards Bear Pass. From here we descend into Queets Basin, where we establish our camp for the night.
DAY 4 – QUEETS BASIN TO THE HOH GLACIER (CAMP PAN)
From camp we begin a long traverse towards the Humes Glacier. This is a challenging section with tricky navigation and sections of dense bushwhacking. Once beneath the Humes Glacier, we ascend steep benches onto the glacier and rope up for the ascent to Blizzard Pass. From here it’s short, steep descent to Camp Pan, situated on a rocky outcrop above the Hoh Glacier.
DAY 5 – HOH GLACIER TO LEWIS MEADOWS
From Camp Pan we traverse the Hoh Glacier through Glacier Pass, between Mt. Mathias and the East Peak of Mt. Olympus. We descend the Blue Glacier and exit via the moraine, dropping into Glacier Meadows, down to the Hoh River bridge, and into lush rainforest. Our last night we camp at Lewis Meadows.
DAY 6 – LEWIS MEADOWS TO HOH RAINFOREST TRAILHEAD
It’s a relatively flat 10 mile cruise along the Hoh River and a well travelled trail back to civilization, a sharp contrast from the majority of the terrain (and lack of people) encountered over the previous 6 days. We shuttle our vehicles back to the Sol Duc Trailhead stopping for a celebratory meal along the way in Forks.
BAILEY RANGE TRAVERSE
In addition to the items on this list, participants will be given a portion of the group equipment to carry.
PACK & SLEEPING SYSTEM
☐ BACKPACK: 60-85 liter internal frame pack.
☐ SLEEPING BAG: Rated between 15° and 30°, down or synthetic. RENT
☐ COMPRESSION STUCK SACK: Sized appropriately to your bag.
☐ (1-2) SLEEPING PAD(S): We recommend bringing one closed cell foam pad, and one inflatable pad. One of your pads can be 1/2 or 3/4 length and the other a full length.
☐ ICE AXE: 55-70cm mountaineering axe. No leash is required. RENT
☐ CRAMPONS: 10 or 12 point steel mountaineering crampon. Avoid waterfall ice crampons with fully rigid frames and vertical front points, as well as older crampons with leather straps. Make sure that your crampons are compatible with your boots. RENT
☐ HARNESS: Alpine harness with adjustable leg loops. For safety reasons, your harness needs to be less than 10 years old and in good condition. Be sure to check the fit of your harness. RENT
☐ (2) LOCKING CARABINERS: Pear shaped recommended.
☐ POLES: Ski poles or trekking poles with powder baskets. RENT
☐ MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS: A lighter weight mountaineering boot is ideal for the variety of terrain encountered on this trip. Boots should comfortable for hiking on and off-trail (avoid fully rigid plastic boots), with an aggressive sole for edging in loose terrain, climbing on snow, and crampon compatible (ex: La Sportiva Trango S EVO GTX).
☐ SANDALS: For around camp. Should be lightweight.
☐ GAITERS: Provide a clean interface between your pants, boots, and crampons.
☐ SOCKS: 2-3 pairs (wool or synthetic) that fit well with your boots, keeping in mind that warmth comes from good circulation, not necessarily heavier socks.
☐ SUNGLASSES: Glacier glasses or dark tinted wrap-arounds, should have full UV protection. Consider bringing an extra pair. RENT
☐ WARM HAT: Fleece, wool or synthetic.
☐ SUN HAT: Baseball cap, visor, etc.
☐ FACE PROTECTION: Buff® recommended.
☐ LIGHT GLOVE
☐ MEDIUM GLOVE: Should be wind and water-resistant; think ski glove.
There are many layering combinations for your upper body that will work well. Use the following recommendations as guidelines:
☐ BASELAYER TOP: Light to medium weight synthetic fabric.
☐ (1-2) INSULATING LAYERS: Fleece, softshell or synthetic/down. Two lighter layers are more versatile than one heavy layer.
☐ HARDSHELL JACKET WITH HOOD: Lightweight and waterproof.
☐ SYNTHETIC OR DOWN INSULATED JACKET
☐ SOFTSHELL CLIMBING PANTS: Lightweight, breathable synthetic fabric. Zip-off trekking pants also work.
☐ HARDSHELL PANTS: For adverse weather. These must have full side zips.
☐ (2) HEAVY TRASH BAGS: Cheap lightweight waterproof lining for your backpack.
