Olympic Mountains Loop Trip (Sep 2-5, 2006)

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olympics_loop_coverConditions: Backpack
Gear: overnight gear
Map: USGS Mt Deception
Area: Olympic Peninsula
Reference: 100 Hikes in Washington's South Cascades & Olympics
Stats: approx. 24.1mi, 8314' gain (round trip)

Once again Jim came up with a stellar idea for a Labor Day weekend backpacking trip. The plan was to do a loop trip in the Olympic Mtn. I'd not spent much time there so this would be a real treat for me.

Day 1: We started off at the Dungeness TH hiking up the trail barely a mile before heading left up the Dungeness River drainage. It was level going at first, then about 3.2mi we hit Camp Hardy and it was time for some uphill. The trail continued uphill at a nice grade to the Boulder Shelter at about 6.1mi, then some somewhat level trail and then a bit of downhill to the head of Home Creek where the trail crosses the creek (4730') and then one last bit of uphill before we made it to our first campsite, the mosquito infested Home Lake. It was late, we set up tents, at a late dinner, then tucked ourselves away for the night. A harder second day awaited us. (Day 1 stats: 9mi, +3864/-1064 from the TH)

Day 2: From Home Lake we continued uphill about .4mi to Constance Pass (5820') and then continued westerly along the spacious ridge crest to the "spring" where the trail drops steeply downhill at Sunnybrook Meadows. Where the trail drops we made our way back up to the ridge crest to near Pt 6514 (about 6415'') where we decided to drop about 600' to avoid the nasty side hilling on a hard packed scree slope that resembled broken glass more than rock. It even sounded like glass when we walked on it. Several of us in the group were working on blisters on our insteps with the side hilling. Then from the head of Upper Twin Creek we made our way nearly straight uphill to Gunsight Pass where we were told by a couple of hikers doing the loop in reverse (we bumped into them west of Constance Pass) that there was likely enough space at the pass for our somewhat large group to camp. The day was getting late as we arrived but...yeah...barely enough space for one bivy. We needed to continue on to Deception Basin. So, we dropped down the north side of Gunsight Pass (about 6335'), scrambled first down a minor snowfield, then through a huge boulder area (rocks were nearly the size of a house), crossed the south fork of Deception Creek at about 5380', traversed a terribly loose "gravelanche" slope just below the cliff bands on the west side of Mt Mystery, entered the somewhat brushy main drainage of Deception Creek and crossed over it at about 5360' for a short time, crossed back over it (5730') at the west end of the open Lower Deception Basin. We continued along the creek to the upper basin making camp at about 5874'. It was near perfect timing again. We made camp, had a well deserved dinner, then crawled into the tents again for another good nights sleep. I have to say this stretch of the loop (from Home Lk to Upper Deception Basin) particularly the stretch from Sunnybrook Meadows was pretty difficult. The Olympics off trail is some of the hardest off trail travel I've ever done, including that done in the North Cascades. I think our entire group was surprised how long this 6+ mile stretch took. Travel was so slow in fact that the groups plans to climb Mt Mystery were scrubbed because there just wasn't the time to attempt the peak. (Day 2 stats: 6.2mi/ +3483'/-2894')

Day 3: We hoped for some scrambling this day. We were up early, packed up and headed up a "trail" likely a game trail to Royal Pass (north of our campsite). Once again we found ourselves on the shattered rock we'd seen just before Gunsight Pass. We reached the pass (.6mi, about 6570') where we dropped our packs and some scrambled up what Jim dubbed Royal Pk (it's the point just east of the pass), the group being intent on getting some peak bagging in since we didn't have time to try Mt Mystery the day before. Once the group was back at the pass, we continued down to Royal Basin where we made camp in some trees next to one of the tarns (5720') about 1.37mi from our previous campsite. The rest of the group assembled their gear to head off for a climb of Mt Clark. I knew this peak was over my ability so I took this as a chance to get cleaned up in the privacy of one of the smaller tarns, take a nap, and do some wandering around the basin area. (Day 3 stats: 1.36mi, +816/-965).

Day 4: Day 4 would be spent hiking out. We packed up in the morning and started the trek. Being mostly downhill, the hike out was nice. We reached Royal Lk (5118') after about 1mi, then continued down the trail that closely follows Royal Basin Creek. We reached the junction for the Dungeness River Trail at about 6.5mi (2700') and then kept going for the last .9mi to the TH at 2527'. (Day 4 stats: 7.46mi, +135'/-3334').
Olympics Loop Slideshow

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