Melted Elwha Snow Finger

The Elwha Snow Finger is known for as the start of the river. Located at the 45-mile mark at the river's source. It was formed by years of avalanches to create a permanent snowfield in-between Mount Barnes and Mount Queets, Olympic National Park. The snow field was once almost 4 miles long and in the summer months formed permanent snow tunnels over the mighty Elwha.

 The landmark is best known for its description in hiking books, as a description to the Bailey Range Traverse. Until recently an explorer could trek off-trail from Elwha Basin to Dodwell-Rixon pass which an entrance into Queets Basin.

This mountaineering path is now melted, leaving a traveler to use other means to avoid walking through the dangerously narrow hallway. Hiking below an area that was once protected by a snowbridge, leaves a person exposed to higher amounts of rockfall, from a continuously changing landscape. Please keep that in mind in future treks into this area.

The only part of snow left in the whole area in the summer months is what is known as The Big Snow Hump. It is a permanent glacier like chunk of ice, that was formed from heavy and dense avalanches at the confluence of two separate shoots. The hump is now only a fraction, of its once massive size. It will be curious how long it takes for even it to melt, in the upcoming years.

I'm no scientist, but it's doubtful that the permanent snowfield and glacier will ever return. I now call this area The Elwha Snowless Snow Finger.

elwha snow finger
The Elwha Snowless Snow Finger in 2015

elwha snow finger
A contrast to our Bailey Range Traverse trip in 2013

elwha snow finger
The melting Big Snow Hump in 2015

Interested in more about this area? Check out some video from our 2013 hike and skip to 5:25

Reference: Baily Traverse in the Olympic Mountain Climbers Guide

Thank you!