Full on scrambling. Navigating complex loose terrain with exposure. Dodging unavoidable rockfall by staying out of the line of fire. Steep good snow. Being so grateful, learning & spending 3 days with 5 wonderful people. Viewing Mount Olympus for the first time from an amazing summit vista. 7 hyper focused hours to gain and lose only 1000 vertical feet. More below.
Class 4 scrambling on poor quality rock. Steep snow up to 40°. Unavoidable loose rock, scree, and dirt with exposure. Summit register had the last ascent as September 2022. There is a plaque commemorating someone very experienced who died on the descent. Would not advise a party larger than 3. We had to spend a lot of time hiding behind cliffs while one person made progress upwards by shedding rocks down the “bowling lane” gullies.
The route was relatively clear based on beta compiled by our trip leader Sue. We only had one section to the “notch” at around 7500 feet where it was unclear that you had to climb over a 4th class notch versus trending farther right with a 5.8+ single move that I was unwilling to commit to downclimbing. Once you make the notch you have a clear class 3 gully to the first great rock of the route on the summit block.
The approach is the standard hike to Upper Royal Basin. We had good crampon-ing snow up to the col for Deception basin at around 7am. Once at the 1st col you have to descent somewhat loose scree and dirt with a long run out. In deception basin we had on/off again snow until the 2nd col at the base of Mount Mystery.
We made our way up to the first loose gully. I had gone ahead and thought the rest of my party was clear of rockfall. They were not and one person was hit in the helmet with a small rock with momentum. They are OK but after later inspection that night the well adventured helmet had a minor crack that may have been caused by the impact. This was a huge decision point for the group and 3 (of our six) turned around to attempt Hal Foss instead. They turned around on Hal Foss as well.
Sue, Brian and myself continued from there. We had to take every loose rocky section one at a time. If you try this with a large party you will spend longer than the 7 hours we took up/down just waiting to be clear of rockfall.
Once past the first gully we encountered steep run out dirt. We hit snow (up to 40°, good snow for vertical pickets), the moat is just about to melt out but we were able to get back on OK rock.
Some class 4 airy moves takes us to the notch. Trend climbers left.
We setup an anchor (medium nut, 0.75, cammed out 1″) and belayed Sue up to the notch. We used that to protect the 3rd class downclimb. We left the rope there. We wasted an hour or so here with rope shenanigans and route exploration. It was not required. The photo below is of the “notch”, you will face an “obvious” 3rd glass gully.
The class 3 gully is simple compared to the terrain you have already climbed. Lots of loose shit as seems to be par for the course in summer on this climb. Looking fardown the gully there is a wicked 30+ feet tall snow moat right now.
At the summit block you finally have great rock and have a clear path to the summit.
At the notch we setup a new bail anchor we left behind with two nuts, a sling, and locker. You really don’t need them, enjoy the booty. It’s not new stuff.
We protected the steep snow with a running belay of 3 pickets. Your comfort may vary here, we had good snow.
Sue and Brian mostly slid on their butts but I was able to downclimb without wrecking my pants to the col. There is a lot of exposure on loose stuff. Lots of holds are not great. Take the time to test EVERYTHING as the run out is fatal.
We made good pace back down to camp after climbing the deception Col.
I think a very fit person could safely do this C2C. I was very thankful for the 3 days. If you wanted to do it as a 2 day trip I’d recommend camping in deception basin.
What did I learn
Unknown unknowns can easily kill you or someone else. I thought everyone was well clear when I led the first loose gully, clearly they were not. I’m so glad she was OK when I sent some rocks down.
It’s easy (for me) to get into flow state when your life depends on it. I could stay in flow for 10min+ periods of time with rest in between, this happened over and over during the 7 hours we climbed and descended only 1000 feet.
A single 5.8 move downclimbing unroped is something I am unwilling to do. I need to become a better climber.
Scarpa Ribbele Tech 3’s are AWESOME. Such an amazing boot. They worked really well with these smartwool socks. I am really glad I went with a light trail shoe + these boots.
I had enough food but should have brought more.
I can keep up with experienced older folks who do this constantly and have established fitness.
My balance is really good right now after months of PT with Daniel at crossover health. Thanks dude, you made this possible. The KT taping job held up, I did lose a lot of hair upon removing it :D.
My knees didn’t really hurt despite the damage I did back in January. Who would have guessed PT twice a week for months on end would have helped :D.
The gear was excellent but I will be trading out my bear can for a carbon fiber one, same with the tent for one made of Dyneema.
I wish I brought one slightly warmer pair of gloves in addition to the OR sungloves I was wearing. This was their last trip as they were finally shredded on all the rock.
Setting a running belay with pickets was both faster and easier than I thought it would be. It’s slow with 3 on the rope though.
Applying sunscreen twice was enough for the summit day.
Need to pack a small microfiber cloth to wipe away moisture from cooking, tent, etc.
My photo keeper rate is now ~1/3. Of 1000+ photos, lots were panorama stiches and still ended up with a 300+ photo album to share with the team.
It’s amazing to get out with people who have done far more than you, make you feel included, and tell you stuff you don’t know.
I’m really thankful to everyone on this trip for being really patient with me. I received great feedback, and learned a lot. I really enjoy this. I say that I usually do stuff that is “parent-friendly”, meaning odds are pretty good you won’t be at significant risk of dying. I’m not sure if this climb is parent friendly without people more experienced than I was at the start.
I’m really looking forward to getting after more of the smoots, classic cascade climbs, and building towards bigger climbs.
Life has been extremely stressful in the past month and a half mostly due to a work project. See this blog post from our fantastic VP for a taste of what I work on, running the infrastructure team pricing the world’s largest travel platform. Really proud of our small team, you are all inspiring.
I am constantly working 14+ hour weekdays lately and loads of weekend time on the same work project. I think we are close to being able to “step off the gas” from this as others have started to “pick up the torch.” Really looking forward to moving onto the implementation phase of the program, Q4 or sooner.
Work has also taken a huge toll on my marriage recently. Kasia is the single most important person in my life, and I’ve put a lot of strain on her. This is on top of her inability to walk right now.
I planned a surprise birthday party for her that I’m so thankful 20+ friends attended at AlpinismProject HQ1. Everyone had a great time, Meadow even made an instagram story from Emman :D. Thanks everyone so much for helping with this.
We had to evacuate HQ1 due to a natural gas leak, also compounded by her disability, this caused some damage to the house 🙁 .
We continue to make improvements to HQ1 and the scope for this year is the garage, kitchen, and paint for the whole house. Initial 3D render with 52 pending changes, and counting, of the garage. Working with the amazing design team over at https://www.obsessedgarage.com/ , you folks help make dreams come true.
A good friend from Ontario visited us for a night and we went to Rainier National Park. So nice to have friends (and new ones) visit.
I am so close to sending a 5.12 at Vertical World on toprope. I have single move left to unlock and I’ve yet to try it without working a previous section. Thanks Emman for the phomoto.
Until next time, keep getting high as fuck on yourself, but stay grounded with friends.
ps: the award for the best car at the trailhead, great color choice.
pps: Watch the new Arnold documentary. Who else was best in the world at three different professions? Only the terminator. I really agree with his vision idea around not letting obstacles get you down. Also, work can be fun/humorous even if you are talking about billions of dollars. Don’t do anything half ass, be useful always.