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[TR] Olympic Mountains, Washington - Bailey Traverse from Mt Olympus 8/10/2013

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Trip: Olympic Mountains, Washington - Bailey Traverse from Mt Olympus


Date: 8/10/2013


Trip Report:

Bailey Traverse from Mt Olympus by Scott Waeschle, Aug 10-18, 2013.

After 25 years of climbing in the cascades I spent a week traversing the Olympics from the Hoh River to Mt Olympus to Queets Basin and the Bailey Range hiking out the Sol Duc River trail head to a glorious soak in the hot springs. I had climbed Mt Olympus in a 3 day slog 15 years ago so I was not that keen on all the trail time to do this route, however, times change. This spring I had an invitation from Alex Carlson (a teacher from Port Angeles) to do the route with my 13 yr old son Jack. Alex had spent a week last summer working on the Snow Dome shelter and had hiked out the route we would complete. He persistently praised his previous experiences in the Olympics. The route is mostly off trail and includes bushwhacking up steep slide paths so I agreed to join him. I have spent weeks in the Cascades shoe horned into Alex’s Bibler playing gin while our arms fell asleep. This trip I would gladly have to provide my own light weight tent to keep dry and the bugs at bay.


We dropped a car at the Sol Duc trail head and got a ride around to the Hoh trail head with Gail Hall and Steve Czelogic, avid hikers who joined us for the journey. I later learned that Gail and Steve had recently completed a retirement goal of hiking all the marked trails in Olympic National Park. They have been busy perfecting their light weight trekking systems including using a homemade tarp and eating only peanut butter and raisins for breakfast and lunch (the highest calories /weight food). Their packs for 7 nights weighed less than 30 lbs including ice axe, crampons and rope and bear canister (park rules).



I was traveling lighter as well, but that meant leaving the rope and crampons behind and buying a new Tarp Tent at 2lbs 5oz that worked beautifully. We ate granola, bagels, cream cheese, dried fruit and jerky. I also carried a full tripod, Nikon DSLR, flash, remote triggers, filters, and extra batteries. My goal for the trip was to get images of the Persied meteor showers and work on my night photography. My pack was over 40 pounds.



Glacier Meadows Camp Persied Meteor Shower composite





Jack skipping down the Hoh Glacier



Persid meteor showers at Camp Pan. A composite of 22 images selected from 500 shot that night.


The route is well published and documented on custom correct maps. You can go to the Olympic Climbers guide or internet and get GPS way points if you need them. http://www.climbersguideolympics.com/traverses



I found the route straight forward. 20 miles of Hoh trail right on to the Blue glacier where we found ice covered with rock that was easily traveled to the neve line and could kick steps. However, at mile 10 my faithful boots that had never given me a blister began flapping at the left toe. The sole had peeled back to the ball of my foot. It is a good thing I put new gorilla tape on my trekking pole. I had just enough tape to stick the toe back together and hope I could make it the whole trip shod in my size 15’s. It might be a long trip?

The crevasses were easily avoided as we hopped over glacier gap to the Hoh glacier and camped at Camp Pan an 800 ft high exposed rock outcrop that thrusts steeply over the Hoh glacier. The off trail route from the Blue glacier to the end of the cat walk and the unmaintained trail might be 30 miles? It is about 15 miles of trail to the Sol Duc trail head, so approx. 65 miles total.



The next morning I waited until the sun softened the steep slope above Camp Pan and kicked steps up to Blizzard Pass leading to the Humes Glacier. The snow was soft and easily descended until we hit hard glacial ice on the lower glacier toe where we were more careful where we stepped. The rocky gullies below the Humes glacier are littered with the remains of 2 fighter jets that crashed in mid air in 1957. Three aviators were able to eject and survived. One was trapped in his plane and died on impact. Here is a link to more about the crash and some climbers who came in 1958 and found the remains.