☐ SUNSCREEN: SPF 30 or greater, avoid spray on.
☐ LIP BALM
☐ WATER BOTTLE(S) or HYDRATION SYSTEM: Should have a screw top (no bike bottles); hydration system should have an insulated tube.
☐ WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS or STERIPEN
☐ COMPACT CAMERA
☐ EXTRA BATTERIES: For your transceiver (usually AAA), headlamp, camera, etc.
☐ HEADLAMP: LED headlamp recommended. RENT
☐ SEE DETAILS
☐ INSULATED MUG
☐ (2) SPOONS or SPORKS
PERSONAL FIRST AID/TOILETRIES
Guides will carry a well-equipped group first aid kit.
☐ PERSONAL TOILETRY KIT: Toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper and/or baby wipes, gender specific items, small bottle of hand sanitizer.
☐ PERSONAL FIRST AID KIT: Band-Aids, blister repair, anti-diarrheal (Immodium), antacid, ibuprofen or aspirin, as well as any personal prescription medications (be sure to discuss these with us).
☐ EAR PLUGS
☐ CHEMICAL HAND WARMERS
☐ BOOK or KINDLE
☐ JOURNAL W/PENCIL
We will provide all necessary group equipment for your trip such as tents, stoves, ropes, and rescue gear.
Previous mountaineering experience is not required for the Bailey Range Traverse, but is recommended. Backpacking experience both on and off-trail is strongly recommended.
This trip involves:
- Six consecutive full, strenuous days in the mountains
- Rugged off-trail travel, with sections of steep, loose, awkward terrain
- Climbing on steep snow slopes using an ice axe and crampons
- Roped travel on crevassed glaciers
- Carrying a heavy pack
Excellent physical fitness is required for mountaineering. You should be able to hike/climb for 1-2 hours at a stretch, taking 10 minute breaks, for up to 12 hours. You should be able to ascend 3,000′ vertical feet in a day carrying 45 lbs on your back, and 5,000′ in a day carrying 30 lbs on your back.
Physical conditioning should not be underestimated – mountaineering is a strenuous activity. Some sort of training/exercise regimen is strongly recommended. The better shape you are in, the more you will enjoy the climb.
- 6 days of guiding and instruction
- Group equipment: tents, stoves, fuel, ropes
- Lodging and transportation before and after the trip
- Personal equipment and food*
*provided for an additional fee.
Lunch Food: In the mountains, “lunch starts after breakfast and ends before dinner”. In other words, on a given day we generally won’t stop for a formal lunch break, and instead we’ll snack all day long. This is vital to maintaining high energy levels in this environment.
Be sure to bring foods that you like and emphasize variety. Energy bars and gels are great but in limited amounts – real food works just as well and tastes better.
Breakfasts & Dinners: Bring meals that can be cooked with just boiling water. Examples include freeze-dried pouches (Mountain House, Backpackers Pantry), ramen noodles, instant oatmeal, etc. The stoves we use are very efficient for heating water but are not suitable for cooking.
WHERE TO MEET
From Port Angeles/Forks (Hwy 101 West, South): From Port Angeles head west on Hwy 101 to the town of Forks. Continue past Forks for 12.5 miles (101 South), and turn left on Upper Hoh Valley road, reaching the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center in 18 miles.
From Aberdeen (Hwy 101 North): From Aberdeen, head north on Hwy 101 for approximately 94 miles. Turn right on Upper Hoh Valley road, reaching the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center in 18 miles.
Flights: Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. From here the drive to the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center is about 4.5 hours.
Car Rental: There are many options at Sea-Tac Airport.
Pre Trip: Forks is an hour away from the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center, our meeting point for the start of the trip: Forks Chamber of Commerce
Post Trip: Sol Duc Hotsprings is an excellent place to unwind and relax after 6 days in the mountains. There are many options in Port Angeles including hotels, bed and breakfasts, and hostels: Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce
Check out our Weather & Avalanche Resources page.
“Some mountaineers might overlook the Bailey Range Traverse because it’s sometimes considered in between backpacking and mountain climbing. They shouldn’t. This trip is a full-on wilderness mountaineering experience. Short of fifth-class rock climbing, it has it all: glacier travel, snow climbing, alpine ice climbing (late season on the High Route variation), exposed scrambling, bushwhacking and breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains. I can’t recommend it enough.”
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