August 26-28, 2011

Mount Anderson: West Peak (7365’)

——————– Summary ——————–

Starting Point: Dosewallips River & Honeymoon Meadows & Camp Siberia return camp Honeymoon Meadows (ride & hike via Dosewallips River Road & Trail)

Campsites: Camp Siberia & Honeymoon Meadows

Sidetrip: Anderson Pass & Anderson Moraine & Anderson Glacier & Echo Col & upper Eel Glacier  (hike & climb)

Summit: Mt. Anderson: west peak  (climb via Northeast Ridge)

——————– Full Report ——————–

Eileen and I ventured into the heart of the Olympic Mountains on a bluebird weekend with the intention of meeting up with John M, Mike T, Kevin K, Tony D, Julie M, and Terry H on the Eel Glacier. The latter six were nearing the end of a weeklong traverse that began at the Hamma Hamma River. Our collective goal was to climb the east and/or west peaks of Mt. Anderson. These sorts of mountain rendezvous are always a little dicey, but I figured this group of six was as reliable as could be. Besides, Eileen had never been up the Dosewallips River, and this seemed like a golden opportunity for her.

Day 1: We parked at the road washout, shouldered packs, straddled mountain bikes, and pedaled/pushed 5.5 miles to the Dose River Trailhead (1.9 hours from car), then hiked another 10 delightful miles up to Anderson Pass Camp (aka “Camp Siberia”; 9.7 hours from car). Along the way, just before Honeymoon Meadows, we crossed a wide zone where an avalanche had ripped through the forest and left a chaotic array of trees over the trail, the river, and the adjacent hillslopes. Tree trunks of all sizes had been snapped off about 20 feet above ground level—presumably indicating the snow depth at the time. Fortunately, a trail crew had recently been through to clear the way.

Park Boundary Signs

There was nobody else at our campsite when we arrived, but as we were starting to pitch our tent, Ranger Erin breezed in with a cheery greeting and a friendly grin. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that she had been in radio contact with John’s group throughout the week and was able to give us an update on their whereabouts. While talking to us, she tried unsuccessfully to radio Mike. Soon after, she went onward in hopes of finding their campsite. There were no further visitors that evening except for a swarm of annoying gnats.

Day 2: We awoke to cloudless skies and the promise of good climbing. By 7:15am, we were on the trail with summit packs, heading for the Anderson Glacier moraine. The trail was snowfree until the last hundred yards before the moraine. John’s group was nowhere in sight, but a nearby backpacker informed us that they were camped at the twin lakelets about ½ mile to the northeast. There, we found Mike alone, resting his badly abraded feet–the result of a week in wet boots. The other five had headed up the eastern side (Route 3) of East Anderson Peak about 1.5 hours earlier, so Eileen and I quickly returned to the Anderson Glacier and climbed up to Echo Col (a slightly longer but safer route than Flypaper Pass).

Heading Up Anderson Glacier

Upon crossing onto the expansive Eel Glacier, we immediately spotted John’s group descending from East Anderson Peak. Miraculously, our Eel hook-up had worked! There were enthusiastic handshakes and hugs all around, then plans were made for the rest of the day. Eileen and Julie would head up East Anderson Peak; John, Kevin, Tony, Terry, and I would head up West Anderson Peak; and Erin would continue on her weeklong patrol/traverse past Sentinel Peak.

Eel Glacier View

With this being my FOURTH (sheesh!!) attempt on West Anderson Peak, I knew the approach route only too well, and within an hour I was standing at the northern saddle staring once again at the intimidating north face. Its countenance of ragged sandstone and clinging snowfields was both familiar and frightening. I’ve joked many times over the past year that this peak has become my nemesis after it firmly rebuffed me on three separate occasions. In truth, West Anderson is a grand Olympic peak and a difficult puzzle, but I was never equal to the challenge. I hoped today would be different.

North Face Of West Anderson Peak

Tony and Terry felt the allure also, and they instantly began teasing out the route with their eyes. John and Kevin, both feeling worn down from a week of peak-bagging, elected to sit this one out. No doubt, they were also keenly aware of the time factor for five climbers compared to three. As it turned out, their logistical and moral support was invaluable.

