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 18 mile approach that begins at only 600’ above sea level, climbing Mount Olympus is a significant undertaking despite its modest 7980’ summit elevation. Summit day involves glacier travel, steep snow climbing, and finishes with a pitch of rock on the summit block.
Mount Olympus climb consists of a long approach, a glacier with crevasses and bergschrunds, and a Class 4 rock climb with a Class 5 step on loose rocky ramps to the summit of its West Peak. Mount Olympus, in the center of Olympic National Park, is one of the “Five Majors” and a big accomplishment. The approach goes through a true old growth rain forest.
Despite being a significant mountain both regionally and nationally, few people ever even see Mount Olympus. The mountain is located towards the west-central region of the Olympic Mountains, surrounded by other hills and peaks. These peaks also obstruct views of Mount Olympus from every major city on and around the Olympic Peninsula. The best places to see the mountain, outside of its own approach, are from atop other nearby peaks and ridges in the Olympic Mountains, or away from shore along the Pacific Ocean.
We have started on day 1 from Hoh River Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center covering 10 miles of gradual terrain along the Hoh River, hiking through lush temperate rainforest and camping at the Olympus Guard Station. Unfortunately, two of our climbers experienced heath exhaustion only few miles from the trailhead and had to return back to the cars.
The Hoh River trail’s gradual incline becomes a steady ascent on day 2 from Guard Station, gaining over 3000′ in 7 miles to Glacier Meadows. We have arrived in the afternoon and set up camp in the forest along a creek. The next early morning was supposed to be our summit day but as the forecast called for cloudy skies and potential rain and thunderstorms, we have decided to take a rest day.
The next day was a bit cloudy but rain never came. We have hiked to the top of Blue Glacier lateral moraine for some breathtaking views and reviewed our summit route. Our dinner was around 4pm and we headed to bed for some needed rest before waking up at 10pm for our climb.
Leaving the camp at 11pm we have climbed steadily in the dark to the top of the lateral moraine, before descending down towards the blue glacier. Here we got our glacier travel equipment ready (crampons, helmets, ice axes) and roped up. We continued and crossed to the other side of the Blue Glacier. This took about 1-1,5 hour. Crossing the blue glacier in darkness was exhilarating, only sounds were from our crampons and water moving under the glacier. After crossing the glacier, we ascended a feature called the Snow Dome, cresting a broad plateau at 6600′. From this point we had an excellent view of our objective, the West Peak, but the route was somewhat circuitous. We have ascended some steep snow slopes, rocky boulder sections with running water and navigated several crevasses that opened up on the route.
From the top of Snow Dome, you can enjoy great views of the East, Middle, & West peaks of Mount Olympus. From the Snow Dome, we passed the five-fingered false summit and drop into the saddle between the false summit and the true summit. Standard ascending route took us 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. An exciting scramble took us to the very top. On the summit, we basked in panoramic views of the Bailey Range and the Panic Peak area and then descended back to our camp at Glacier Meadows.
Our summit bid took around 16 hours and we have arrived back at our camp at Glacier Meadows at 2pm. We have rested a bit, then packed up our camp and descended back to the Olympic Guard station, arriving just before sunset.
The last day was a quick hike out to the trailhead and drive home.