Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mt. Olympus - Hike to Summit

Location: Mt Olympus Trailhead
This is the first blog entry that isn't predated!

Went up Mt. Olympus today.  This hike is certainly not the longest, but it's easily the most strenuous I've been on.  The info I found online was a little off, or at least misleading in some ways.  The trail itself basically circles around the mountain (and has NO SHADE) to the far south side and then climbs, and that climb is steep (but offers a little shade).  It's the first trail where I've needed to stop and sit down a few times.
At the top there is a large saddle that extends out to the ridge you've been hiking across from the whole way up.  There was an obvious campfire spot, and you could easily pitch a few tents, but unless you started up later in the evening, plan on seeing a number of people coming up to that point.

After this saddle area, the trail continues briefly in the direction of the north peak, but it quickly dies out (that's right, THE HIKING TRAIL STOPS HERE!), and you basically meet up with a rocky cliff to climb.  It's one of the easier climbs I've done, but it's still out of the realm of hiking.  I counted 3 little plateaus as you go up between the sheer cliffs, each one offers spectacular views.  You can make it up this part rather easily and with minimal real danger, but you need to look around and focus on picking a good route.  Also don't neglect the hands, many areas of it wouldn't be safe for the average hiker without extensively holding on to the rock.  Go straight up, don't be tempted to wander off on the game trails that circle off from the plateaus.

The summit is breathtaking.  The city, unfortunately, has developed a constant haze, but if you keep your eyes to the other things around you it's really one of the best views of the mountains on our front.  As with other popular peaks there's a mailbox at the top with a few books to sign, it's dedicated to someone who has passed away.  I meant to get a picture of the dedication, but a group of kids showed up as I was looking at it, and I forgot to snap one (d'oh).  I guess it's a testament to how popular the summit is that it has multiple books, finding a place to sign can be tricky, and there isn't a date earlier than 2011.

The best part, though, the thing that made the trip...  I saw a mountain goat.  Not only one, but two!  Oddly, I've told 3 people, within the last month, that I had all but given up on seeing one, and wham!  I had just barely made it to the top.  I saw the mailbox, and rock-hopped over to it.  As I got to it, this very strange sound rings out.  Almost a goofy sound, like you might hear parrots in Brazil making.  I'd never heard anything remotely like it, and it made me a little nervous, but then I hear it again, and this time I follow it north east and at the very tip top of the nearest peak stood a fat mountain goat.  In fact, as I look over he's just climbing onto the big rock at the top of that peak.  He's staring at me, and making a very strange noise.  A while later he starts to meander down, looking like he's nibbling things on his way, and from around the back side of this peak comes the other, who is much smaller than the first.  They hang out for a while just below the peak the first one was on.  When I left the original one was the only one I could see and he was still just laying there watching us.  I found a shaded area on the summit, well protected with a large boulder causing an overhang, and the open side blocked off by scrub oak and junipers.  The ground was covered in droppings.  I can't help but think that they might be bedding down on this north summit regularly, and that might have provoked the strange noises it was making at me.  Perhaps it was warning the other one to vacate the peak I was on, as it didn't show up till a while later.

The hike down was SLOW.  Climbing down is never as easy as back up (keep this in mind if you decide to summit the beast), and once back on the trail it's so steep that you have to go carefully and slowly so that your knees don't give out!

Here's some killer photos of goats!

(yes, there are two goats at the top of that spire)

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