All Washington state expedition dispatches

Team pose while climbing the Blue Glacier route on Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park

Nice end-of-season climb on Washington state’s Mt. Olympus last week.  Lead guide, Terray Sylvester, provided this report:

We made the most of challenging conditions last week on Mount Olympus’ Blue Glacier Route.

The trail to the route follows the milky Hoh River through the massive trees of the Hoh Rainforest for about 17 miles to Glacier Meadows campground, just below the foot of the Blue Glacier. It’s a uniquely beautiful approach, but since the Hoh Rainforest gets 12 to 14 feet of rain each year, it can also be a bit wet. We had rainy weather both days of our hike in, and for that, we all carried golf umbrellas. Maxfli isn’t a brand you often see on a mountaineering rack, but those umbrellas kept us dry each day until we climbed into our tents. For backcountry comfort, they were some of the most important gear we brought.

After all that rain, I was relieved to see stars in the sky when I stuck my head out of the tent at 1:30 a.m. We ate a quick breakfast of oatmeal and hot coffee, and then hiked out of camp, over the lateral moraine on the east side of the Blue Glacier and down to the glacier at about 5,000 feet of elevation. By the time the sun was up, we had crossed the lower arm of the glacier and were climbing toward the top of the Snow Dome, a plateau at about 7,000 feet. But late-season conditions were slowing our pace. Lack of snow on the lower glacier forced us to pick our way carefully across the glacier’s deep, icy furrows. Higher up, I built a series of anchors to protect the final, steep slopes near the top of the Snow Dome. Earlier in the season, those slopes would have been covered in snow and we could have simply walked up them as a rope team. But with glacier ice exposed, it was too dangerous to ascend without belaying.

By the time we approached Crystal Pass at 7,200 feet, we were running out of time to make it to the summit. We would still have to climb and descend the final 5th class rock pitch below the summit pinnacle, but we also faced a more immediate problem – a wide bergschrund that spanned the glacier below Crystal Pass. Having climbed down into and back out of the bergschrund a week earlier, I knew we could do it safely, but I also knew it would cost us quite a bit of time. Ascending higher would have pushed us into a long summit day when nightfall and fatigue might conspire to make an accident more likely. With clouds coming in, we returned to camp, taking off our packs at our tents just before dusk.

On many climbs, the most difficult choice is when to turn around. It was disappointing not to stand on the summit of Olympus on this climb, but that was the price we paid for a lesson in decision-making, and for the experience of climbing on this remote, beautiful peak in late-season conditions when the dramatic crevasses and seracs of the Blue Glacier are most visible. We also got to practice some teamwork and rope skills as we moved through the belays on the Snow Dome. All in all, it was a valuable trip to one of Washington’s most remote and beautiful peaks.

Team with golf umbrellas hiking to Mt. Olympus high camp

You don’t always see gear branded Maxfli (golf umbrella) on mountaineering trips!

Sean hikes from the Hoh River to Glacier Meadows at the base of Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park

Climbing the Blue Glacier route on Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park

Climbing the Blue Glacier route on Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park

Team pose while climbing the Blue Glacier route on Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park

Guide Jayar Storms provided this trip report on our recent 1:1 skill building and training outing to the Boston Basin area of the North Cascades National Park:

We began our trip early Tuesday (9/3) morning on the Boston Basin climbers trail. By that afternoon, we had reached Boston Basin and set up camp. We had just enough time to set our tent and square our equipment away when a freak hail storm struck. We took shelter from marble-sized hailstones in our tent for about 20 minutes before it turned to rain and then died away. We ate dinner and got to bed early for an early start at Sahale Peak the next day.

In the morning, we left around 6:30 AM and hiked up and right of the normal route which goes up the moraine, left of the Quien Sabe Glacier. About 500 feet below the glacier we noticed that we could traverse below the glacier and access it at a point closer to our objective instead of getting on the glacier itself and traversing across. We chose this lower traverse so we could avoid navigating most of the crevasses with this route. We cut across the talus and low angle slab to the other side and gained the glacier from there. After a few hundred feet of travel, we did not like the steepness of the terrain and turned back for camp.

