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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Olympic Penninsula: Mt Washington/Ellinor Traverse

This weekend was my final climb of the season with my climbing club. It was a new twist on two climbs that I've previously done in the snow as we climbed up Mt Washington and traversed the scree slopes below the ridge that connects to Mt Ellinor.

Mt Washington is a very enjoyable climb with some route finding challenges. The route we took concludes by circling the summit block on a comfortable ledge and a 30 foot class 3 scramble to the top. It takes 4-6 hours to summit and I included some details below.

Here's a picture of on the summit block ledge that I mentioned above:

For climbing up Mt Washington, here is some data that will hopefully help with route finding on the climber's trail or Big Creek trail or Route 1 in the Climber's Guide to Mt Olympus that the Mountineers produced.
1. Trail starts in between the turn off for the Mt Ellinor trailhead and the waterfall that is Big Creek. It's easy to miss but look to the left of the big mossy rock.
2. Trail is pretty straight forward until you reach 4800 feet of elevation. We went right and stopped at a steep scree section when we should have gone left through the woods. Look for discreet orange tape on branches of some cairns. The path will cut through the woods and follows a gully to a basin.
3. One you reach the basin (5000 feet), you will see an appealing gully to the far right. Resist and look at the paths in the ridge on the left or to the right of the highest point in the picture below. The path is straight up from the green backpack of the person farthest to the right.

4. Once you go over the ridge, you will pass a memorial cross (land mark for the traverse route) and see the summit block with ledge to the right. Follow the ledge for a short distance and look for the section for the summit scramble. You will not follow the ledge completely around the summit block.

The Mt Ellinor route from the trail head is a fairly straight forward hike to the top and a good beginner climb. During the winter it features a luge-like glisade route in the snow (I believe that glisade is Swiss for "sliding down the snow on your butt).

However, if you go via the traverse approach that we did, it involves ascending a pretty impressive scree slope. The scree slope is pictured below and it's the gully to the left of the snow that looks steeper than it is. Sometimes the footing was almost North Sister-esque but you would only fall down a few feet if you slipped.

I managed to fall down while just standing still and got a nice bruise and impressive cut on my fore arm. It looks like I was in a knife fight.

For the start of the traverse route, you descend from the Mt Washington summit and cross over to the back of Mt Washington at a white memorial cross that was dedicated to fallen climber. It's around 5800 feet. Keep descending until you reach the lake at around 5220 feet and make your way up that scree slope above to Ellinor. Here is a picture of the lake:

At this point, the only thing standing between you and Mt Ellinor is 700 feet of scree. Hopefully, you'll see some goats along the way.

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