Solo Bailey Range Traverse

  The Bailey Range Traverse has been on my bucket list for a few years now. In fact, all my trail training for the last 8 months was inspired by it and I used glimpses of it's peaks for motivation while in various locations of the park earlier in the year.

  The goal for this section of the route was to enjoy it's beauty, but to do it in a timely fashion. Secondly, to do it as minimally as possible without compromising my personal safety.

  The only footwear that I wore were my Luna Sandals for most of this route and Vibram Five Finger Seeya which I used for a good section of snow traverse.

  My gear consisted of GG Backpack and Shelter, Sawyer Squeeze Filter screwed onto bottled water container and other small items. The pack came in just over 9 lbs base weight, by adding ice ax and bear can it was over 12 lbs.

  I used the Olympic Mountain Climbers Guide as the basic blueprint of this route. This traverse crescents around Mount Olympus and can also be seen all the way across the horizon, on the webcam mounted at visitor center at Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park.

  After leaving the Sol Duc area, the trail turns into a traverse until after you drop down the Elwha Snow Finger. This body of snow is also where the Elwha River starts.

Update: The Elwha Snow Finger is no longer in place (melted). Cross-country hikers must use other options.

Editor's Note: Article part of a multi-week backpacking trip in the Olympic National Park.

mount olympus
Mount Olympus from the Catwalk

olympic national park map
Bus out from Port Angeles - Hitch up the Sol Duc Road - trailhead by 11 am - first night at Eleven Bull Basin - second near Mt. Ferry - 3rd Chicago Camp on the Elwha - 4th near the North Fork Quinault trailhead to hitch first thing in the morning

  With some research I knew the basics of this route.  Had also talked to a handful of other backpackers that have completed the route in there life.

 Even tho the basic route was laid out for me; there still was some gray areas in my mind. 

  Therefor had 2 route finding issues were the map was pulled from my pack and decisions needed to be made on which path would be the best for me.

  Now that those areas have been addressed.  The second time through there should be more smooth.

Route Stats:
  • 11 am start after the Bus and Hitch
  • First night at Eleven Bull Basin
  • Hard sidehilling around Cream Lake
  • Second night near Mt. Ferry
  • looked at map when snow travel section began
  • almost ran down the 'Snow finger' (update: no longer in place)
  • Third night at Chicago Camp
  • exit North Fork Quinault

heart lake olympic
Above Heart Lake - watching a Helicopter fly out human waste 

sol duc basin
Leaving the High Divide Trail and heading down the Catwalk abandoned trail - wearing my Luna Sandals Leadville Pacers with MGT upper

bailey range
first views of my route - Cat Peak (left) - Bailey Range (center) - Mt. Olympus (right)

cat basin
The Olympic National Park sign that says it all

pacific northwest thruhike
This guy is my role model - headed out to the Catwalk - he is currently Thru-Hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail - wearing an old Gossamer Gear Backpack - rerouting because of the Elwha Dam Closer - chose the hardest route through the heart of the Park - the only Human I seen for the next few days

bailey range
Time to head up and off the maintained trail - lovely Autumn color starting to show on these Blueberries - nice and steep

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First views of Mt. Carrie and the Catwalk (right)

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looking into the heart of the Bailey Range from atop the Catwalk.  Two days later I would be in the back of this photo.

bailey range
the famous Cat Walk - a 'Spine' section that connects Cat Peak with Mt. Carrie - requires low crawling through little trees, Class III Scrambling, slick sidehilling and all the while looking back at lots of vertical feet to fall if you lose your footing - I could see in a bad storm; one wouldn't want to be here

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on the Catwalk - looking in between Cat Peak and Mt. Carrie - one can see the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the distance.

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on the Catwalk - lots of steep up and downs to scramble over.

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looking west - down into the Hoh River Valley - Mt. Olympus (left)

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traveling around Mt. Carrie - Traversing a handful of steep gullies - had to climb straight down this one - lots of loose dirt.

eleven bull basin
as the sun goes down - entering Eleven Bull Basin - camp for the night with few bugs, Black Bear grazing and streams of cold water.

bailey range
as the sun sets - enjoying a hot dinner - views of Mt. Olympus (left) and Hoh River Valley (center) - notice the Autumn color glowing in the light.

bailey range
saying goodbye for now - last sliver of sun sneaks behind the High Divide area - looking down at the Hoh River Valley as it snakes its way to the ocean.

