Tee Shots at Over 9,000 Feet: Mount Olympus

I promised that I would have some new material to write about after my day off today.  The climb today did not disappoint.  Since there are massive amounts of snow left over in the Wasatch from this winter I was reluctant to hike a major summit this early.  Mount Olympus appeared to have a significant amount of snow on it from the valley.  From a hike on Olympus a year ago I knew that the final scramble to the summit goes straight up a drainage full of boulders.  The route would be especially tricky if it was covered in snow or run off…. More on that later.

My roommate Jack Sullivan and I started in the late morning.  The valley had pleasant 70 degree temps and a slight breeze. The hike starts from a trail head located right off of Wasatch Blvd in Salt Lake.  From the statistics I have seen the trail gains roughly more than 4000 feet over just 3.5 miles.  That equals a very steep hike.  3.5 miles is not long, but when you gain that much altitude in such a short distance the pace is very slow.  The first 1400 feet of the trail switchbacks up through sage and scrub oak.  Beware of rattlesnakes.  Last year I walked up on a large adult rattler to about 5 feet.  They like to hang out along the rocks on the sides of the trail.  The trail then wraps around the mountain and makes its way into a very large drainage.  After crossing Tolcate Creek the pitch sharply increases and the next 2000 feet are brutal.  On our hike today the majority of this 2000 foot section was literally hiking through run off water.  Thank the Lord my Merrells stayed dry the whole time.  Once we reached the snow line we post-holed our way to the south shoulder of Olympus.  Luckily the class 3 scramble up the last 600 feet was relatively snow-free, yet it was excruciatingly slippery from all of the run off.  Jack and I shortened out trekking poles all the way and used them as make shift ice axes.  Slowly and carefully we picked our route up the scramble/snow/runoff. Needless to say, I was much more cautious with holds on this route than last summer.

The summit was covered in roughly 3-4 feet of snow and it made for a great final hike up the ridge.  I almost forgot the best part about the whole trip.  Since Jack and I are both golfers, we thought that we should hit tee shots off of every peak that we bag this summer.  So we each brought a driver and a few balls.  I have officially hit the longest drive off my life.  It went over the twin summit of Olympus and must have easily flown several hundred yards. Olympus may not be the tallest mountain in the Wasatch but it makes for one of the most enjoyable hike/scrambles in late spring and early summer.

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