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Lowell_Skoog

first winter ascent Mt Olympus, First Winter Ascent

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I've long been puzzled by the lack of information about the first winter ascent of Mt Olympus. In the Climber's Guide to the Olympic Mountains (3rd Ed., 1988, p. 220), attempts by Pete Schoening and friends in the late 1940s and early 1950s are mentioned. These attempts are documented in the Mountaineer Annuals (1948, p. 54, and 1959, p. 63). In one attempt, Schoening reached the foot of the summit rocks, only to find them so coated in rime as to be unclimbable given the group's limited equipment.

 

The Climber's Guide mentions the International Geophysical Year (IGY) party led by Ed LaChapelle, which wintered on the Snow Dome in 1957-58. It says they did not climb the main peak of Olympus. The guide concludes: "In all likelihood, Olympus has now been climbed. Unfortunately, there is no record."

 

Well, that's not right. In the March 1965 issue of Summit magazine (p. 18) Richard Springgate writes that on New Year's Day (presumedly 1965) he, with John Norgord, Jan Still and John Wells, all members of the University of Washington Climbing Club, made the first winter ascent of Mt Olympus. They approached on foot via the Hoh River, climbing to the summit from the IGY hut during their fifth day out. How could the authors of the Olympic Climber's Guide have missed this? Is there a later edition of the guidebook where this has been corrected?

 

The 1965 climb may deserve credit as the first winter ascent of Olympus made conventionally from the Hoh Ranger Station. But, in fact, it was not the first winter climb. In a 1997 interview with Stella Degenhardt of the Mountaineers History Committee, Jim Hawkins of the IGY team revealed that he climbed the true summit solo on January 5, 1958, during one of his stints at the research station. We was accompanied by Roger Ross, a U.W. meteorology student who, according to Hawkins, "was not a mountain person at all and would have no part of it."

 

If you know anything more about the history of winter climbing on Mt Olympus, or any reason why the Hawkins and Springgate climbs should not be recognized as pioneering ascents, let me know.

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Lowell,

 

Olympic Mountain Rescue is working on the next edition for the climber's guide now. There are a couple members who spend a lot of time researching the history of the Olympics. I know that they dug up some newly discovered info (or conflicting info) on the first ascent recently, but I don't know about the first winter ascent.

 

I would be happy to pass on your post to the members. They enjoy chasing down questions like this one, if they don't already know.

 

John

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The committee is going to chew on this one a little bit, however let's just say that they would tend not to invite more controversy than they already receive by declaring one person's winter FA ahead of another's. Concentrating on verifying the real FA itself for a number of peaks is enough of a research challenge. That said, they might choose to make some kind of reference to the material you have mentioned.

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The 1965 climb may deserve credit as the first winter ascent of Olympus made conventionally from the Hoh Ranger Station. But, in fact, it was not the first winter climb. In a 1997 interview with Stella Degenhardt of the Mountaineers History Committee, Jim Hawkins of the IGY team revealed that he climbed the true summit solo on January 5, 1958, during one of his stints at the research station. We was accompanied by Roger Ross, a U.W. meteorology student who, according to Hawkins, "was not a mountain person at all and would have no part of it."

 

I know nothing about the history or the research, but isn't a little suspect when somebody all of a sudden reports a "previous" ascent (solo, none the less) after somebody has dug information on a first?

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I know nothing about the history or the research, but isn't a little suspect when somebody all of a sudden reports a "previous" ascent (solo, none the less) after somebody has dug information on a first?

I dunno - maybe they didn't think they did the FWA?

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I know nothing about the history or the research, but isn't a little suspect when somebody all of a sudden reports a "previous" ascent (solo, none the less) after somebody has dug information on a first?

 

Maybe so, but I have no reason to doubt Jim Hawkins' story. At the time, he just took advantage of a nice winter day to make what he figured would be the first ascent of 1958. Later, he heard that somebody else claimed the first winter ascent and he realized that his climb was probably the first. He never made a big deal about it because he knew that solo ascents were frowned upon in those days. But when Stella Degenhardt interviewed him about his IGY experiences, he mentioned his climb. When he heard through Stella that I was interested in his story, he was quite tickled. I have since exchanged e-mails with him for more information.

 

I leave it to the editing committee of the Olympic Climber's Guide to decide how they want to handle this in their book. My intention here is just to share my findings. The Springgate article is especially important since it is a published account that has been overlooked. As for myself, in my research and writing, I will give appropriate credit to both Hawkins and the Springgate party. I think this is a case where both ascents are worth remembering.

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Seems like the obvious approach would be to say something like "The first documented winter ascent was the Springgate party on Jan 1, 1965. Jim Hawkins later reported doing the ascent solo on Jan 5, 1958."

After all, this isn't exactly a Nobel Prize we're talking about here; it seems like there's enough honor to share.

But, as Lowell says, it's their book. Thanks to Lowell for bringing up this bit of history.

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