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Mountain Madness approach trail to Olympus climb

Mount Olympus: Success and Summits

Moun­taineer­ing is sup­posed to be about reach­ing the sum­mit, grit­ting your teeth against the dis­com­fort, and stand­ing on top, right? I’ve heard sev­er­al oth­er guides say it wasn’t, but I’d always brushed it off. This week­end on Mt. Olym­pus, I learned they’re absolute­ly right; it’s not.

Wynell Schatz climbs above Mount Olym­pus’ Blue Glac­i­er at sunrise.

With a par­ty of six, Zach Kesk­i­nen and I walked more than 17 miles to reach the flanks of Mount Olym­pus. The approach wan­ders through lush rain­for­est unlike any­thing you’d see in the Cas­cades. Thick moss car­pets every branch in sight; a pro­fes­sion­al painter couldn’t num­ber the inef­fa­ble shades of green. All the while, the sound of the glacial­ly fed Hoh Riv­er rush­ing just out of sight makes for a unique, immer­sive experience.

View of the glacial­ly fed, bril­liant blue Hoh River.

I could go on about how gor­geous it all was, but that’s not what this week­end was about either.

We took the first day to dri­ve and hike our heavy 5‑day packs 9 miles to our first camp. Day two was anoth­er long day of walk­ing, inter­spersed with snack­ing. Day three was our sum­mit push. Day four we reversed most of the approach and day five was a short and sweet walk back to the cars.

For as much as I love walk­ing and snack­ing, this week­end wasn’t about the snacks either.

This par­tic­u­lar group had been assem­bled by Jim Schatz, who passed away unex­pect­ed­ly ear­li­er this year. He was the com­mon thread between the eight of us: mem­bers of a run­ning club he was a part of, his wife Wynell, addi­tion­al fam­i­ly, and final­ly Zach and I because he had climbed with Moun­tain Mad­ness before.

Right from the get-go, it was clear to Zach and I that this group was super strong and fun. They had us laugh­ing from our meet­ing point at Ascent Out­doors and all along the lengthy trail even after our climb.

Sarah and Josh round­ing the final twists of the approach trail to Mount Olympus.

This week­end, it wasn’t about the sum­mit, the scenery or the strug­gle. It was about being out there togeth­er and appre­ci­at­ing the wild ride through the twists and bends in the for­est, through the highs and the lows, the sweets (Zach’s caramel cook­ies) and the sours (that time I acci­den­tal­ly dropped part of the pas­ta into the dirt.)

Of our par­ty, four peo­ple reached the sum­mit of Mount Olym­pus (7,979’) with Zach. Three of us decid­ed that our high point was going to be Snow Dome at a sub­stan­tial 6,600 feet, and that was quite alright. We broke out some lemon­ade and jel­ly beans, and took in the beau­ty of the sur­round­ing Olympic Moun­tains. This week­end, it wasn’t reach­ing the high­est bit of rock but enjoy­ing what we’d accom­plished togeth­er and the jour­ney along the way.

~Words and pho­tos, MM Guide Mal­lo­rie Estenson