The next day we tried Sahale again but from the normal route instead. After a walk up the same moraine from yesterday and a scramble up some low angle slab and loose rock, we gained the glacier once again, this time all the way on the left side of the glacier. With snow condition on our side and crevasses in manageable condition, we topped out at about 8,200 feet. We descended safely and enjoyed the rest of the day in Boston Basin.

We had the remaining day to pack up camp and descend back down the Boston Basin climbers trail and back to the car. We had a very enjoyable trip with Patrick and were thrilled to provide an excellent experience to advance his climbing skills and techniques. We can’t wait for our next adventure!


 

We are excited to report that our Climb for Conservation charity climb of Mt. Rainier enjoyed a 100% team success in reaching the summit this week.  The group had a beautiful sunset climb with perfect conditions.  Way to go team!

Our 2019 Mt. Rainier climb supporting the Climb for Conservation fundraiser kicked off yesterday with the initial hike up to Camp Muir (10,188 ft).  Here are some shots of the day.  The team is likely now headed up for a sunset summit attempt.  We will post an update on their progress tomorrow!  Stay tuned!!


Our guides, Billy and Sid led our 2019 Mt. Rainier team of climbers of Aaron, Scott, Nate, and Tom to the top of Mount Rainier with 100% success on September 12th! At the base of the mountain the weather was rainy but as they climbed above the clouds they were met with challenging but nice conditions with cold temps and low wind.

The Mt. Rainier NPS climbing rangers described shape of the our Disappointment Cleaver route as:

…significant rerouted recently to reduce the number of ladder crossings and widening crevasses. The new trail is poorly defined due to a combination of fewer climbers and large snow penitentes. These massive penitentes and complex route-finding are contributing to long days on summit attempts with many groups taking 12-16 hours round-trip from high camp. In particular, many climbing parties are having difficulties finding the new route where it trends left from the top of the Cleaver toward Camp Comfort above Gibraltar Rock. Eventually, around 13,300′, the new route regains the old track and a better defined bootpack (until it becomes obscured by new snowfall with incoming autumn storms).

It was a great way to cap off our Cascades climbing season! Congratulations to the team for persevering and successfully and safely making what is typically described as the most difficult endurance climb in the lower 48 states!

Washington state high point: Check!!

Rest break en route to the summit

Rest break en route to the summit


Late season suncups and penitentes cover the upper mountain

Late season suncups cover the upper mountain


Stunning views above the clouds!

Stunning views above the clouds!


The sweet taste of success!

The sweet taste of success!

Lead guide Jayar Storms provides this report of this week’s success on Eldorado Peak:

Regardless of some variable weather, we had a highly successful trip!

Continuing from our adventures on Mt. Baker, our trip began on Thursday with a brief river crossing followed by a sudden incline up the side of the valley which persisted for a few hours before spitting us out at the bottom of a talus field. We ascended the talus field for multiple hours, at the top of which was a high mountain meadow where we camped for the first night. That night, from camp, we were fortunate to be able to view a black bear about a quarter mile down valley foraging for berries.

In the morning, we found ourselves in a somewhat of a white out. We packed up camp and headed across a ridge to our left, down the other side and up a small talus field and a glacier with multiple crevasse crossings to high camp. Our prior knowledge of this season’s route proved very helpful in guiding us in to camp. We rolled out our things for the rest of day two and got up at 6:00 am the next morning for the summit push.

Although the sun was out by the time we left, the continuous thick cloud cover kept the snow cold and stable. In order to avoid some crevasses, we took the more direct south face onto the east ridge. We reached the summit, snapped a few pictures and just as we were packing our things, the clouds parted, revealing the beautiful mountainous landscape around us. It was a spectacular moment!

We made a quick down-climb down the east ridge and south face and were back at camp before the snow could get too soft. Later that day we walk out across to the other side of the glacier to get a back shot of Eldorado Peak and to do some additional snow school. When we got back we had a nice celebratory dinner, and headed off to bed early in preparation for the trek out in the morning.

We made an early start the next day raising at 3:00 am, packing up camp and beginning our hike to the trailhead. We made quick work of the glacier, weaved through the smaller talus field and back over the ridge. We descended through the high mountain meadow and back through the primary talus field. Once we got back down the valley and across the river we found ourselves at the trailhead before noon.

