Royal Basin Peak Ascents
Surrounded by some of the most impressive mountains in the range, Royal Basin is one of the premier climbing venues in the Olympics. On this action-packed 6 day trip, our goal will be to climb 3 of these peaks from a central base camp.
Our packs will be heavy on the hike in, but once established we’ll be able to explore a different peak every day, climbing on rock, snow, and even glaciers, all while carrying light packs.
ROYAL BASIN PEAKS
Mt Deception (7788’): Highest in the eastern Olympics and second highest in the entire range. See our Mt. Deception program.
The Needles: Steep pinnacle like peaks offering 3rd, 4th, and moderate 5th class climbing.
Mt Clark (7528’): One of the best climbs in The Needles
Mt Johnson (7650’): Highest peak in The Needles.
Sundial Peak (7150’): A smaller, but classic Royal Basin peak.
Mt Mystery (7639’): A remote massif to the south rising above the Mystery Glacier.
Mt Fricaba (7139’): Smaller objective easily climbed in half a day.
Note: We also guide these mountains individually for private groups – see our Olympic Mountains Climbing page.
DAY 1 – Hike in to Royal Basin
We meet at Sequim Bay State Park at 8am for introductions, gear check, and final preparations. From here it’s about a half hour drive to our trailhead on the Dungeness River.
The hike in to Royal Basin takes a full day, gaining 2500’ of elevation over the course of 7 miles. For most of this ascent we follow Royal Creek, hiking through old growth forest, across avalanche paths, and into the subalpine zone.
Carrying heavier packs equipped with 6 days of food and fuel, our pace is steady and efficient. On this first day we’ll camp in the lower basin or in the vicinity of Royal Lake.
DAY 2 – Move to Upper Basin
We pack up our camp and relocate to the upper basin. Here we establish what will be our base camp for the rest of the trip. The scenery in this spot is incredible – a turquoise alpine tarn with Mt Deception towering above, The Needles to the lookers right, and Mt Fricaba to the southeast.
In the afternoon we take a short hike around the area, returning to camp on the early side to get ready for the next day’s climb.
DAY 3 – Mt Deception
With an alpine start we begin our ascent with light packs. From camp the route climbs 1300’ of talus and lower angled rock to a col between Mt Deception and neighboring Martin Peak. This first section is steep and strenuous, requiring 1.5-2 hours to gain the ridge. From this point our views of Royal Basin and our camp below us, are hard to beat.
We descend a short distance to a glacier on the north side of the mountain, climbing a few hundred feet on snow, with one or two steeper sections. This puts us on Deception’s north ridge, and the last 400’ is a cruise.
On top we hang out for an hour or so, eat lunch, take in the views, and relax. Tomorrow’s objective, Mt Mystery, stands proud to the south.
We return to camp in the mid-afternoon and rest up for another big day in the mountains.
DAY 4 – Mt Mystery
With alpine start number two, we set off from camp by headlamp for Mt Mystery. Our first objective along the route is a ridge that runs between Mt Deception and Mt Fricaba. It’s about a 700’ ascent to gain the low point, and then a 700’ descent down the other side into lower Deception Basin.
From here we ascend the Mystery Glacier for about 800’, to a col between Mt Mystery and Hal Foss Peak. Above this col it is a steep scramble with sections of easy rock to the summit. On top once again the routine is familar – eat some lunch, snap a few photos, enjoy new perspectives into the range, and celebrate another big Olympic summit!
Descending back to camp is still an adventure in itself, down the west face and to the base of the Mystery Glacier, back over the Deception-Fricaba Ridge, and into the upper basin.
We return to camp in the early evening, prepare dinner and hot drinks, and enjoy some well-earned evening relaxation.
DAY 5 – Mt Clark
Our final climb of the trip is possibly the most exciting: Mt Clark in The Needles. With another early start, we ascend into Surprise Basin with Mt Johnson and Sundial Peak towering on either side of us. Mt Clark looks steep and foreboding, but a clever route traverses its way to the summit, first along the south face and then along the northwest face.
While the climbing isn’t difficult, it’s still exposed and we use the rope. Topping out in the early afternoon, we enjoy our third summit of the trip!
It’s a slow and careful descent down the upper 1000’, and we take our time. Once we’re back in Surprise Basin it’s a cruise back to our camp.
We enjoy our final evening in Royal Basin, reflecting on our favorite moments of the trip and new found friendships. We’ve climbed three of the biggest peaks in the Olympics and we’re already dreaming of other distant mountains, and scheming future adventures.
DAY 6 – Walk Out
With a more casual start to the day, we pack up our base camp in the upper basin and begin the hike out. The descent back to the car takes about 4 hours, and our packs are significantly lighter than when we hiked in.
Back at the cars by mid-afternoon, we stop for lunch in Sequim on the drive out where we wrap up a safe and successful adventure!
In addition to the items on this list, participants will be given a portion of the group equipment to carry.
PACKS & BAGS
☐ Backpack: 60-85 liter internal frame pack (ex: CiloGear 60L WorkSack or Black Diamond Mission 75).
☐ Sleeping bag: Rated between 15° and 30°, down or synthetic. Keep in mind that manufacturer’s temperature ratings are subjective and serve as guidelines.
☐ Compression stuff sack: Sized appropriately to your bag.
☐ Sleeping pad: Inflatable or closed cell foam (ex: Thermarest Prolite).
