Monday, May 4, 2015

Olympus Scrambling Loop

The route, counterclockwise from bottom

In order to be a true Wasatch runner/climber, you have to have done the West Slabs on Olympus at least once, and preferably time trialed it with a descent down Apollo. However, I don't think nearly as many people, including myself, take advantage of the other 2 high quality scrambling routes the mountain has to offer. Chad Ambrose enlightened me to the option of linking the West Slabs into Geurts Ridge with his last blog post, something that hadn't been on my radar at all. Luckily I subscribe to a ton of blogs, so new ideas are always materializing.

Anyway, I decided that I am pretty bored with running the standard trail on Olympus in any direction as I've done it 27 times, which is what Chad did, so I thought "why not add another ridge on to the docket?" So I did. Kamps ridge is the 3rd excellent ridge scramble that I have been interested in trying, so I designed a route to link all three:

Up Zeus to the West Slabs, West Slabs, downclimb west ridge to saddle, head south to Geurts, up Geurts to South Summit, down one of the memorial Couloirs(the one just southeast of S. Summit) into Neffs, up Kamps to North Summit, down West Ridge, down Apollo, back to Zeus and the car. Should be good!

I started at around 7 am, and with the overnight rainstorm found the slabs to be pretty wet, which made the ascent slightly slower due to increased slickness and the risk of potentially falling to ones death. I have also been sidelined with a cold the past week, so much phlem and coughing ensued on the slog up Zeus, which made me nervous. Neverthless, I proceeded, and hit the top in around 1 hour, which isn't bad, and proceeded down into Tolcat and over to Geurts, still hacking and blowing snot rockets, but less miserable than I was earlier. Some thick bushwacking was involved in Tolcat, so I got in and out of there as quick as a shy guy in a lingerie store.

Geurts was fun, but the bottom section isn't much to get excited about. The top section is excellent though, lots of great scrambling and two fun downclimbs around potential rappelling cruxes, both pretty easy. Most of the ridge is easy 5th class, but a couple sections merit a 5.6 rating if you stick to the ridge(the point) with fun cracks to make it secure. While likely the least interesting of the three objectives, still worth doing at least once.
West View looking at Geurts Ridge
Geurts from top of the Slabs, with S. Summit at far left. Pictured is the best section, but the ridge extends out of frame to the right for quite a ways

Hardest section of climbing on Geurts, 40' of  steep 5.6 with good cracks

First rappel that can be bypassed by downclimbing to the south, left here. (climbers right)

Hit the south summit in 2:30 elapsed time, and ran into Jason Eichhorst from the Bear 100 nightmare on the top who had run the standard trail. We chatted, then I descended and glissaded one of the memorial couloirs down into Neffs on some pretty slushy snow.
Descent glissade

I knew there was a 90% chance of picking the wrong ridge to do Kamps, since I suck at routefinding, was approaching from above versus below, and there are about 10 different ridgelines on the east side. Still I was disappointed when I discovered halfway up my chosen ridge I was on the wrong one. Curses! I could have proceeded up the unknown ridge or bailed down one of the couloirs, but I decided to stick it out. I attempted to traverse directly north, but got cliffed out was forced to pretty much descend back down to my starting point after some wet slabby downclimbing into another memorial couloir. This was frustrating and the detour overall cost me an hour at least. Oh well.
I can see the aesthetics of skiing these lines. Kamps is North of this couloir
View from east with my blunder ridge up/down shown in the middle

After righting my wrong and feeling better that I was on track on the new ridge, I scrambled up the lower Kamps which was fun, but again, not awesome. But the upper section was really engaging. Lots of exposed 5th class on a thin toothpick of a ridgeline. Most of the ridge could be climbed on either side but some straddling was also involved. The crux is the last part of the ridge with some exposed face traversing and offwidth cracks, though I was disappointed that an easy bailout point into the memorial 1 couloir to the south was possible, which makes it seem contrived. But the ridge was much more interesting, and pretty easy climbing although a fall would land you down in Dan's parking lot. It's no Grand or Evolution Traverse, but still a good time.

Couldn't help but add this photo from MP. Fantastic shot. Photo Cred: Moon Mountain Photography

Upper Section of Kamps Ridge, with crux on right face. 

Looking back after the crux

With all my poor routefinding I hit the north summit after 4.5 hours elapsed, which likely could have been 3.5 if I had nailed the correct route first go. Then a short scramble down to Apollo and half glissading/half death talus led me back to the Zeus connector and the car, 5.5 hours, 8.5 miles, and almost 7k' of vert after departing. Sans mistake, I would estimate 8 miles and 6k of vert.

Someone(jared campbell/dorais bros/Ueli Steck) with speed and route knowledge in the spring with prime glissading conditions could go sub 4 on this route if they wanted, which seems ridiculously fast considering most normal mountaineering folk do one of these in a day, or at least that's what summitpost and MP suggest. 


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  3. Nice job dude. Not so much on the scramble but on talking to someone on the mtn. I thought I was reading fiction! What shoes?