Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guest Post: Mt. Olympus West Slabs

This blog suffers. It's not that I can't blog--I write at least a little bit on my training blog every day. But I have no theme here, and that makes it hard for me to be consistent. If you have any ideas, please let me know. In the meantime, here's a guest post from my brother, Sean.

After hearing about the West Slabs of Mount Olympus from Jared, I have been itching to climb them. Jared recently free-soloed the route, so I felt that was the best way to do it. The timing was finally right the day after my birthday, and having no one to come along with me, I made a go for it solo. I had never been anywhere near the route—I had just seen it from the U of U hospital in the distance—so I gathered whatever beta I could off the internet and from Jared, and then set out.

Originally, I had planned on taking a 30 meter line with me in case I got in over my head on either the ascent or descent. But, after loading my pack up with that equipment, I decided it was too heavy and I’d rather have a lighter load to move quicker. Having told several people, who worry about me, that I would have a rope in case of trouble, I second guessed the decision the whole time on the approach. How dumb would I feel if something happened that a rope could have prevented…but the light pack sure felt nice on my back.

The approach was really straight forward. I followed the trail from the parking area up, then picked up a nicely maintained trail to the east that ended in a dry river bed. I followed this up until I hit the snow field that led to the base of the slabs. I have very limited experience on this type of terrain so I was a bit hesitant at first. But, once I realized that my shoes would hold in the small steps I kicked out, I felt pretty secure.

Once I hit the top of the snow, I found a good boulder to sit on and strap on my climbing shoes. After letting a couple siblings know that I was starting the climb, I began my ascent of the West Slabs. From all the beta I gathered, the route basically goes wherever looks good. So I looked up, saw a good hand hold, and started going up. The second I started climbing, I found the zone. Every doubt and uncertainty if I should be there alone disappeared quickly. All that was on my mind was my dance with the stone. I stopped occasionally in ledges to look down at my progress, but the draw of the climb kept me going up. The first few hundred feet was the most fun. I wish that the route was that steep the whole way, but it mellowed out the higher I got and eventually became a 4th class scramble to the top.

Once on top, I nearly missed stepping on a rattlesnake poking his head out from a hole on the ridge, ate a cliff bar, took a couple pics, then began figuring out how I was going to get down. Jared had suggested that I traverse the ridge, eventually hitting the South Summit, and then descend via the main hiking trail. But the rattlesnake spooked me a bit and the last thing I wanted was to be alone on the ridge with a rattlesnake bite. So instead, I decided to go down the gully just west of the West Slab route.

There were several trees with rap slings, but the descent was easy enough that I was able to down climb the gulley back to the base of the climb. From there I descended the snow field I had gone up. This was the scariest part to me. Some snow spikes on my shoes would’ve been nice, but I made do with a flimsy stick as a trekking pole instead. One part of the snow field had collapsed during my time on the rock, and getting around it became quite a task. I had to descend a corner system on the side that rolled off under the snow into the river beneath it…and one slip half way down gave me a nice shot of adrenaline. But, it turned out well and I was able to finish the descent with no problems.

I got back to the car in about three and a half hours; no speed record by any means, but one site I looked at suggested the time from the car to the top would take 5-6 hours. So, 3.5 car to car was alright by me. Now that I know the route, I want to head back and do it under 2 hours. The descent took the most time, the snow field especially, so I think I could easily shave a lot of time.

The climb was a great way to celebrate my birthday. If anyone is looking to do an easy free solo with very limited risk, this is the place to do it. I’ve done a lot of climbing, and this rates among the best.

1 comment:

Abominable's Main Squeeze said...

I'm much happier reading about the adventure AFTER the fact ;-)
Congratulations on your successful climb, Sean!