Jump to content

[TR] Valhallas to Olympus- 8/6/2005 to 8/13/2005


Recommended Posts

Climb: Valhallas to Olympus-


Date of Climb: 8/6/2005 - 8/13/2005


Trip Report:

On Saturday Aug 6th Tony, Kevin (Animal) and I entered the South Fork of the Hoh. We spent the next eight days bushwacking, route-finding, climbing (rock, ice, snow, trees), and trudging our way up and down endless scree slopes en route to the Valhallas, cross country to Athena, over the Hoh and Blue glaciers to summit Olympus and finally a 18 mile day out the Hoh trail on Saturday the 13th.


The idea for this trip originated from Gabiot, my French climbing friend who did the traverse a few years ago. He was unequivocally vague about the details, especially the ridge traverse, preferring not to spoil any sense of adventure or discovery should we attempt a repeat. I thank him for that, because the week lived up to our expectations. I thought the Valhallas would be an interesting group of peaks to visit due to their remoteness and difficulty of getting to, plus we just couldn’t resist seeing for ourselves if the bushwack up the South Fork of the Hoh was as joyful as advertised. This would be Tony’s second trip into the Vals, and enough time had passed since the first trip (15 years) that he was willing to go for it again.


Kevin and I left Bremerton early on Saturday the 6th, stopping in Sequim to caravan with Tony. After leaving one car at the Hoh Visitor Center we drove around to the end of the South Fork Hoh road and began hiking in around noon. On the national park permit under the section titled “List Camp Locations” Kevin scrawled “All over the place”. We deemed that sufficient, as did the ranger we encountered at the end of the trip whom took delight in hearing that we had made it.


The bushwack up the South Fork Hoh actually turned out to be fairly manageable, aided by the fact that the river level was pretty low, allowing us to hike up the dry river bars along the banks in places. We also found abundant elk trails, and elk for that matter, stumbling on one herd of about 35 that were bedded down in the forest adjacent to the river. After a warning bugle they moved out to the river. Upon seeing our ugly mugs they crashed through the trees and were out of sight in an instant.




After spending one night on the river and continuing upstream the next day, we reached Valkyrie Creek around 3:00pm. The grueling scramble up through the steep forested hillside below the Valhallas took its toll on us, and we were quite satisfied to make camp in the meadows with the west side of Olympus as our backdrop, and views of the Pacific ocean at sunset. Olympus looks quite different from the west, appearing more as a rocky peak than a glaciated one from this side.




On the morning of the third day we made a failed attempt at a direct ridge approach to the north side of Freya and Frigga that eventually cliffed out. So we dropped into the valley directly below the snout of the Geri-Freki glacier where we would later set up camp.




We then went up to, and crossed the glacier, ascending to the high point at the base of Munin, intent upon running its ridge to the summit. We traversed a ways along the ridge over what was reportedly 4th class terrain, climbing over the rock as a team of 3 for the first time on the trip. Kevin and I had never climbed with Tony before, so it proved to be a good group experience as we would need to cooperate well in the days ahead.




The next morning Tony and I hiked up to the base of Frigga with the purpose of either finding the established 5.0 route number 2 from the guidebook, or another way up. We ended up climbing a new route. Tony led up from the talus at the base, just off the glacier on the spire’s south side, and rained torrents of rocks down adjacent to my belay spot as he cleaned his way up the rock. The line he choose eventually turned out to be a decent 4 pitch route around 5.5, pretty consistent to the top. The rock, typical of the Val’s is a light brown sandstone with small pockets of deep red that is blocky and more solid. Considering it’s the Olympics, the rock climbing was actually pretty good, a nice change from the typically friable eastern Oly basalt. Pitons came in quite handy though.




At this point we felt the need to get moving towards Olympus, due to only a vague notion of how we were going to traverse the ridge and a sense that we ought to be getting at it while the weather forecast looked good. We’ll have to return to the Vals another day for a shot at Loki Spire or some of the others.




Without giving anything away, over the next day and a half we worked our way along the ridge, finding easy terrain in some spots, and heinous gully crossings and brushcrashing in others. The ridge leads nearly directly to Athena, however poses a series of significant obstacles the closer one gets.




Gabiot and his partner worked their way down the northside of the ridge and across the west side of Olympus, swinging around on the snow dome. We went the opposite direction, eventually working our way onto the south ridge of Athena II, adjacent to the Jeffers glacier, where we spent a night on the peak’s shoulder high above the clouds.








We were lucky that evening to look down upon the upper Hoh glacier for a way through the crevasses.




The next morning was completely fogged in, the only time during the week it was not sunny and clear. So in the AM we dropped down onto the glacier and picked our way around the significant openings in the ice until rising above the clouds.




We went up and over Middle Peak, then crossed over the upper Blue glacier to Five Fingers, setting up camp for the night, waiting for the winds to subside before we went up the 5th class pitch of the summit block on West Peak in the morning. Incidentally, in answer to a question from an earlier post, the ashes that are on the summit (and they are still there, in small piles) are those of Robert Woods, author of the definitive guide to trails in the Olympics. He died a year and a half ago, and several of his friends placed his ashes up there last summer.


