Saturday, June 19, 2010

The West Slabs of Mt. Olympus

New Years Resolutions #6 is now checked off. I didn't hike to the top of Mt. Olympus, I climbed. It was a little more than I expected. People kept saying, oh it's so easy, it's only 5.5, you could solo it (no rope) and yeah, I totally could have, and yeah it was really easy as far as climbing goes (not nearly as steep as it looks), but you're still going to the summit of a big mountain and so it's still a really long day. 13 hours to be exact from trailhead to trailhead. The route is called The West Slabs. It starts with hiking up a nice semi steep trail, then turns to a bouldery scrambly dry river bed that gets increasingly steep and ending, for us at this time of year, at a thousand feet of steep hard snow. I hear it's a lot harder to make that last thousand feet when the snow isn't there, but one good slip on snow and you'd be starting that thousand feet over. At the top of the snow you rope up and climb 2000 feet to the North Summit but just because you're at the top doesn't mean you're done. Now you have to get down. I was in a group of 12 people and we rappelled the route so though it was technically easy, it took awhile. Then you're back on the snow. I didn't have an ice ax to properly glissade down on my butt, though I did my best with a trekking pole, reaching the bottom frozen, soaked to the bone and looking ridiculous, but at least the seat of my pants was still intact after sliding down on it. One guy in our party lost control at the top of the snow and it was scary to watch him bounce and flip off rocks before stopping. Luckily he wasn't injured so badly we had to carry him down, but it did take him an extra hour and a half to get to the bottom of the snow. We reached the cars at the trailhead just at sunset. Nothing about the day was exceptionally difficult, but when it was all combined it wipped me out and I slept for 11 hours that night.
The top of the snow and ready to start climbing. You can see that it's not terribly steep by the way the rope is laying limply on the rock instead of hanging down. Looking down after a few hundred feetIn the picture below I'm looking down at Stan as he climbs. He was in our group and was only 60 years old. I say only 60 because for most the day I thought he must be in his 80's. I guess that's what a life outdoors does to you eventually. Plus he was missing 3 front teeth, that didn't help him look any younger. He was cool though. He climbs harder stuff than me and he was the first one up the snow to help the guy who lost control, cutting him steps in the snow all the way down with an ice ax. Halfway up, looking out on to the Great Salt Lake and the city. Looking East at the mountains deeper in the Wasatch.
At the top!!!
On the North Summit you could see to the other side of the valley and the mountains South of us. In my opinion it's a much prettier view than looking North. This video is standing on the North Summit looking South toward Twin Peaks and panning over the valley to the view North. You can see Antelope Island in the lake in the distance.
After lunch, all of us gearing back up to start the rappel.Waiting my turn, looking down the route as two climbers rappel Back at the trailhead. It starts at the end of a cul-de-sac in some ritzy neighborhood and even though the lady driving out of her driveway that morning shook her head at us in annoyance, they have made the flowers along the beginning of the trail especially nice.
This is my version of helmet hair. I wear that bandanna thing to control my chicken hair under my helmet but I've never gotten these wing things before. It looks more like a chicken then the chicken hair does.

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