Once we’d decided on a plan of attack, Tony eagerly agreed to lead the route. This would come as no surprise to those who have done much climbing with Tony, because they know that he’s a man of varied and somewhat dichotomous traits—a blend of old-school and new-school personalities. He eats chossy rock for breakfast and smokes fine cigars after dinner. He’s soft-spoken but sinewy; contemplative but stubborn as a boulder. During a typical climb, he might use as many pitons as cams. In the springtime, he can be often be seen riding his home-built motorized bicycle up logging roads with backcountry skis on his back. To put it succinctly, Tony is probably the closest thing to an Alpine Renaissance Man that I’ve ever seen.

We started by scrambling easily along the northeast ridge, then across a short snow arch to the base of the pyramidal northeast gendarme. Tony traversed a series of ramps, chutes, and ledges around the gendarme until reaching the sharply defined northeast col. I followed his lead with white knuckles, not gaining any security from the dirty, rubbly, down-sloping ledges, then Terry brought up the end of our 60-meter rope. This was one of the grungiest and least pleasant traverses I’d ever made, but as a connoisseur of Olympic choss, Tony actually enjoys this type of climbing. Nonetheless, we were all happy to find much better rock–unexpectedly solid sandstone–extending from the col upward to the false summit. There were numerous zones of raunchy rock mixed in, but overall the scrambling was enjoyable Class 3 and 4. We advanced using a combination of fixed and running belays, while Tony found favorable placements for stoppers and knife blades.

Climbing Up To Notch

Terry On NE Ridge

Belaying From False Summit

By mid afternoon, we were all standing on the false summit, looking across a deep cleft at the true summit. Our hearts sank at the prospect of having to cross this cleft twice–over and back–with a ticking clock. There was even brief talk of turning back, but that ended abruptly when Tony easily descended into the cleft and found a reasonable route across. He climbed over an intervening rock horn, which turned out to be the route’s crux (low Class 5), then scrambled up to the summit. Terry and I came up on belay. Incredibly, I was finally standing on the summit of West Anderson Peak! The time was about 4:30pm when we exchanged cheers with John and Kevin, who had been observing from the ridge saddle. We snapped a few photos, looked around in vain for a summit register (it apparently has been removed by the Park Service), and then started our descent.

Tony and Terry On West Anderson Summit

Terry led us back along the ridge crest, placing protection for our running belays, and soon we were down at the northeast col. Because none of us were keen on groveling back around (or over) the rotten northeast gendarme, we decided to rappel straight down the north face. I hacked out a sturdy bollard from a natural snow horn, and we made one double-rope rappel to reach the lower snowfield. This all worked smoothly except for the rope getting stuck in moats two times. By 6:30pm, we rejoined John and Kevin at the saddle. They had occupied part of their afternoon by hunting for quartz crystals and had gathered an impressive collection to share with us.

Rappelling From Ridge Notch

The five of us hustled back down to the Eel Glacier, at which point we split up. John and Tony headed over East Anderson Peak (they had unfinished business with a 25-pound rock), whereas Kevin and Terry accompanied me back over Echo Col and down the Anderson Glacier. The sky was soft pink when we crested Echo Col.

Evening Light Near Andersons Thumb

Down on the glacier, it was dark when Kevin and Terry branched off to their high camp. I continued descending the moraine trail to Anderson Pass. Back at Camp Siberia, I found my backpack hanging on the bear wire, where Eileen had left it. Per our plan, she had struck our camp here and moved it down-trail 2 miles to Honeymoon Meadows. The night air was warm and perfectly calm, which made for delightful headlamp hiking. An hour later, I came to the river crossing at Honeymoon Meadows. I doffed boots and plunged in, discovering the frigid water to be a wonderful tonic for tired, sweaty legs. On the opposite shore, my headlamp beam illuminated the most welcome of all sights: my camp shoes! I gratefully slipped them on and strode the final dozen yards into camp, where Eileen was waiting with dinner in hand.

Day 3: We made a casual affair of eating breakfast and packing up camp. The day was summery, and our hike back down the Dose River was uneventful. We leap-frogged Terry a few times on the trail and road before reaching our car in mid-afternoon. It had been such a splendid adventure, we were already making plans for our next trip up the Dose.

Stats: About 37 miles total; 9000 feet gained and lost.

———————- Route Map / Sketch ——————-

West Anderson Peak Route

———————- Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————-