Snow Camping Royal Basin (Olympic National Park)

We set off to go snow camping in Royal Basin, Olympic National Park.  This hike is in the Upper Dungeness drainage.   This is a popular destination in the summer months, but a hiker can have the whole place to themselves in spring.

Our hike was done in an above average snow year.  The month was July and there was still an heavy amount of snow at higher elevations.  We also had to hike across several large avalanche debris sections; damage to the forest from the winter before.  Even climbing over a crisscross of large trees.  A hiker should know avalanche skills, before attempting such a hike.

About the Royal Basin Hike

We parked the car at the Upper Dungeness Trailhead. Our goal was to hike the 9 miles up using the Royal Creek (Basin) Trail. Then set up a base camp below Mount Deception (Upper Royal Basin), then attempt to climb the mountain.  However, climbing was a big variable, since I would be brining no boots or crampons.  The snow conditions would have to be just right, in order for my feet to grip the very steep slopes. Want to learn more? Trail guides to the Olympic Mountains!

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Climbing an avalanche chute

camping royal basin
Approaching the Upper Royal Basin, across a field of suncups

Royal basin is completely beautiful while its under snow.  I call it like being in a snow globe.  We were surrounded by some of the Olympic Mountain peaks in all directions.  It has a way of making you feel small.

With all the snow still in the Park, we wondered how the Olympic Marmots were fairing under all the snow still.  A few holes were seen tunneling out of the hillside, but not very many whistles; like normal.

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Basecamp in Upper Royal Basin

Setting up camp on the snow can be a workout in its now.  We both stopped out a fine platform to compress the snow for sleeping.  Then used a snow shovel to build cold pits on each side of the tent.  Doing this would help us sleep warmer through the night.   We did this as clouds blew through the surrounding peaks.

Clouds moving through the area

Climbing Mount Deception

The next morning we were up at first light.  We hoped to have woke up earlier to make the climb, but fatigue and laziness took its toll; so we slept in.  Cooked coffee and shoved down some breakfast, then we were off to climb above our camp, heading up Mount Deception.

The climb up was very steep.  A climber really should have crampons in these conditions to make the summit.  I got 500 feet from the col, before calling it quits.  It was just too much for my fivefingers.  So we turned around and made the glissade back to camp (see video below).

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High point for the trip, around 6,500'

We got back to camp much faster than climbing up.  What took a lot of energy to head up the mountain, was over in a matter of seconds to slide down on our butts.

Broke camp in Upper Royal Basin, then enjoyed the sun in the rocks.  A salty lunch was very tasty, the body must of been needing it, after sweating so much.  We observed several large rocks break away from the mountain and tumble all the way down to the base of Deception.   This is one of the reasons why its important to start the climb before sunrise.  The sun causes the rock to break free and fall at any moment.  A helmet should also be worn.

The walk back down out of the mountains was enjoyable.  Our minds were on hamburgers, so we set our pace to be like cows heading back to the barn.

Map of our camping location

My gear worked out for this trip, but it was a bit heavy. This is one of the times, I started to rethink more of a lightweight solution.

Video of Our Adventure

Updated on March 2017