birthday challenge
October 30, 2013 posted by

Tour de Mt Olympus: 5 Routes, 3 Trails, and 6 Summits

Tour de Mt Olympus: 5 Routes, 3 Trails, and 6 Summits

Had the best day of my challenge, so far, and it’s going to be hard to beat. I climbed all of Mt Olympus’ 6 summits via 5 different routes and circled the  mountain using 3 different trails. Solo. It was magic. Well, it’s had its epic moments, too, but that made it better. Climbing mountains is better than not climbing mountains, plain and simple. Here’s a little photo/video/beta  on how it went down.


Olympus towers 5,000′ over the Salt Lake Valley and features two main faces. The southwest, above, which goes to its true summit and can be accessed by a tourist trail, albeit a burly one that ascends 4.200′ in a mere 3.5 miles. And the awesome north face, our own Nordwand, top and below, which lacks any real trails, requiring technical proficiency and at least some inkling for adventure to reach its summit.


My original plan, which featured a partner, was to climb 5 routes on the north face but when he wasn’t available, and looking at possibly the last good conditions for the season, I concocted something different. It was longer, but safer to solo, and much cooler as a pure line. I would circumnavigate the peak, tackling routes on the west, and north sides, then all six summits heading south before descending the standard trail to a newly-built link-up that makes doing the two great faces possible without using any roads. I would also be on-sighting (climbing for the first time) every route, adding to the adventure factor.


Route #1 – The West Slabs

Here’s mountain project’s description of this 3-star route.

The North summit of Mt. Olympus can be seen from most of Salt Lake City. The West Slabs are on the far right of the visible face. They can easily be picked out by a big drainage (often filled with snow) which goes up to the base. Above the drainage is a huge low angle face. The face can be climbed basically anywhere, and is over 1500′ feet high.

The approach was no picnic, though fun-ish, but the route was great. Here’s a pic  looking down at town. Above is the trail.


The climbing was as good as advertised. Stellar rock, great movement. Easy, but super nice.



I went pretty slow, trying to both enjoy it and be safe. At the top the decision making began. Sorry about the wind and poor camera work.

Route 2 – West Ridge

A easy but very nice rock ridge, I was only on it for a few hundred vertical feet, looking for the mysterious “North Face Trail”

Trail 1 – The North Face Trail

The “trail” is rated more difficult than some of the climbs. I’d never met anyone who’d done it, nor even heard of it. Result was that I dropped down too early and ended up doing one of the climbs I’d slated for the day with Mick, I think, a huge corner you can see from the Neff’s trailhead (could not find record of it being climbed). It was mainly uneventful, though I did come across what would be the crux of the day, avoiding icy-sugar-snow.
Route #3 – The Big Corner

Then I found the trail.

It was actually on okay trail, so far as climber’s trails go. The snow/ice was dicey but I descended to the true north face without incident. However, I paused when I got to where my original plan dropped the final few hundred feet to the start of The Great Chimney.  While completely un-apparent from the base, there was snow/ice on every ledge. Even though it had been warm, this time of year the face gets no sunlight at all. The chimney was recessed into the face and I was worried about it being iced up. I’d also seen pics of an easy but narrow ledge on the Kamp’s Ridge near the summit that I was also concerned about.


Route #4 – The Direct North Face

The Great Chimney is in the recess (above) and the base was quite snowy. The clean face, foreground, is the route Valhalleluja. While it looked spectacular, I didn’t want to solo 5.8 slab in these condition where one icy path could force a retreat. The courage in my rucksack only consisted of 50′ of rope, and few slings, biners, and (the secret weapon) a pair of technical climbing boots. I didn’t think I’d find any rock up here that could thwart me. Ice, however, was not part of my equation on a 70-degree day.

Above loomed the Direct North Face. While not an official route, it’s the plumb line from the summit. While it didn’t necessarily look easier than the other options, it was littered with ledges and trees, which would increase the number of options should conditions get nasty.


Whether or not this was a first ascent (pretty sure some pitches were and others not as someone must have climbed up here before), I began naming pitches of this route after the Eiger Nordwand. Above was the Difficult Crack, one of the cruxes, mainly due to a patch of ice on a large would-be foot hold just left of the green patch. After The Ramp and the Hintertoisser Traverse, the real crux was a steep wet crack (Ice Hose in winter, surely) that was a tad less secure than I would have liked. Looking down on it from the Swallow’s Nest.


Admittedly, the White Spider was somewhat of a stretch.

The route seemed to go on for a long time, which makes sense given it’s probably well over 1,000 of rock, maybe 1,500′ if Valhalleluja is really 850′ as it states. When I finally hit the sun (it was getting a bit cold) I was only a few steps from the true summit. Directissma!

Route 5, – The Traverse of the Goddesses

This route links the north and south Summits of Olympus, via some rocky spires called: Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite, Demeter, Hestia, and Hera. I’ll let these vids explain it.



Trail #2 and #3 – The Mt Olympus Trail and Bonneville Shoreline


I wasn’t the only one who had the idea of utilizing the last nice day of the season. The south summit was a swarm of activity and a stark contrast to the lonely expanse of the north face. After shooting pics of some folks, I had some take one of me and then looked back across to where I’d come from, which seemed like a different world.


the last face I’d down climbed  (hestia, not hera) and SLC beyond.

I scurried down the trail to the new Bonneville Shoreline connector, that would take me around the mountain to where I parked, under the West Slabs, in a tidy 8 hours (5+3). The trail was packed with hikers and I couldn’t help admire the fact that so many non-outdoorsy types would take this sucker on. It’s not just the 4-plus k of climbing in just over 3 miles; the trail is rocky and the top requires some 2nd and maybe 3rd class scrambling. Stuff like this is why SLC is considered to be the fittest city in America.

Romney and the dogs hiked out to meet me. It was great to see them. Heading out to lonely adventures with consequence is slightly different with a family. While such fare was once commonplace for me, my adventures have been more pedestrian lately. It’s slightly harder to roll the dice with mouths to feed and mortgages to pay. That said, it’s important to keep some adventure in one’s life. I’m a safer climber than I am at probably anything else I do. Now that I know how truly cool it is, Mt Olympus shant be ignored any longer.

Skipping the numbers today because it’s such a long post already. Didn’t do much. The last week crushed me and I’m taking a mid-challenge recovery week. 


  • Hmm….a tidy sum.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *