Mt. Deception 6/14-6/15, 2008 - Date:
Cebe, Susan, Grace, Ken and I headed out to the Olympics this weekend to climb Mt. Deception, a trip we'd had to cancel three times in the past two years due to weather.
Saturday was spent hiking into the group camp at Royal Lake. The skies cleared on the drive to the trailhead but by the time we were halfway up to Royal Lake the clouds had settled in and we had pea-soup the entire rest of the day. Spotty snow is encountered for about a half-mile below the lower meadows. Continuous snows starts past the lower meadows on the climb to Royal Lake. We managed to find a few dry spots right near the big rock at the Group Camp; otherwise it's pretty much still snow covered all around there.
Sunday morning, we awoke to bluebird skies and headed up to upper Royal Basin. The snow had frozen overnight so we put on crampons for the trip up and found the travel to be pretty fast, reaching the base of the climb to the ridge within about 1-1.25 hours.
From there, we climbed the steep slope to the ridge to the right of the summit (the low point of the saddle in the photo below). We initially followed the broad gulley going up to the left (above the right-most trees in the photo) but then cut back right about one-third to half-way up and moved between the rock bands up to the saddle, largely following some existing tracks. The snow was pretty firm, requiring crampons. A bit steeper than we expected but it was easy to get good purchase and maintain good footing.
Once on the ridge, we took a break and spied the continuation of the route. The guide book says to drop off the ridge, then traverse over to and climb a steep slope to the left of Gilhooley Spire. The sun had just gotten onto that slope and given the firm conditions we had just encountered, it did not look very appealing, particularly with how steep it looked up top. We did see steps from a group that had been up there in the previous day or two and wondered if they had hit it later in the day when it might have been softer. Instead of going up that slope, we found a nice, easy approach that went around to the right of the spire (shown in the first photo below; the spire is cut off a bit but the right side of it is seen in the left-most part of the photo) and eventually brought us out onto the slopes on the southwest face of the peak.
From there, it was easy to beat around on the rock and scree until gaining the ridge up to the summit. Just below the summit, we encountered some more steep, firm snow that had not seen the sun yet. The photo below is as we came off that steep section. Once above that, it was an easy last stretch to the summit where we had great views of the entire range including some nice ones of Constance (the "Bitch Goddess" as Cebe calls it), Anderson and Olympus, which is still loaded with tons of snow. Time from camp to the summit was about 5.25 hours
For the trip down, we downclimbed a short section of steep, firm snow just to the side of the slope we had ascended and, after that had an easy trip back down the ridge, around the spire and off to the col on the ridge above Royal Basin.
Fortunately, by the time, we got back to the ridge, the sun had really softened up the slope back down to Royal Basin. This was fortunate as we had not anticipated the steep snow we got on the trip and did not have pickets with us. We downclimbed the top 50 feet or so and then managed to turn and safely plunge step down to the basin. A slip up high would have been pretty bad as it's steep and there are lots of rock bands below. It's a bit easier to understand now what Smoot was referring to in Climing Washington's Mountains when he described the hazards on this peak.
Once in the basin, it was an easy trip back to the group camp to pick up our gear and head out. The maps and guidebooks say this is a 6 miles walk out from the lake, but I'd felt more like 8+ given the time it took to get back to the trailhead.
Approach: Trail to Royal Lake. Easy snow travel up to upper Royal Basin
Trailhead to Group Camp: 4.5 hours
Group Camp to Summit: 5.25 hours
Summit to Group Camp: 2.75-3 hours
Group Camp to Car: 3.5 hours
Gear: Helmet, axe. Pickets might have come in handy had the snow conditions been different