The route up West peak was still in fine shape folks, and this was only last Thursday. We had the mountain to ourselves for 3 days, not seeing anyone until we had descended to Cal-Tech rocks. Have the erroneous reports of conditions kept people away, or was it the Hood Canal Bridge closure?


On Saturday we hit trail for the first time since the beginning of the trip and hiked the 18 miles out to our car, quite soar to say the least. Highlights of the trip: not seeing anyone for 7 days straight, seeing bear, herds of elk, goats that actually run from you, experiencing a remote part of the park, climbing in the Vals, and summiting Olympus (my first time). This is a special corner of the park, maybe “wilder” than the Baileys. Certainly less traveled.

Edited by bremerton_john
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

After reading that, part of me wishes you'd delete the post and keep it your secret (but thats at little selfish of me isn't it? wink.gif ). Great job. Sounds like a wonderful time in a less traveled area. Its getting harder and harder to find a spot where you can go for 7 days and not see another person.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice trip. I took some pics of The Valhallas from the top of west peak last month, but I could only dream. Did you look for the famous 'copper box' on top of Athena II? smile.gif


I didn't realize that the ashes were RL Wood, nor that he had passed on. His guide book(s) were among the best ever written. Almost poetic in their description of the range. He was an inspiration.


As for the erroneous reports, I talked to a ranger at Hoh who seemed more than a little upset about the falsehoods regarding Olympus conditions. Apparently both The Mountianeers and Olympic Mountaineering out of PA cancelled all of their trips to Olympus because of the reports disseminated on the mountaineer website and the NPS website earlier this summer. Apparently the reports originated from Olympic Mountain Rescue.




While it was nice to beat the crowds during our trip, I have to wonder what the motivations were behind this false report.


Anyway, great trip John!


Has Olympus ever been climbed directly from the S Fk Hoh drainage...via Hubert Glacier/headwall, or otherwise? Looks pretty rotten down there, but it is a blank spot on the olympus route map.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Thanks, the trip was very rewarding, and your TR earlier with pics of the summit gave us some up to date info on conditions. Not sure what to say about the OMR reports, usually those guys are pretty spot on. I think there must have been some miscommunication somewhere that got blown out of proportion. Shows the power of a single website posting though, doesn't it?


A couple of your comments are ironic. Yeah, while going up Athena II we did recall the copper box story, and my eyes were open to that. But alas, all we found was a brass box instead. It contained some shards of paper with crazy ramblings of being the first people on top of the Olympus Range. Animal had run out of TP by this point in the trip, so it was a timely find. I think he pitched the box in a crevasse. So the search for the copper one will have to continue.


The other thing that is funny you mention is whether or not Olympus has been climbed direct from the SW, Hubert glacier headwall. That was also a topic of discussion during the trip, because the potential for that route had been suggested to us by a certain long-standing park ranger who knows a thing or two about the climbing history of the Olympics. It does look rotten, and appears to switch rock type mid-route from that dark shale to the lighter brown blocky stuff (sandstone? damn I'm no geologist) closer to the top. But who knows, maybe it would be worth a go...?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hey bremerton john, looks like you guys had an awesome trip.. I've gone up the South Fork many times, and I've seen the Valhallas looming.. I hope someday to have the technical climbing experience necessary for such peaks. Until then I'll stick to the river valleys.. Just out of curiosity, which creek is Valkyrie creek? Is it the one that hits the south fork at about 2100' in elevation, or the one that hits the south fork at about 2700'? Just curious how the terrain on the river is between those points. I've been to about 2000' on the river (10-11 miles in, I believe) and might go further than that someday soon..

Link to comment
Share on other sites

John and Kevin GREAT trip! Man do I ever regret not being able to join you. It seems you guys may have a hard time beating that one knowing your love for a good brush crash topped off with some nice olympic 5th class choss. If you have more pics please send them my way. The e-mail addy is the same.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Javman, Valkyrie Creek is the one at about 2100', just past the very obvious and large mossy boulder field on the north bank (like guidebook description). The next major creek is the drainage of the Geri-Freki glacier. It was recommended that we go up this second creek as an easier approach. Unfortunately we ignored this advice and went up Valkyrie Creek, which is no picnic. If I go in again I'll be giving the second creek a go. Not sure how the river is between the two, but judging by the countours I'd say you've got another narrow river section to pass through, but it's probably no worse than what preceeds it.


Wayne and Michael, it struck me when we were in the Valhallas, someone such as yourselves might get a bit excited about the idea of doing a Valhalla traverse, circling the glacier while doing the high points. This might be a natural encore to your Sawtooth Ridge visit last year Wayne. Working your way around the horseshoe shaped ridge there are at least 10 named summits and a few unnamed bumps to hit on the way. (But then, maybe I should have kept this idea to myself... cool.gif)


I'm not sure why my photos got reduced in size on the initial post. Here's one shot larger showing the Valhallas above the clouds taken from the shoulder of Athena II. The ridge we ran can also be partially seen.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...