It seems every time I have tried to get out in the last 6 months, mother nature steps on my toes. This weekend was no different. The weather report for my planned climb looked perfect all week. The avalanche danger was improving. It all looked so perfect. I packed and prepped my car. Then, the moment before leaving I thought "it's winter, I should do one more check on the pass report". As (un)luck would have it, the pass report went from tolerable to power lines down across the road. I couldn't even drive around since I90 got shut down for avy control....I felt devastated.
Sick and tired of staying inside (pandemics, crap weather, avy risk etc) I sat down on the couch, and popped open a beer. I was going somewhere. Didn't know where, but somewhere. After an hour of searching and waiting for the next NWAC report to publish I finally settled on heading for the Olympics. Mount Angeles looked like my lady for the weekend. The conditions were better than the cascades and I hadn't been in the area for almost 2 years. So I hit the hay around 9 to grab the first ferry, that way I figured "I will beat all the traffic into the park".
HA! Once again, my plans would slip through my fingers.
I made the first ferry and arrived at the entrance for hurricane ridge 30 minutes earlier than my GPS predicted. To my chagrin there was already a line and a ranger telling me I "might" get in for the day. Dismayed but determined I chose to take another chance for the weekend. While sitting in line I realized nearby Mount Muller might be a good option. Then I could sleep along HWY 101 and come back early Sunday morning for Mount Angeles. So I turned out of line and headed for the crescent lake area.
Finally I got a break. The mount Muller trail-head only had 3 cars in it. I got there around 10:30am and knew the time would be close. The full loop is around 13 miles and boasts a not insignificant 3300-ft of elevation gain. I changed out the gear in my pack with pace and headed out.
With the kind of season it has been I suppose I should not feel surprise at what happened. But, I got 10 minutes down the trail and realized the trail seemd wrong. Turns out I had taken the wrong one. From the trail head sign there is two. the one to the right takes a less worn, steeper one to the ridge and with my time constraint was the one I needed. You can take the one to the left, but, it will add around 0.5 - 1 miles on for you vs the map I provided above.
Once I was finally on the right trail I felt ecstatic to be moving. Hiking the mossy confines of Olympic national forest always feels worlds apart from the cascades. The first several miles of Mount Muller is simple and easy to follow as it winds uphill. After around 2 miles the snow began and luckily for me a few groups in front of me had left a track. If this is not the case and you are here in winter, prepare to navigate for yourself. There are several cliffy areas that are not serious but going the correct direction is pivotal.
The first time the day gets interesting is reaching the ridge. There finally starts to be a view even on a cloudy day like this one. Mount Olympus stands tall to the south and you can catch a glimpse or two of Lake Crescent. The scenery was astounding to say the least and until the clouds rolled in I was loving every moment of it.
All the way up to the summit of Mount Muller the ridge is very easy to follow. Even if you do not have a track to follow you can contour the general ridge and it leads where you need to go. The summit itself is wide open, has a great view, and if it is a little warmer than this day, would be a great lunch spot. For me, I had left my puffy in the car in my haste. The wind chill was dropping the temp to a balmy 5 degrees or so and I could only stand to snap a few photos and move on
After leaving the summit of Mount Muller, the ridgeline begans to rise and fall often. If there had not been a track left by the party preceeding me, the amount of navigation required would have increased substantially. I felt lucky to have footprints to follow as the path winds a wild trail around many obstacles.
The view is spectacular as I already said. To be honest, most of my day, I occupied myself with thinking of the next day and what it would hold for me. I was happy the day went smooth with the last minute planning. I made it back to the car as rain started to fall. I traveled back to port Angeles, ate some dinner and looked forward to making it to hurricane ridge the next day.
For the real attraction for this particular weekend, check out my climb of Mount Angeles