A Novice Climbs Mt. Olympus

Story by Bret Wirta-The Incidental Explorer

Photos and video by Bret Wirta, John Gussman and Mark Grdovic

Distance: 40 miles round-trip – Time out: 5 days

Degree of Difficulty:: Guide Needed!

Elevation: 7,973 ft. – Pet Friendly: No

August 10, 2012

A Novice Climbs Mt. Olympus

I’ve always felt a bit jealous of mountain climbers I met on the trail, with their rakish attitude and dangerous looking equipment dangling from their backpacks. That would soon change because I was part of a climbing team headed up glacier-covered Mt. Olympus! I was the high bidder at last spring’s Washington’s National Parks Fund fundraising auction.. Now thanks to the generous donation from Mountain Madness I was going to become a mountaineer!

Though I’ve backpacked on many wonderful trails and scrambled up my share of mountain peaks, until now I’ve never made a technical climb. A technical climb is a steep ascent on a carefully planned route using ropes, climbing boots with spikes, and other specialized gear. Besides the usual load of camping equipment, food, and clothes in my backpack, there was a new rope, harness, and heavy-duty hiking boots. Strapped to the outside of my pack in full view was my climbing helmet and titanium ice axe. My coffee cup dangled from a shiny carabineer, and poking from a thickly-lined pocket was a pair of sharp-spiked crampons. In a flurry of last minute shopping, 2nd Ascent in Ballard outfitted me right down to special lip-balm and sunglasses designed to ward of glacial glare.

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Constance Pass Backpacking Adventure

Story and photos by Bret Wirta – The Incidental Explorer

Distance: 22 mile round-trip – Time out: 3 Days

Degree of Difficulty: 1 – Elevation : 5,850 ft.

Pet Friendly: No

August 1-3 2012.

Constance Pass Video

Constance Pass is a magnificent place deep in the Olympics, a perfect family backpacking adventure. My wife Trisha, college-aged children, Becca and Garrett and I planned a three-day journey. We decided we’d pitch our tents at Boulder camp both nights. We spent most of the first day hiking up the Big Quilcene trail to Marmot Pass. After admiring the view for a bit, we turned south leaving the Quilcene watershed and descended into the headwaters of the Dungeness River. The trail down to Boulder camp was easy and dry, the heat and the sweet smell of prolific purple lupines hanging in the unusually still air. Across the valley stood the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Deception and the Grey Wolf Ridge. Our kids hiked on ahead of us.

Our kids both left for college at the end of summer. I miss them. I miss them around the house even if they are just hanging with friends or watching bad TV. But the family times I enjoy most are when we are backpacking. On the trail, without distracting cell phones or other nefarious electronics, we experience the wilderness together.

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Marmot Pass Hike

Story and photos by Bret Wirta – The Incidental Explorer

Distance: 11 mile round-trip – Time out: 8 hours

Degree of Difficulty: 1 – Elevation Gain: 3,500 ft. Pet Friendly: Yes

August 1st 2012

“Why did you choose this trail?” I asked a hiker who was lacing up his boot on the bumper of a car with California license plates. He said, “I read a guidebook. It said if for some terrible reason you’re allowed one hike in the Olympics in your lifetime, this one should be it.” I laughed and said, “That’s author Craig Romano. That’s why we’re climbing Marmot Pass too. “

It was noon when we left our car at the Upper Big Quilcene trailhead. It was good to be hiking with my family. My wife Trisha handed me my hiking poles and our teen-agers swung on their backpacks. According to Craig’s guidebook we’d see Marmots and plenty of wildflowers. It was sunny and in the mid 60’s. If our hike to Marmot Pass wasn’t as wonderful as Craig said it would be, it wouldn’t be because of the weather.

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