Olympic Mountains Touring

Hurricane Ridge… er, Heather Park, The Olympics

After a nice Thanksgiving I was presented with the opportunity to stay on Bainbridge Island, halfway from my home to this week’s destination. We set out at the crack of dawn for Hurricane Ridge with the plan of ski touring. The snow conditions were promising with infinite visibility – vistas of Baker and Mt Rainier amped our stoke levels as we drove toward the Olympics. And then there they were. The beautiful Olympics finally enjoying their winter coat after being totally bare for a few months during our west coast drought.


We got to the Heart of the Hills ranger station gate around the scheduled opening time of 9 am. Roads were icy and we were informed that the sand truck had broken, with a road status update coming at 9:30. The ranger seemed to be letting us down softly so we began backup planning. Our most knowledgeable team member of the Olympics came up with Heather Park as a backup destination. After relocating the cars we geared up with our setups on our backs, starting at the Mt Angeles trailhead (elev ~1800′) just off the Heart of the Hills campground.


After 2.1 miles of hiking on top of a dusting, two of us went into tour mode at a landmark known as Halfway Rock (elev ~3200′). The other two carried on booting up the well defined trail. Hard to say which method was more efficient but it was nice to get the weight off the back.


After a mile of touring I realized I had skipped brekkie and the day before I consumed the smallest thanksgiving meal in the history of thanksgivings so I was bonking hard. After injecting about 100 grams of sugar I pushed my way up to meet the rest of the crew up on a saddle between First Top and Second Top (elev ~5500′) near the heather park shelter. We never saw the shelter, not sure if it still exists.


The views up there were great, And given more time we would have pushed on to Klahanee Ridge.


The snow on this particular day was excellent. The top section was definitely lap-able and given more time we certainly would have done just that. Instead we hit about 800 vert feet of open pow field and then back into the track.


And back in the track we were… For all you mountain bikers, this is excellent cross training. READ: use protection. Bring a helmet on this single track run and ditch the fancy mirrored lenses if you like that coating as tree branches to the face at speed were a regular occurrence in the top section. We rode the 2 miles down to Halfway Rock hootin’ and hollerin’ all the way down as we passed several hikers.

The snow got slick and coverage started to get pretty bare toward the end but the top section had plenty of pillow options. Overall the track portion was very playful on a board, but skiers might have a tougher time with this track. Our skier wasn’t as stoked on the trail as we were but he enjoyed it nonetheless.

With the gear back on the back we booted down to the lot for our much anticipated apr├Ęs. We were informed that the correct decisions were made in terms of backup planning as Hurricane Ridge Rd didn’t reopen until noon. The Strava app showed a very even pitch up and down at about 1000ft/mile.

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Lesson Learned: don’t forget your hiking boots even if you only plan to tour.