MOUNT ANGELES, EAST RIDGE (II, Class 3-4)
Olympic Mountains, Olympic National Park, Washington
By Jeff Smoot
The easiest route is the climbers' trail, a stiff hike with a short bit of scrambling to the top. Those looking for a little more challenge, or to get away from the hordes of tourists hikers on the Mount Angeles trail, the East Ridge is a good alternative. It is a rocky scramble, occasionally very loose but mostly high quality as Olympics rock goes (which is not a ringing endorsement if you know anything about Olympics rock). The route begins from Victor Pass, the broad saddle on Klahane Ridge at the top of the Switchback Trail. The view of Mount Angeles from the pass gives a good geology lesson; the uplifted folds of rock are striking. Moderate scree slopes and shattered rock ridges lead up from the pass to a broad scree gully that tops out at the 6,427-foot false summit. There is some loose, exposed scrambling here, requiring very careful climbing. From the false summit, the route traverses more or less along the ridge crest. There are many possible route variations along the summit ridge, from Class 3 to Class 5 in difficulty, on varying degrees of loose rock, with snow patches on the north side until late season. The route leaves the crest occasionally, dropping down on the north side and crossing ledges and scree/snow slopes. Eventually you drop down to a sharp notch, either by skirting around to the north side (Class 3) or via a direct step (about 20 feet of Class 5 downclimbing), then climb the opposite rock step (Class 3-4) and traverse ledges around to the upper notch. You have to descend about 100 feet of steep Class 3-4 here (some parties rappel) to reach the gully leading to the gap directly east of the summit, where you meet the climbers' trail route and scramble up easier rock to the top.
Given its close proximity to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, the climbers' trail route is frequently climbed by determined hikers, and even a few tourists manage to reach the summit, although the mountain is far too craggy and exposed to recommend it to any but experienced scramblers. Accidents due to slips and falls on loose rock and snow account for many accidents on Mount Angeles. Being so close to the Pacific Ocean, Mount Angeles bears the brunt of oncoming ocean storms. (They don't call it Hurricane Ridge for nothing!) Although a fairly easy and uncommitting scramble in summer and fall, it can be a fairly serious winter and spring climb, especially during less-than-perfect weather.
Climbing Washington Summits
(Falcon Publishing 2001)
Climber's Guide to the Olympic Mountains (Mountaineers 1988)
Hiking in Olympic National Park (Falcon Publishing 1996)