Climb Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus is the highest peak in the Olympic Mountains, an impressive glaciated massif crowned by three summits, positioned in the heart of the range. Guarded by a 17.5 mile approach that begins at only 600’ above sea level, climbing Mount Olympus is a significant undertaking despite its 7980’ summit elevation. The effort this trip requires is greatly rewarded by spectacular 360° views, and beautiful climbing on a remote peak.
We spend two days on the approach to Mount Olympus hiking through the lush Hoh Rainforest, gaining most of our elevation on the second day. The climb begins from a camp at Glacier Meadows, at the toe of the Blue Glacier. Summit day on Mt. Olympus involves glacier mountaineering and snow climbing, finishing with a short pitch of rock on the summit block.Our standard Mt. Olympus climb is 5 days in length, attempting the summit on the day 3, and returning to camp that evening. This allows two full days for the hike out, and even some time to explore the lower Blue Glacier on day 4.
Llama support and portering is available at additional cost for custom groups.
RECENT TRIP REPORTS
- Mt. Constance, Mt. Olympus, Mt. Shuksan & Mt. Baker
- The Bailey Range Traverse: Sol Duc to the Hoh via Mt. Carrie, Queets Basin & Mt. Olympus
- Aug 25-29, 2013 Mt. Olympus Climb(s)
ITINERARY: 5 DAY CLIMB
DAY 1 – TRAILHEAD TO LEWIS MEADOWS
We meet at the Overnight Parking Lot of the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center at 9am for introductions, orientation, and gear check. Once packed, we’ll secure our permits and begin the approach. On this first day we will cover 10 miles of gradual terrain along the Hoh River, hiking through lush temperate rainforest. We arrive at our first camp, prepare dinner, and spend the evening practicing a few basic mountaineering skills.
DAY 2 – LEWIS MEADOWS TO GLACIER MEADOWS
The Hoh River Trail’s gradual incline becomes a steady ascent, gaining over 3000’ in 7 miles to Glacier Meadows. We arrive in the afternoon and set up camp along the creek. Here we’ll discuss the details of the climb ahead including what we’ll need to bring, and what to expect. The rest of the afternoon is spent making preparations. We eat dinner and head for bed on the early side in order to maximize our rest for the big day to come.
DAY 3 – SUMMIT DAY ON MT. OLYMPUS
With an early start, we eat breakfast and set off on the climb. After two days of carrying bigger loads, it’s nice to be moving with lighter packs.
The route follows a lateral moraine before crossing to the other side of the Blue Glacier. Here we ascend a feature called the Snow Dome, cresting a broad plateau at 6600’. From this point we have an excellent view of our objective, the West Peak, but getting there can be somewhat circuitous. Depending on conditions we’ll use one of a couple variations, the standard ascending through Crystal Pass to the head of the Blue Glacier before wrapping around the false summit. From this point a steep snow slope leads us to the final pitch of rock and a short scramble takes us to the summit.
On top we enjoy 360° views of the Olympics. We spend half an hour or so on the summit, take lots of pictures, and prepare for the descent.
Returning to camp, we cook up dinner and hot drinks and enjoy some well-earned relaxation time.
DAY 4 – GLACIER MEADOWS TO LEWIS MEADOWS
In the morning we take a walk along the lower Blue Glacier. With its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, more precipitation falls on this glacier than any other in the lower 48 United States.
Back at camp we get packed up for the walk downhill. The descent will take us back into the Hoh Rainforest where we’ll camp along the river at Lewis Meadows.
DAY 5 – LEWIS MEADOWS TO THE TRAILHEAD
We hike out the remaining 10 miles along the Hoh River, arriving back at the parking lot by early afternoon.
MT. OLYMPUS CLIMB
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 0° and 20°, down or synthetic. RENT
☐ COMPRESSION STUFF SACK: Sized appropriately to your bag.
☐ SLEEPING PAD: Closed cell foam or inflatable.
☐ ICE AXE: 60-70cm 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.
☐ CLIMBING HELMET: Needs to be climbing specific. RENT
☐ TRANSCEIVER: Modern, digital transceiver, preferably less than 5 years old. A 3-antennae model is highly recommended. RENT
☐ POLES: Ski poles or trekking poles with powder baskets. RENT
With the 17.5 mile approach on trail, choosing appropriate footwear for Olympus can be tricky. Mountaineering boots are required for this climb, but are not necessarily the most comfortable option for the hike in and out. Our favorite option is a lightweight synthetic mountaineering boot with a half-length shank such as the La Sportiva Trango S, which works well for both trail walking and climbing. A combination of approach shoes and rigid mountaineering boots is also a good option. Note: Hiking boots are not acceptable on summit day. If you are unsure whether your boots will work, email us.
☐ MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS: Must be specifically designed for mountaineering. A lighter weight mountaineering boot is ideal (ex: La Sportiva Trango S EVO GTX).
☐ APPROACH SHOES (OPTIONAL): Should provide ankle support for carrying a big pack. If you intend to use plastic mountaineering boots for the climb, we strongly recommend approach shoes.
☐ SANDALS (OPTIONAL): For around camp. Think lightweight.
☐ GAITERS: Provide a clean interface between our 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
☐ BASELAYER BOTTOMS (OPTIONAL)
☐ 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
☐ INSECT REPELLENT: Avoid DEET (ex: Natrapel).
☐ 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
☐ THERMOS (OPTIONAL): Half-liter size recommended.
☐ 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 to climb Mt. Olympus, but is recommended. Other beneficial experience includes backpacking and rock climbing.
This trip involves:
- Roped travel on crevassed, glaciated terrain
- Climbing on steep snow slopes using an ice axe and crampons
- Class 4 and easy 5th class rock climbing on exposed alpine terrain
- Lowering and/or rappelling
- A 10-13 hour, strenuous summit day
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 4,500′ 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.
- 4 or 5 days of guiding and instruction
- Group equipment: tents, stoves, fuel, ropes
- Lodging and transportation before and after the trip
- Personal equipment and food*
- Park entrance fee (free with park pass)
*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.
Forks is an hour away from the trailhead.
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