This year has been a difficult one for me when it comes to creating goals for myself. I finally feel like I am crossing from one side of a fence to another when it comes to the sport of Alpinism as my rock climbing skills increase, but with that comes a lot of anxiety of possibly getting in over my head on a mountain.
I feel like most of my goals and desires fall into the alpinism category of outdoor adventure. Even if I am doing single pitch climbs, splitboarding through trees, or on a trail run, my focus is always to climb harder mountains. I have been focusing on dry climbing mostly, but plan to transition to snow and ice this winter. I felt like I ignored ice and snow this winter, probably because it is what scares me most.
In my process of ignoring snow, this spring I created a small goal involving Mount Olympus. It’s one of the few peaks in the Wasatch that loses snow early, but still has some cool ridge lines and routes to the summit. My goal was to climb a few of the technical routes to the summits that are within my ability.
The main goal is to help me get used to leading long days on gear to summits. There are 4 routes that I found to the summit ranging from 5.4 – 5.6.
I am new to leading on gear and since these climbs are all longer than 8 pitches. The low difficulty is exactly what I am looking for. Plus, it will help me with my mental game and improve my ability to place solid protection. It’s a perfect goal for me.
So here I am now…
I have done 3 of the 4 routes and feeling pretty good about it. I am excited to do the final route in the next few weeks or months. I really didn’t expect the routes to come and go so quickly, but it has been a fun process and I figured that I should probably document it, so here they are:
Blister Hill Bypass to the Forgotten Arete (5.5)
This is a fun route. It is definitely more fun than the trail. I actually kind of hate that there is an easy trail to the summit of Olympus because there are so many fun, “kind of easy” routes along the way. This route starts on the trail until you cross the stream about 45 mins up.
After the stream, you cut right to the rocky ridge that bypasses the blister hill portion of the trail (hence the name).
This ridge is pretty fun with a few spots of uneasiness where you pull some low 5th class moves to stay on the arete proper. I thought this was rated 4th class climbing, so I ran up it after work one day by myself. It felt pretty secure and you can always cut off ridge if you want so exposure is pretty low.
Once to the top of blister hill, you get back on the main trail through the trees and eventually cut up a gully on the right to a large cliff face to the “Forgotten Arete” Ridge which you can gain easily by moving to the right side of the face and going up left to the top of the arete.
Staying on the ridge, I made my way up toward the false summit. There is definitely a lot more exposure on this ridge which made it a bit more exciting. I definitely felt like the climbing was harder as well and it was a lot longer.
Eventually, I reached a steeper wall on the ridge that I assume is the 5.5 section. It is pretty short, but definitely committing. After you make this move you are committed to finish the ridge. Most of the first part of this ridge you can down climb some gullies to a grassy chute and hike down to the trail, but after that wall, there aren’t really any options but to move on.
It was a bit snowy on this section too, so it made it a little more sketchy. I figured the trail was just after this portion, so I went for it. I was at the top of the ridge, but the route to the trail was still ahead of me and it involved a lot of snow.
I tried to avoid the snow and stay on the ridge, but it was a bit difficult. I finally made it to the flat after a pretty intense and exposed traverse over some snow and rock.
At the trail I meet a few people and climbed up that last bit of the trail to the summit. At the top we chatted then jogged back down the trail.
It took me about 2:45 to get to the summit this way. About 1:45 to get back down.
Guert’s Ridge (5.5)
This ridge was long. It is the direct ridge to the South summit of Olympus We started early. We did a lot of bushwacking to get to the ridge. It started out pretty easy with a lot of 3rd class climbing.
After a bit, it got a little steeper until we hit the catwalk. We decided to rope up for it, but mostly just because it was awkward and exposed.
We soon hit a rappel and dropped down to what looked like the first pitch of actual climbing. We geared up and Wes lead the pitch. I followed. It was definitely 5.5 for about 10 or 15 feet there.
We stay roped and I led the next pitch thinking it maybe be about the same difficulty, but it wasn’t quite as scary, just awkward and exposed again. After a few more short, roped pitches, we got off rope and climbed for a while more. We hit another pitch that was a bit airy and we probably should have roped up for it, but we didn’t…
We reach the top portion of the ridge after several false summits and dropped into a shaded gully with a lot of snow and struggled back onto the rock. This pitch looked pretty intense, but we were able to go up and cut around a corner to easy low 5th class climbing to the actual summit.
From here we just walked along the ridge for about 100 feet and were at the top. We followed the main trail back to the car.
Car to Car this took Wes and I about 13 hours. It was a long day.
The West Slabs (5.5)
I have been mesmerized by the Northwest face of Mount Olympus since I moved to Salt Lake. It is an beautiful rock face that is iconic of SLC. It wasn’t until this year that I have felt capable of the route up the 5.5 face. I immediately added this to my list of goals for this summer.
Wes and I had the opportunity to get on the West Slabs just this last weekend. It was a blast. I know a lot of people solo it, but I was a bit concerned about the the vertical gain and the sustained climbing. A lot of alpine routes I have done are pretty ledgey with places to stand between pitches of harder climbing. I was concerned that the route would be really exposed and terrifying. So we roped up and simul-climbed.
It was consistent climbing, but it was amazing. It was super mellow. I am glad we roped up because it was fun to climb and place gear, but I didn’t feel uneasy at all.
The best part about simul-climbing is that you get to climb straight up for such a long time without stopping to belay your partner. Wes and I got to lead a pitches that were about 900 feet each before we un-roped and soloed the last 200 feet to the ridge.
The approach was fun up the snow-filled chute to the face and from the car to the ridge it took us about 3:45. From the ridge to the car it too about another 3:30. So car to car was about 7:15 hours. We were shocked when we reach the ridge because Guert’s took us so long a few weeks earlier. We were pretty excited to have made such good time.
Kamp’s Ridge (5.6)
This is the final route that I want to do up Olympus. It is an 8 pitch 5.6 route, which is longest 5.6 I will have done. I am saving it until a little further into the summer because I don’t know if I am quite ready for it yet. But soon enough my Olympus project will be complete.
I have really enjoyed doing this project because it wasn’t really set in stone. It just kind of happened that I kept finding routes up Olympus. It has made it pretty low-stress with a lot of reward. It has been great!
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