The Brothers attempt – Olympics

Update 05/24/2021: I just learned there was a fatal accident on the route the following day: this post was written without that information. Respects to the deceased and thank you to SAR for all that you do. More details here.

Another week, another scrambling trip, another blog post! After weeks of trying to plan a trip to Adams, then Hood, we ended up with a party of 4 trying to summit The Brothers in the Olympics. You could not have asked for more perfect conditions (compared to hood) but we only made it to respective personal summits and didn’t see the true summit. I’ll be back once the memories are not as fresh 😅.

The crew was James, and two people I had not been in the mountains with before: Anish, one other, and me.

This is us, early-ish the approach.

The route is excellent and rewarding but the trail in places is poorly marked and it punishes you with serious bushwhacking if you venture off “trail.” This is an ambitious trip in a single push and we came super close to making it. We saw probably 25 people on the mountain. And at least 10 others successfully did it in a single pitch. One party completed the North / South traverse and described it as worse than Liberty Ridge on Rainier and unlike anything in the lower 48. 😲

The author doing author things.

tl;dr route protip: Do everything in your power to try to find the trail tape once you swing left towards the brothers from the “basecamp.” It is poorly marked with sections of 300+ yards missing a single piece of tape and other sections having 5 pieces within 10 feet. You will waste a ton of time if you don’t. Ask me how I know. This cost us the summit. DO NOT TRUST A GPX. Use gps for validation but if something feels wrong, you are off trail. Even the trail itself is covered in blowdown in many places.

My day started at 1:45am and ended at 3am the next day. I’m not sure if my next time on the route will be another single push or camping, I’m torn. We met at the Renton park and ride and arrived at the trailhead ~4:45AM.

The Approach

5.5 miles or so of mostly gradual terrain. It’s a beautiful Oympic forest vibe. We had excellent weather and the water levels were seemed relatively low. We had to make multiple crossings but were able to avoid water coming in over the top of our boots. If you do this in approach shoes you will get soaked through.

There are a few sections where a fall would have the potential consequence of a broken limb. As always YMMV, no helicopter is coming to your rescue and it’s at least 6 miles of single-track to rescue you. Act accordingly.

This section is a slightly advanced hike. A few moves would be interesting with a 40lb camping setup but nothing dealbreaking for a relative beginner.

You have one water crossing that later in the day depending on snow melt may be too risky. See the Day/Night Photos.


The Mountain

tl;dr I didn’t summit so this beta is valid only up to my personal summit of 1620M, the rest of the party made it to 1890M, just 130M vert shy of the summit before they hit the turnaround time.

For us this was a snow scramble up good snow in “safe” avy conditions. It got much steeper higher up from where I stopped and had the rest of the party go on. I called it as I was starting to get tired and didn’t want to become a liability on what was supposed to be a rock scramble. Turns out that the rock never started and it was all basically snow.

Yes, they bought matching shirts, the same day, at the same store… Missed connection here folks that turned out well. Above a sea of clouds.

Between snow pitches.

The Goat

We took a break in a small cave like depression on the cliff. James called out that he heard someone coming and this guy poked out. He was overly curious and got within 5 feet a few times. He had a shier friend some ways of but didn’t seem to want to back off until we started clanging poles. On my personal summit I learned that he is quite afraid of an ice ax (looks like horns?) and he would back off a bit. He wasn’t aggressive, but he got too close for comfort, considering a good goring from those horns would have been fatal.

This was the one part of the trip with cell signal. The goat was really curious about the latest in video calling technology. Thanks fam for making the 2.5h wait for everyone a lot shorter.

I’m just curious
Rainier vibes

The long way down

After the party linked back up with me, we headed down. There were some good glissade shoots but at least in two spots you’ll make ass to rock contact. We managed to avoid that fate.

Once again once the snow stopped, the bushwhacking started. We tried our best not to get off track. Twice we had significant issues. Only one involved an inopportune water crossing.

One of these day’s I’ll learn to smile from the wifey. Ok honey, not everyone has 20 years of stage experience.

We made much better time (thanks gravity?) and thankfully the water crossing wasn’t too spicy.

All the photos / data.

Album link above has photos that were also shared by everyone, the ones with the copyright are mine. Feel free to share. The best way to share is to 👍 , much appreciated!

Gear Lessons

Not enough food. I was really craving salt, a pack of super salty peanuts or cashews would have made a world of a difference. I also just plain didn’t carry enough calories. This was supplemented by the party but everyone should have their own needs + extra for spicy situations.

Spare socks are nice.

Gaiters might have been worth the weight, these Charmoz’s just love to take snow in.

Water filtration in the party is key for a trip like this.

The black diamond whippet was more than enough ice ax up to the point I got to. James had the gucci camp ice ax and he wished for a longer one on the 60* pitch.

Bonus Spice

The place I ended up waiting had a single tent pitched. Turns out it was an older couple of experienced mountaineers. They sucessfully completed the North-South Brothers traverse. They described it as more intense than the liberty ridge on Rainier and unlike anything in the lower 48 in those conditions. Goals????

Mountaineers describe it as not that spicy, but they said it was full on with unprotectable death exposure. So rated X on mountainproject.

Looking from near the summit of the North Brother, across the traverse toward the South Brother.  There are many options.<br>
Original photo courtesy of Robert Meshew.
ymmv, seriously, ymmv.

Relevant Educational Youtube Link

We all carried a picket each, along with 30M of the Mammut hyperstatic glacier rope. Here’s a cool video from Chamonix (mecca?) around various snow anchors. It’s short and worth a watch.

Turns out it’s only twice as strong as a coke bottle. I guess we are doing it wrong? We didn’t use the pickets at all but we would have setup a running belay if conditions warranted it. Also makes it easier to bail from a route. I’m not sure about you but I’m totally willing to leave a 50$ picket behind if it saves my life.

You made it this far (Summary)

A nice pano, nicer than the one I took.

You must be a good friend, say hi! Or my writing has improved, seems :suspicious-fry:. I’ll try this route again, there is a long weekend coming up. Thanks to my whole team for keeping everyone safe and having an awesome time. Congrats to those of you who slept for 14 hours straight afterwards. James & Greg thanks for fixing SBE 😅.

I think I would have made the summit had we not had issues with route-finding. I’m glad this was only ambitious and not overly so.