After summiting Mount Muller the day before, I ate a quick bite in Port Angeles, then headed for the nearby rest area. I thought I would be alone sleeping there for the night. But, as has become normal in this part of the world, several other outdoor lovers were also using the lot for rest. I hopped in the back and set my alarm for two hours before the Hurricane Ridge area even opened for the day. Then I lay there unable to sleep in anticipation.
I awoke around 6:30 and dressed with haste so that I could be in line for the park before anyone else. I learned the previous day how popular this area is. When I arrived an hour before Hurricane ridge opened, I found it already full. You can read all about that here.This time, I was going to get into the park, whatever it took.
By arriving two hours early I managed to be the second car in line at the booth. Being two hours early, I took the time to prep my backpack for the day and change my clothes.
Starting from the drive up the road to hurricane ridge it becomes crystal clear why this area is so popular. The steep road up renews its view bend after bend with towering peaks speckled with signs of the sunrise. The low lying fog cast a shadow of wonder over the whole scene and I could feel my smile growing from ear to ear. I was blaring Eddie Veders “Hard Sun” and it all felt like a choreographed scene. Whether you come here for one of the many activities or not, the view alone is worth the trip.
From the moment I parked I couldn’t focus. Since I had prepped while waiting for the park to open I was ready to hop on the trail. Yet, the view was so entrancing that I hopped out and took photos for 10 minutes straight. I finally had to pull myself away, visit the restroom and head out. They require all cars be out of the lot by whatever time they post on the sign by the bathroom. On this day it was 4:15 which gave me a mere 8 hours to make the summit and return if I wanted to get back home.
After you reach the second unnamed viewpoint you can see on the map, navigation will become more of an issue. Due to the skiers in the area, there are tracks going in every direction and getting off route could be easy. In all hope, you will have a sunny day to work with. If that is the case you will be able to aim for the left hand side of Mount Angeles. Below on this side is a small bench you can work your way up too. If you are taking on the climb in less than perfect weather, follow the map to the bench. Though, with the views you can get I would recommend waiting for that perfect sunny winter day.
From this bench is where my day took a wrong turn. There was an obvious track heading up toward a small notch on the ridge-line of Mount Angeles. Knowing this is a popular climb I assumed that this was the route to the top. I took on the 300 foot ascent only to find that this side of Mount Angeles would require a lot more gear than I had brought. I was not the only person to take this turn and the next group to come up behind me discussed amongst themselves. They arrived at the same conclusion. I felt dismay after all the issues this trip already had. Yet, looking at the time and my map, I thought I could make a run at the summit.
After a speedy descent, I gulped down some water gave myself 30 minutes to make the summit and went for it. From the small bench you will want to work around towards the backside of the mountain. you will notice a wide gully leading towards the top, take it. Work up and towards the left and crest over the side of the gully and around the prominent summit block. Once you near the top the final stretch will be obvious and easy (at least in the snow).
Taken together this is actually an easy, by cascades standards, winter ascent. If you can stay on the right track it is fun to take on. Better yet, even on this very busy ridge-line the climb had some decent solitude through the day.
For me I had pushed the day to its absolute limit. I took a photo as fast as possible, slammed everything back into my pack and ran for the parking lot. On this particular day the parks service wanted all cars out of the parking area by 4:15. I arrived back at 3:45 took a last few photos and headed home with a huge smile on my face.