It was a pleasure spending eight days with Chris in the mountains and we can’t wait for him to come back and visit us.

Mt. Baker

Jayar and Winter Storms checking in from Mt. Baker.

We met with our clients Chris and Karen at their hotel in the Greater Seattle area on Sunday the 25th, and proceeded to the trailhead from there. At the trailhead we were met with some light rain. Rain continued for the majority of the approach but was never more than our rain layers could deal with. We found a comfortable location to camp that was close to fresh water and out of the wind.

Monday morning we all got up early, enjoyed a quick breakfast and headed up the glacier for snow school where Karen and Chris very quickly picked up the basics of snow travel. Unfortunately due to a recent injury to her foot, Karen opted to stay behind for the summit attempt. We commend Karen for making a hard decision and listening to her body.

The remainder of our party left camp at 1:00 am on Tuesday morning for the summit attempt. An unexpected amount of crevasses on the glacier slowed our pace and left our route rather circuitous. We used many techniques to get up the route including short roping, running belays, short pitching, and some rappelling to maneuver a crevasse. The added crevasse work effected our schedule and we decided to turn around at 9,700 ft, just at the top of the pumice ridge. Our descent was swift and smooth with Chris handling some technical terrain incredibly well. We returned to high camp before 2:00 pm and rested for the remainder of the afternoon.

Wednesday morning we all got up at 6:00 am, packed our things and made quick work of the return to the trailhead. Everyone is in high spirts! Karen is off to the airport and Chris is preparing for our next adventure. We will be leaving for Eldorado Peak tomorrow.

We will check back in after we get back from Eldorado!

Mount Rainier

Driving up through a hazy smoke lining the valley near Mount Rainier, our 2019 Climb for Conservation team launched from Paradise en route for Camp Muir (10,188 ft). After a enjoyable day learning climbing skills with Garrett Madison, including techniques for cramponing, use of the ice axe and self-arrest, rope team travel, we tucked into our sleeping bags at Camp Muir. The next morning we woke up at 7am, ate breakfast and moved up toward Ingraham Flats at 11,100 feet to set up high camp. Around 2pm we geared up and started our summit ascent, first challenge being the rock climb over the Disappointment Cleaver. While the sun came down over the mountain the temperature quickly dropped below freezing as we continued to move higher on the mountain.

As the sun was setting across the horizon we reached the summit at 4,392m / 14,411ft. Climbers quickly made their way to sign the summit book inside a large metal box before roping up again and making our descent. The wind picked up to 25mph or so and all climbers were ready to move toward our warm tents and dinner back on the Ingraham flats.

To view our Washington programs for summer 2019, please click HERE.

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Please enjoy a few of our top photos from this climb! 🙂

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Photo by David Kernan

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Photo by David Kernan

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Photo by Jason Korb

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Photo by Christiane

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Photo by Christiane

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Photo by Christiane

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Photo by Christiane

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Some shots from head guide Billy Nugent on the gorgeous day in Washington’s North Cascades!

Mt. Baker

Head guide Billy Nugent reports:

Billy here checking in from the Hogsback Camp on the North side of Mt. Baker after a safe and successful climb!

We started the morning off with an alpine start making our way up onto the Coleman glacier through some thick clouds that gave us some pretty lousy visibility. Fortunately for us, we climbed up above the thick layer of marine clouds right around the first hint of dawn.

The rest of our climb we enjoyed perfectly clear skies, light winds, and an almost empty route. It’s a rare treat on Mt. Baker to see so few other climbers. The climbing route itself was also in pretty good shape with few crevasse problems and generally good snow conditions.

The only thing worth noting was a massive icefall that came down off Colfax peak (a satellite peak of Baker) that left a massive tongue of debris across the climbing route. It’s definitely the biggest icefall I’ve seen come off Colfax. Ever. All the same it didn’t really pose much of a problem for us beside a few minutes of uneven footwork as we crossed the debris pile.

All in all it was smooth trip and we are stoked to have tagged the top! We’re gonna finish up packing our camp and hoof it back to the trailhead this afternoon. Pizza and beer is calling our name!