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Mt. Olympus – It’s all about the Journey

September 16, 2013
Prayer flags on Mt. Olympus. Photo by Colin Stapp.

Prayer flags on Mt. Olympus. Photo by Colin Stapp.

What makes a trip successful?

Is it reaching the final destination or the enjoyment of the journey along the way? On my Mt. Olympus expedition I had the honor of reaching the summit. However, the journey is what made this trip an absolute success.

This climb had it all – backpacking through a rain forest, alpine climbing, and then rock climbing to the summit. This was a Climb to Fight Breast Cancer trip so each participant had some type of connection to cancer.

Our week started in Forks, Washington, home of the Twilight phenomenon. We entered Olympic National Park and started down the Hoh River Trail. The first two days were more of a backpacking trip than a climbing expedition. We enjoyed the large old growth of the Hoh Rainforest and a moderate trail for our 45+ pound backpacks. The first night we even had a campfire and marshmallow roast.

Our summit day was a normal “alpine start,” which meant we were up around 1:00 a.m. and on the trail by 2:00 a.m. Daylight approached as we cleared the trees and climbed onto the Blue Glacier. As we strapped on our crampons and stepped into our harnesses, it began to feel like a climbing trip. The soft pink glow of daybreak faded and the sun came out as we traversed the slopes of the mountain. Several hours passed before we approached the rock pinnacle that marks the last push to the summit.

It took longer for our Alpine Ascents guides to set the fixed safety ropes than it did to make the climb to the top.

Lynn Lippert and Safeway's Bob Reorda. Photo by Colin Stapp.

Lynn Lippert and Safeway’s Bob Reorda. Photo by Colin Stapp.

It had been a while since I had done any rock climbing, but it easily came back to me.  A little scrambling, a few actual rock climbing moves and 10 minutes later my rope team (Rope Team 11) was standing on the highest point. We found the USGS marker. I turned around just in time to watch my friend, Lynn Lippert, approach the crest and top out. It was an emotional moment for her and all of us on the summit.  She’s a three-time cancer survivor and she embodies the spirit of these climbs.

After a short and fun rappel off the summit rock onto the snow, we made our way back across the Blue Glacier and into the forest.  Our 15+ hour summit day was long but satisfying. Sleep came easy.

The next morning we began the hike out and made it to the campsite where we had our first night. That evening we celebrated two birthdays; Lynn turned 71, and our guide, Seth Timpano, turned 31. Several in our group spent the last night sleeping under the stars, on the banks of Hoh river.

The last day was bittersweet. Even though we had been out for five days, I wasn’t ready for the trip to end. Many moments made it successful.  We had a great group of participants, stellar guides, and beautiful scenery. I not only enjoyed another summit, but a new journey.

~ Colin Stapp

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