Plane debris below the Humes Glacier



We descended to and crossed a fork of a creek flowing to the Queets River and climbed a very steep bear trail pulling on clumps of grass, small trees and pine needle compacted duff to gain a bench which traversed up into Queets Basin. We found a lovely camp on the edge of a small tarn and flowered meadow where the creek flowed through a deep pool perfect to bathe in. We now were on the Bailey Traverse.



Scott and Jack in Queets Basin


this time-lapse video is a 5 hour night of meteors and stars condensed to 50 sec. the bright streak near the beginning is the space station going by




Our route gained the ridge top and follows a climbers trail through the broken shale and snow fields to Faerie Basin. This section really cements the adage “If you find a good hold in the Olympics take it home.” The sharp uplifted shale is broken and scattered in out crops everywhere. It creates amazing patterns and designs as the small flat rocks line themselves up with the forces of water, wind and gravity. Be careful where you place your hand or knee. A slip can cause damage. My son banged his knee painfully in this section.



Lone Tree an obvious landmark on the Traverse


The weather the entire trip had been comfortable and dry until late in the afternoon dropping into Faerie Basin. The rain cut loose as we set up our shelters and kept up all night.



We all put on rain gear for the next day’s travels, a descending bushwhack through wet brush into Cream lake, a buggy boggy flat and then a steep climb/bushwhack up an avalanche slide path to gain an elk trail traversing at about the 5200-5400 ft contour. The way is a bit tricky and you have to watch your path to get through the well traveled route which hits some key notches and descents around cliff bands. There are some exposed gullies and water courses to traverse and climb that make this section approach 4th class climbing. We camped in 11 Bull basin a beautiful terrace in the otherwise steep sloped traverse around Stephen Peak. I spent the evening taking some wonderful shots as the light was delightful. The next day took us across the Cat Walk (quite exposed) and down into Heart Lake and the way out to Sol Duc hot springs.



11 Bull Basin Camp



Lenticular Clouds over Mt Olympus



Moon rise over Olympus


The travel on this route is not technically difficult, but it is not easy either. Folks should have experience on glaciers and steep snow, they should be able to deal with exposure and steep traverses on a beat down elk trail. Bushwhacking and route finding skills, reading a map and compass and perhaps a GPS (cheating) are very important.


I met my goals to enjoy a week out in some of the most rugged terrain of the Olympics with my son and a good old friend and some new friends. We took our time. And my boots lasted until I reached the dumpster at the hot springs! We had 4 clear nights to do celestial photography and I have included some of the best images here. Enjoy!





The Space Station and one meteor in a star trails shot at Queets Basin... A composite of 300 -30 sec shots


On a humbling note a few days after my return my other son Keenan ran with 2 buddies to summit Mt Olympus from the Hoh trail head in 17.5 hours (43 miles RT)



Gear Notes:

I used trekking poles and never took my ice axe off my pack. the others used their axes. Three of us did not have crampons and did not need them. Two in our party used their crampons and felt more secure on the steeper slopes.

Edited by scottwesh

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That Gorilla tape works great. Great pictures and TR. I'm aiming to do this trip with my son who will be 13 next year. I'm due to make it, I've only been thinking about it for 20 years or more.


I've done that catwalk part in the snow one winter as a part of a very long day hike...i suppose that made it easier because it didn't seem a big deal.


Inspiring TR, thank you.

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Stunning shots, but especially that one of Olympus with the lenticulars. Wow!


Maybe you can edit the image tags to make them bigger?


Since I have two young boys, these TRs are really cool. I have to remind myself that the days of 3 mile RT hikes are only temporary.

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Scott thanks for the TR. Excellent Images. I have no idea how you do this, I am not a photographer but I really enjoy looking at them. The percid meteor shower at Camp Pan pic, looks as if an apparition visitation is occurring... Very cool.


This TR brings to mind a 4 day backpack trip I took many years ago into the Staircase area. The Olympics are really beautiful. I saw the biggest black bear I've ever seen in the wild on that trip. Man, he was a big one.


I'm gonna have to look into that Gorilla Tape too. Maybe better than the duct tape I have on the trekking pole I carry now...


Thanks again for posting.



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