☐ Ice axe: 60-70cm mountaineering axe (ex: Petzl Snowalker, Summit, or Sum’Tec). No leash is required. RENT
☐ Crampons: 10 or 12 point mountaineering crampon. Avoid waterfall ice crampons with fully rigid frames and vertical front points, as well as older crampons with leather straps. Be sure that your crampons are compatible with your boots (ex: Petzl Irvis). RENT
☐ Harness: Alpine harness with adjustable leg loops (ex: Petzl Adjama). 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
☐ (1) Locking carabiner: Pear shaped recommended (ex: Petzl Attache or Attache 3D).
☐ (1) Non-locking carabiner: Wire gate recommended (ex: Petzl Ange S or Ange L).
☐ Climbing helmet: Needs to be climbing specific (ex: Petzl Elios or Meteor III +). RENT
☐ Transceiver: Digital recommended. May not be required for later season climbs (ex: BCA Tracker 2). RENT
☐ Poles: Ski poles or trekking poles with powder baskets (ex: Black Diamond Traverse). RENT
Our favorite option for this program is a lightweight synthetic mountaineering boot with a half-length shank such as the La Sportiva Trango S; great for summer alpine climbing and fairly comfortable to hike in. If you’re unsure about the boots you’re planning to use, check with us - this is definitely one of the more critical items on this list.
☐ Mountaineering boots: A lighter weight boot is ideal (ex: La Sportiva Trango S Evo GTX - Men’s | Women’s).
☐ Sandals (optional): For around camp. Should be as lightweight as possible.
☐ Gaiters (optional): Provide a clean interface between our pants, boots, and crampons (ex: OR Flex-tex).
☐ Socks: 2-3 pairs (wool or synthetic) that work well with your boots. Keep in mind that warmth comes from good circulation, not necessarily heavy socks. If your boots are roomy choose a heavier sock, if they’re snug choose a lighter sock.
☐ Sunglasses: Glacier glasses or dark tinted wrap-arounds, should have full UV protection. Consider bringing an extra pair. (ex: Julbo Dolgan) RENT
☐ Warm hat: Fleece, wool or synthetic.
☐ Sun hat: Baseball cap, visor, etc.
☐ Buff® (optional)
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 (ex: First Ascent Midweight 1/4-Zip Baselayer or First Ascent Solarfoil Hoodie).
☐ (1-2) Insulating layers: Fleece, softshell or synthetic/down. Two lighter layers are more versatile than one heavy layer (ex: First Ascent Sandstone Hoodie, Hangfire Hoodie, or Accelerant Jacket).
☐ Hardshell jacket with hood: Lightweight and waterproof (ex: First Ascent BC-200 Jacket).
☐ Synthetic or down insulated jacket: Synthetic or down (ex: First Ascent Ignitor Jacket).
☐ Baselayer bottoms (optional) (ex: First Ascent Midweight Baselayer Pants)
☐ Softshell climbing pants: Lightweight, breathable synthetic fabric. Zip-off trekking pants also work (ex: First Ascent Guide Pants or Mountain Guide Lite Pants).
☐ Hardshell pants: For adverse weather. These must have full side zips (ex: First Ascent Rainier Storm Shell Pants).
☐ (2) Heavy trash bags: Cheap lightweight waterproof lining for your backpack.
☐ Sunscreen: SPF 30 or greater, avoid spray on (ex: Doc Martin’s of Maui).
☐ Lip balm: With SPF protection.
☐ Insect repellent: Avoid DEET (ex: Natrapel).
☐ Water bottles(s) or hydration system: Should have a screw top (no bike bottles); hydration system should have an insulated tube.
☐ Water purification tablets: Regular iodine tends to work best (ex: Potable Aqua); chlorine dioxide tablets are less practical.
☐ Thermos (optional): Half-liter size recommended.
☐ Compact camera
☐ Extra batteries: For your headlamp, camera, etc.
☐ Headlamp: LED headlamp recommended (ex: Petzl Tikka XP2 or Tikka Plus). 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
☐ Book (lightweight)
☐ Journal w/pencil
We will provide all necessary group equipment for you trip such as tents, stoves, ropes, and rescue gear.
- No previous climbing or mountaineering experience is required.
- Some previous backpacking experience is recommended.
- This is a physically demanding trip, and excellent physical fitness is essential.
- 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 3000′ in a day carrying 50+lbs on your back, and 4500′ in a day carrying 25lbs on your back.
- Physical conditioning should not be underestimated. Mountaineering is a strenuous activity and some sort of training/exercise regimen will be beneficial.
- The better shape you’re in, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of this trip.
- Guiding and instruction at a 4:1 ratio
- Group equipment: tents, stoves, fuel, ropes, and technical gear
- Permit and insurance costs
- Lodging & 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 actual preparation.
WHERE TO MEET
Sequim Bay State Park, close to Sequim, WA.
Option A: Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. From here the drive to Sequim takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Option B: Fly into Port Angeles. Kenmore Air flies daily from Sea-Tac and is an Alaska Airlines partner (domestic flights can be booked with Port Angeles as the destination). From here the drive to Sequim takes about 20 minutes.
Many options in Sea-Tac.
Camping available at Sequim Bay State Park, otherwise Sequim is the closest town.
Check out our Weather & Avalanche Resources page.
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