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| | |-+  The Olympic Traverse, May 11-19th
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Author Topic: The Olympic Traverse, May 11-19th  (Read 4303 times)

Posts: 818

The Olympic Traverse, May 11-19th
« on: 05/31/16, 08:35 PM »

I thought I'd share a story about skiing across the Olympic Mountains over 9 days earlier this month. It was an amazing experience in an amazing corner of our awesome state.

Here's a blurb from the beginning:

May 11-19, 2016 – By Jason Hummel

Out my front door three blocks down 30th St. is a trail that takes me to the shores of Commencement Bay and from there, in the distance, rise the Olympic Mountains. I’m not alone with my view; a million other doorsteps are similarly blessed. Yet there in those mountains are places no foot has tread and even where feet have trodden, no evidence remains of their passage, because over the bay from where I stand is wilderness. Not wilderness halfway around the world. Not wilderness lost in some place you can’t even pronounce. Instead, right there is wilderness that for the cost of a tank of gas, I can visit with my own two feet.

Not until the late 1800s were the secrets of the Olympics first unlocked, initially with the O’Neil Expedition and later, most famously, with the Press Expedition. Robert Wood in his book Across the Olympic Mountains quotes a local newspaper in which the writer challenges “Some of the hardy citizens of the Sound to acquire fame by unveiling the mystery which wraps the land encircled by the snowcapped Olympic mountain range.” The Press Expedition, funded by the very newspaper that challenged its readership to take on the Olympic Mountain Range, became in the winter of 1889 the first party to complete a north to south crossing of the Olympics, taking six months to traverse the relatively few, yet most rugged 50 miles, they would ever explore in their lifetimes.

Six hundred miles of trails now crisscross what has become the 1422 square mile Olympic National Park, established and signed into law in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Between those miles of trails are the high mountains, glacier cirques and ridge lines where you forge, at least in part, your own trails. This wilderness I intended to explore on skis, but to do it right, I had to have a plan.

Two years ago, a friend, Justin McGregor, turned me on to the idea of a north-south traverse of the Olympics over beers at the Parkway Tavern. He told me about a high route he and friends had hiked and scrambled the summer before. I’d always imagined an east-west traverse that included the mighty Mt. Olympus, but I was struck with the possibility of a high route that left from Hurricane Ridge and ended at Lake Cushman.

Almost immediately I roughly plotted my own path by merging portions of Justin’s summer trip with the glaciers and high points I was interested in skiing come springtime. A primary goal in my route planning was to ski the named glaciers in the area as part of my greater project of skiing all 213 named glaciers in Washington State. If it went according to plan, I’d ski glaciers 131 through 135, and in the process tick off several of the most remote glaciers in the state.

But all wasn’t to plan. When the spring of 2015 arrived, it did so on the heels of one of the worst winters in recorded history for Washington State. At the end of March, 2015, the Olympic snowpack teetered at 7% of normal!

A year passed and in March of 2016 I happened to read an article that stated that the Olympic snowpack was at a healthy 122 percent. Conditions were ideal, but then April struck a match to the snowpack, burning its way into the record books. In nearby Seattle April was the warmest it had been in 122 years of record keeping, breaking the previous average by 3.1 degrees!

Snowpack was melting by the foot and soon flowers would be rising from newly exposed dirt. Before that happened, Tim Black and I set off to transform lines on a map into memories of a lifetime.

On the outset of this trip I carried more baggage on my mind than usual. I sawed back and forth over the years of my life, trying to justify where I was and how I got there. The “So what if I’ve been single for 3 years.” Or the “So what if I don’t have a home outside an RV for much of the year.” Or, most spectacularly, “So what if I left a promising career as a financial advisor eight years ago to seek a life in the outdoors and photography.”

Would I change any of it? Probably not. When I ask, “Would I go back?” I can’t imagine doing so. Ever. But there’s a price I’ve begun to realize. Giving up ‘stability’ and ‘home’ isn’t as easy as I’d thought and I fear I’ll never get the chance to have either and if I do I’ll never stop long enough to hold onto  them.

More on my site:


Posts: 259

Re: The Olympic Traverse, May 11-19th
« Reply #1 on: 06/01/16, 09:22 AM »


I really love the "wilderness at your doorstep" angle. Fabulous use of the resources available to you, to us, to millions of people.

Let me know if you wanna go on a day tour sometime ;-).


Posts: 797

Re: The Olympic Traverse, May 11-19th
« Reply #2 on: 06/01/16, 11:24 AM »

Ouch!  Way to "go to work."  Some fabulous photos.

Posts: 230

Re: The Olympic Traverse, May 11-19th
« Reply #3 on: 06/01/16, 09:28 PM »

Yep, totally kickass. Thanks for putting this together!

Posts: 818

Re: The Olympic Traverse, May 11-19th
« Reply #4 on: 06/03/16, 02:05 PM »


Thanks! I was thinking about that angle for the story when I was walking around my house. I love backyard adventures when I can make them happen. You can't beat the cost/value ratio either. Oh, and I still feel like a beast of burden on a day trip, but if I can park my RV at the trailhead, then I'm always stoked on a day trip. Let's do it.


Yeah, it definitely hurt here and there, but I'm used to it. If you were around still, I'm sure I'd be hurting more. Ha.


Totally. Happy too!

Just Reid

Posts: 3

Re: The Olympic Traverse, May 11-19th
« Reply #5 on: 06/07/16, 01:29 AM »

Awesome Jason!
"right there is wilderness that for the cost of a tank of gas, I can visit with my own two feet"
I love that sentence. If I can tag along on perhaps some less adventurous glaciers I'd be happy to. Keep it up!
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