Hurricane Ridge to Deer Park Traverse
Described by Northwest ski mountaineering historian Lowell Skoog, the Hurricane Ridge to Deer Park traverse is “..older than Olympic National Park itself. It is one of the oldest high-level ski routes in the Northwest.”
The route mainly follows ridge features, heading out the Obstruction Point road (buried under a winter snowpack), along the crest of the Elk Mountain massif, up and over the triple summits of Maiden Peak, and along a forested ridgeline to Deer Park. From Deer Park we descend the road 7 miles to the Olympic National Park boundary, gliding 3-4 of these miles on skis.
Essentially this traverse takes you along the northern crest of the range, looking over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and all of the incredible north facing terrain that can be seen on the drive between Sequim and Port Angeles. It’s surprising this ski route is not more popular as it’s aesthetic and rugged, offering a window into the range’s incredible skiing possibilities, and a healthy dose of adventure all in a relatively short trip.
Participants should be advanced skiers and in excellent physical condition.
We meet at the Olympic National Park Visitors Center for introductions and gear check. Once we’re ready we’ll shuttle one of our vehicles to the base of the Deer Park road before heading up the Hurricane Ridge Road.
On this first day our goal will be to get to Obstruction Point and set up camp on the flank of Obstruction Peak. Depending on timing and energy levels we might sneak in an afternoon run or two on Obstruction Peak or one of the beautiful adjacent slopes.
From below Obstruction Peak we gain Elk Mountain’s broad west ridge, climbing up over the summit and traversing almost 3 miles along the crest of this massif. If weather and avalanche conditions allow, we may try to ski one of the impressive north facing lines viewed from between Sequim and Port Angeles, with a descent of up to 2,000’ vertical feet!
From the last mini summit along the Elk Mountain massif we rip our skins and descend about 800’ feet to the col between Elk Mountain and Maiden Peak.
Maiden Peak is comprised of three summits, presenting an interesting mix of terrain that may require carrying our skis on our packs, and making numerous transitions. Our final descent takes us to our camp at treeline on the northern shoulder of Maiden Peak.
DAY 3 – Green Mountain and Deer Park
From our camp we navigate our way along a forested ridgeline, traversing over Green Mountain (a non-descript highpoint along this ridge), and descending about 800’ before the final ascent to Deer Park.
Once we gain the Deer Park road, it’s a long downhill glide. When the snow runs out we throw our skis and boots on our packs and put on the approach shoes we’ve carried for the walk down the remaining section of road (usually 3-4 miles, 1.5-2 hours). Once again we shuttle our vehicles and wrap up our adventure with a celebratory dinner in Port Angeles!
☐ Skis with touring bindings – AT, tele, or splitboard: Your setup needs to be suitable for uphill touring and downhill skiing/riding.
☐ Boots: AT, tele or snowboard boots.
☐ Poles: Adjustable poles with powder baskets (ex: Black Diamond Traverse).
☐ Climbing skins: Fit to skis (ex: Black Diamond Mohair Mix).
☐ Ski crampons: Specific to your setup, these are essential for this trip.
☐ Overnight pack: 45-70 liter internal frame pack with some sort of ski carry system (ex: Mammut Trion Pro 50L).
☐ Sleeping bag: Down or synthetic, rated between 0° and 20° F.
☐ Compression stuff sack: Sized appropriately for your bag.
☐ Inflatable pad: With a good warmth to weight ratio (ex: Thermarest NeoAir), a shorter size works will in tandem with a foam pad.
☐ Closed-cell foam pad: Additional warmth for sleeping on snow.
AVALANCHE SAFETY GEAR
☐ Transceiver: Modern, single frequency [457 khz] transceiver, preferably less than five years old. A digital 3-antennae model is highly recommended (ex: BCA Tracker 2, Mammut Pulse Barryvox, Peips DSP). RENT
☐ Shovel: Lightweight avalanche shovel. A metal blade and extendable handle are recommended (ex: G3 Avitech, BCA Companion EXT). RENT
☐ Probe: Dedicated probe, ski pole probes are not sufficient. RENT
There are many possible layering combinations for your upper body. Use the following recommendations as guidelines:
☐ Baselayer top: Light to medium weight synthetic fabric (ex: Patagonia Capiline 1 or 2).
☐ (2) Insulating layers: Light fleece, softshell or synthetic layer (ex: Patagonia R1 Hoody or Guide Hoody).
☐ Shell jacket with hood: For wind, snow, rain, cold, etc.
☐ Puffy (insulated) jacket: Synthetic or down with a hood (ex: Patagonia Micro Puff).
☐ Baselayer bottoms: Medium weight (ex: Patagonia Capiline 2).
☐ Ski pants: Regular ski pants will work, however we recommend a system of both a lightweight softshell pant, as well as a lightweight hardshell pant with full side zips. This provides maximum versatility for backcountry conditions.
☐ Socks: 2 pairs. Wool or synthetic, they should work well with your ski boots. Keep in mind that warmth comes from good circulation, not heavy socks.
☐ Approach shoes: Lightweight footwear to be utilized on the walk down the lower section of the Deer Park Road.
☐ Sunglasses: Glacier glasses or dark tinted wrap-arounds, should have full UV protection. Consider bringing an extra pair (ex: Julbo Dolgan).
☐ Goggles: Preferably with low light lenses (amber or rose) and UV protection (ex: Julbo Around Excel or Down).
☐ Warm hat
☐ Sun hat: Baseball cap, visor, etc – Weather dependent.
☐ Face protection: Buff® recommended.
☐ Light glove: For touring.
☐ Ski glove: Warm enough for sub-freezing temperatures.
☐ Ski straps (2): Orange rubber ski strap, 15″+ (ex: Voile Ski Strap).
☐ 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.
☐ Water bottles(s) or hydration system: Should have a screw top (no bike bottles); hydration system should have an insulated tube.
☐ Thermos (optional)
☐ Camera: Don’t forget extra batteries.
☐ Watch (optional): Altimeter recommended.
☐ Extra batteries (optional): For your transceiver (usually AAA), headlamp, camera, etc.
☐ Headlamp (ex: Petzl Tikka XP2 or Tikka Plus). RENT
☐ See Details.
☐ Insulated mug
☐ Spoon or spork
PERSONAL FIRST AID/TOILETRIES
Guides will carry a well-equipped group first aid kit.
☐ Personal first aid/toiletry kit: Toothbrush, toothpaste, small bottle of hand sanitizer, gender specific items, ibuprofen or aspirin, any personal prescription drugs (please discuss with us).
☐ Repair kit: We suggest carrying a small repair kit with items specific to your ski or splitboard equipment. Extra parts, especially for bindings, duct tape, bailing wire, zip ties, etc.
☐ Wax: For skis and to prevent snow from glomming onto your skins.
☐ Whippet: Feel free to bring one if this is something you’re already comfortable skiing with.
We will provide all necessary group equipment for you trip such as tents, stoves, and rescue gear.
- Advanced skiing ability is required for this route, as is the ability to negotiate variable snow conditions, and tricky terrain features including tight trees and narrow ridges. Essential skills for this route include uphill and downhill kick turns, and sideslipping.
- Excellent physical fitness is required for this program.
- Participants should be comfortable skiing with a medium sized pack, and should be comfortable touring for up to 10 hours, taking 10-15 minute breaks every 1-2 hours.
- Participants should be able to tour up to 10 miles, or 4,000′ vertical feet in a day.
- Guiding & instruction
- Group equipment
- Permits and insurance costs
- Lodging & transportation before and after the program
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
Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center in Port Angeles, WA.
Option A: Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
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).
There are many car rental agencies in Sea-Tac. There’s also a Budget Rent-A-Car in Port Angeles.
Varies by trip.
Check out our Weather & Avalanche Resources page.
- Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering by Martin Volkin, Scott Schell, and Margaret Wheeler.
Olympic Mountains, WA
March 21-23, 2014
$595 per person
1:1 – $1050/person
2:1 – $750/person
3:1 – $585/person
4:1 – $495/person
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