Mt. Olympus

August 30 - September 2, 1999

Dave Svilar, Dan Lawty, Darryl Doland, Larry


The red line is confusing and probably not altogether correct.  The bump labeled "highest point" is correct.

As I made the ferry crossings to the Olympic Penninsula I was glad to know I wouldn't have to carry my soaking and heavy gear from the climb on Mt. Baker the day before on this trip.  My long time hiking/climbing buddies Dan and Darryl had invited me along on a trip with their friend Larry who had mules arranged to carry our gear.  The bad news was relayed to me as soon as I arrived Larry's house in Forks, WA - no mules.  Larry who had taken numerous other parties up the mountain with his mules, was going to serve as our leader on the trip.

The approach to Mt. Olympus, the crown jewel of the Olympic Mountains, involves a long 18 mile trek through beautiful old growth forests.  My pack wasn't as burdensome as expected, and the first 10 miles passed easily.  Dan who likes to hike quickly and quietly ahead of the pack to spot wildlife, made a spot of a different kind.  This time his stealth was rewarded by a female hiker who had dropped her drawers to relieve herself beside the trail.  Dan pretended to have not seen anything in order to calm the mortified young lady.

I took an immediate liking to Larry who seemed to have trouble talking and hiking at the same time.  His gruff manner and Wyatt Earp-like appearance suggested that he was a real mountain man.  Unlike yuppie Gore-Tex wearing, freeze dried food eating outdoorsman of today Larry did things his own way.  Instead of a tent he slept out under a tarp and carried a variety of food including an entire block of cheese.  When I questioned him as to why he didn't treat his water he simply replied, "that's what my mustache is for kid." 

Nobody takes Larry's cheese.  Not even this hungry Black Bear that Larry chased out of camp.

The second day we finished the hike up to Glacier Meadows in the mist of the Hoh Rain Forest.  Olympus is known for its horrendous weather, so we scheduled an extra day to wait for good summit day weather.  Dan and I hiked ahead of Darryl who was waiting back with Larry.  After what seemed like forever, Larry finally arrived and we set up camp.  The mist wasn't letting up and I started to have my doubts that it ever would.

That's not a bush.  It's just Darryl and his poncho.

Miraculously we awoke on the third morning to clear skies.  As we begun the climb it was obvious that the weather wasn't the only thing that had changed - Larry was a new man.  Like an Olympic athlete who peaks for the big event, Larry was all business and hiking fast on summit day.  I wanted to stop and take a couple of pictures, but Larry had no time.  We roped up to cross the lower glacier and ascended steeply up a snow and rock covered slope towards the flat expanse of the Blue Glacier.

Me ascending the slope towards the Blue Glacier.  More of the Olympus massif in the background.


Dan, Darryl, Dave, Larry on the Blue Glacier.  Our route split the middle of the peaks on the right.

Larry did allow for a couple of pictures on the glacier, but before I could get more than a couple of bites of a Power Bar I was being yanked by Larry up the mountain.  We ascended another steep section of glacier and reached a short section of exposed snow.  Larry asked for a belay, but grew impatient as we chopped a stance and took off before we even had it set up.  We cut around the back side and then up to the false summit.  From there we dropped down and ascended a steep snow slope leading to the summit rock.  Crossing from the snow to the rock involved the trickiest move of the climb.  Watching the normally graceful Dan struggle with the move, Darryl and I knew it would be tough.  Darryl decided not to risk it and I couldn't blame him as a fall would probably prove fatal.

A simple belay would have sufficed to get Darryl across, but Larry and the rope were already setting up for the final short pitch to the summit.  Larry "led" the quick 4th class scramble without an anchored belay or placing any protection in the rock.  Within a few minutes the three of us were on top.

Me on the summit of Olympus.

Larry was concerned about snow bridges over crevasses with the warming sun, so we didn't linger long on top.  Larry dragged us down the mountain safely leading us back to camp in the mid afternoon.  The next day we had to retrace the 18 mile approach back to the trailhead.  Larry, who had been so motivated the day before returned to form and was barely making progress down the trail.  Larry's stories were always entertaining, but we just wanted to go home.  Dan seemed to be the best at getting the most mileage out of Larry's legs versus idle story telling time, so Darryl and I raced ahead while Dan stayed with Larry. 

After finally making it back to the car, we asked Larry to take us to place to eat in Forks.  We stressed to Larry that we had been in the woods for four days and probably shouldn't eat anywhere fancy.  Larry did not disappoint, and in true form provided his last memory of the trip by treating us to greasy burgers at a dilapidated trailer shack.  On my way home that night I struggled to stay awake missing my turn to the ferry by 20 miles and also hitting a cat and raccoon with the Toyota.  Nevertheless I will always be fond of my first trip into the Olympics with Dan, Darryl and their highly entertaining friend Larry.

-written May 2002

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