A Climb of Mythical Proportions — Mt. Olympus

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 4, 2008      

We’re almost through with summer, and there hasn’t been much snow talk on WildSnow. Here’s a brief trip report from a mid-summer glacier expedition, just to get your feet thinking cold.

Colorado backcountry skiing.

Mt. Olympus, Day 2: July 11, 2008

We are camped on the blue glacier tonight. 8:29 and its bedtime for our 2 a.m. summit attempt. We hiked 10.5 miles yesterday and probably about 10 today. The weather is ideal — blue skies and temps in the 70s. Seems we hit it perfect as last years trip this same weekend got rained out. It’s just Lane and I and our guide, Craig, owner of Go Trek Expeditions.

The Olympics are beautiful. Lower elevation is all temperate rainforest until just short of tree line. Tree line was about 6000ft. Then all rocks and snow. Hard to sleep when in a yellow tent as its like the sun is still out.

So I wrote in my backpacking journal on a four-day backpack trip this July in Olympic National Park in Washington (not Greece despite popular belief). The trip was with Summit for Someone, a fundraising climb series benefiting Big City Mountaineers. I had convinced my good friend Lane Keough to take on this adventure with me. After months of fundraising and training, we were finally undertaking what would be my hardest, but most enjoyable, expedition to date.

We started at the Hoh River Trail — elevation 600 ft — and hiked in 10.5 miles to Lewis Meadows the first night. Day two found us gaining significant elevation over 10 miles to Glacier Meadows at 4300 ft. Then up the glacier about another 1,000 vertical feet to high camp.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Mt. Olympus is a mass of glaciers and rocks. There are three prominent rock peaks – East, Middle and West, with the West Peak being the pyramid that is the tallest, the one we were going to climb. Foreground of the picture is the Snow Dome. West Peak of Olympus is peaking out in the back. (Click here to see it BIG..

We started our summit bid at 2 a.m. Strapped on the crampons, and with a pole in one hand and the ice axe in another, hiked up the Snow Dome in the dark. As we crested to the base of the Mt. Olympus pyramid, the sun came up over Mt. Baker to the northeast. It was quite a sight and was only 4:30 a.m. We could also see the lights of Victoria on Vancouver Island. We dropped the crampons and axe and started the 5.4 scramble up the pyramid, with a short 5.7 pitch mixed in. We were all short-roped together, and Craig set up a belay for Lane and I to safely get up the pitch. Had I been wearing my climbing shoes, it would have been a cinch, but with mountaineering boots and a pack, it was a bit of a challenge.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Sunrise over Mt. Baker. I think a winter ski trip is in order. Eh, Lou?

We finished the scramble to the top at 6:30 a.m. and the sun was already way above the horizon. With a summit elevation of 7980ft, the views spread from the Straight of Juan De Fuca looking into Canada to the chain of volcanoes –Baker, Rainier, Adams and St. Helens. We could also see the group that was camped near us on the glacier just coming over the Snow Dome (slackers!), and the tiny speck of our yellow tent way below.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Sweet Victory. I’m kissing the US Coast & Geodectic Survey mark. We just gained an elevation of 7380 ft in two days and 23 miles.

Down we went back to camp with a lot of glissading on the snow fields, visions of skiing in my mind. Quick stop at camp to dry off, pack up and lunch before making the haul back to our first night’s camp in Lewis Meadows. Logged about 14 miles this day. Collapsed into our tents even earlier.

The final day was a flat 10.5-mile hike out. I’m glad I took all my pictures heading in as I could barely lift my head to keep from tripping (and no Dave, I didn’t fall once!) As the three of us trekked the 40+ miles on the Hoh River trail to and from Mt. Olympus, we got quite a few looks and questions from our matching Jansport backpacks, Mammut pants and La Sportiva boots (thanks to the gear sponsors). It was great being able to share our story on why we were out. “we’re raising money for inner-city youth to go on adventures similar to this one!” (More info can be found at www.summitforsomeone.org.)

(Guest blogger profile: Jessica Downing supports her husband, Dave, in Carbondale, CO. She is a super hero in her downtime, skis with boys and is a constant threat to Dave’s Nintendo Wii Ski record.)


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


8 Responses to “A Climb of Mythical Proportions — Mt. Olympus”

  1. Scott September 4th, 2008 7:52 pm

    Nice report. Summit for Someone is a great program. I was lucky enough to raise money and climb The Grand Teton with them a couple of years ago. Meet some legends from Exum in the process (Rod Newcomb!). I would urge anyone who wants to turn their passion of the mountains into an undertaking that will benefit a good cause to look into SFS.

  2. Jane September 5th, 2008 10:06 am

    Congrats on the climb! I can’t wait to see pictures.

  3. Yuani September 5th, 2008 10:19 am

    Nice job on the T.R. Jess. By the way did Lou write the Guest blogger profile? I was surprised by it’s incredible accuracy.

  4. Jess Downing September 5th, 2008 10:30 am

    No, Dave wrote it…. 🙂 I’m beating him in Step Aerobics on the WiiFit too!

  5. Dave September 5th, 2008 10:37 am

    so, next time are you taking donkeys, skis and perhaps your husband? Sounds like an easier trip down (skiing and donkeys to carry your stuff).

  6. Joy Blong September 5th, 2008 12:04 pm

    That’s my daughter!!! Great Photos.
    Jess and Dave , I am expecting some personal backcountry tours this winter…got to use that new beacon!…

  7. Mark Griffith September 5th, 2008 11:31 pm

    Great write up. Craig is a fantastic guy and ad a great guide.

    I climbed with him last year :



  8. Virgil Downing September 12th, 2008 9:29 pm

    Jess, good job, and an enjoyable read and pictures. You and Dave are both my heros, and look forward to more hikes like last weekend. Stay healthy and keep on trekking.

  Your Comments

  Recent Posts

Facebook Twitter Email Instagram Youtube


  • Blogroll & Links

  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to WildSnow.com and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version