  It was a challenging day to say the least. I got a late start to the trailhead and had chosen a destination for the first day that was very far away. Not having traveled in a section of this area before, I was not sure how long it would take.

Most of my time was consumed on the Cat Walk and traversing all the gullies on Mt. Carrie. I was sure to have good footing with each step since traveling alone does not allow me to make a mistake.

I was not expected back in the modern life for almost a week, so it would have been some time before someone started looking for me.

At Eleven Bull Basin a black bear was spooked out of my camp spot. As I ate my dinner, the bugs ate me for theirs.

After sunset the wind really picked up. I climbed out and put my shelter in 'storm mode' so that being blown off the side of the mountain wasn't an option.

ultralight bailey range
Morning at Eleven Bull Basin - sunrise bouncing off Mt. Olympus - all while I enjoyed a calm breakfast - was a windy night.

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one of the many waterfall filled gullies to cross after leaving camp.

eleven bull basin
back at which I came - looking back at Eleven Bull Basin as light fills the cool air.

bailey range footwear
wore my Vibram Seeya for the first part of the day - many steep sidehilling sections in my route .

bailey range
No Name Lake near Cream Lake - Hoh River Gravel Bar below that - start of the 'fun' sidehilling section.

  Cream Lake area is known for causing route finding issues with backpackers.  Many ways through this area.  Everyone tells me not to drop down to the lake to soon or risk bushwhacking Slide Alders.

  After some thought I chose to stay high for as long as possible.  That was not an easy task on the body however.  Steep sidehilling , gully hopping and low crawling under trees.

  I was told to look for a rock slide and follow that down to the lake.  Next time this route is traveled; I will be choosing door number 2 of 3.

  There was no water up high and took me a few hours to get down to Cream Lake.  Fun - FUN!

cream basin
the Cream Lake maze (below) - looking across to Ferry Basin area (my route ahead). (update - you can find a game trail at the corner of the meadow; top left of this picture)

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steep sidehilling above Cream Lake - can you see any trail? (update - follow game to the bottom right of the open meadow pictured in background)

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got really tired of sidehilling - chose to drop down this drainage to Cream Lake - not the best place for exposed feet - all the rock was very lose and crumbly - this was steeper than it appears - looking across to the Ferry Basin area.  (update - reach this point? You've gone too far - backtrack to meadow pictured above)

cream basin
rock slide area started to level out a bit after a slow descent - views of Cream Lake below. (update - this is tough going, better to come down from just right of this picture.  Avoid slide alder and cliffs, by following game)

bailey range
Creek that feeds into Cream Lake - spent some time here drinking water and soaking the feet - the bugs also had lunch (me)

climbing up a drainage that leads to Ferry Basin out of Cream Lake - wearing my Luna Sandal Leadville Pacers once again - I ended up walking in the creek for a bit - felt great on a hot day.

bailey range
looking back from which I came (update - this way is great) - atop the drainage above Cream Lake area - in the distance the sidehilling section that took me most the morning can be seen - YUCK!

bailey range
a section of game trail can be picked up from here - easier walking grounds from here - views of Mt. Ferry.

lake billy everett
the lovely Lake Billy Everett area.

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dream like falls feeding into Lake Billy Everett.

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view from camp of Mt. Olympus's Hoh Glacier - first time seeing it - amazing!

hoh glacier
bedroom view - Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter - views of Mt. Olympus's Hoh Glacier. (update - this is an alternate route around Pulitzer from the W)

  I had originally planned to try to go a little further on the Traverse the second day.  However the time and energy that it took to navigate the Cream Lake area.  I was spent and ready to call it a day near two little tarns on the shoulder of Mt. Pulitzer.

  Knowing better than to stay the night next to water.  Especially without any bug protection, but my trusty Headnet.

  Payed the price that night as I dozed off to sleep.  About 20 mosquito's near my face and ears made it a little difficult to fall asleep.

  A light breeze in the morning made breakfast very enjoyable however.  Can't beat a view like that.

bailey range
starting my morning doing some steep sidehilling around Mt. Pulitzer - there is 2 ways to navigate this section of traverse - I took the low road - later found out that most people stay high - clear to see while traveling it - only deer tracks to be seen. (update - this is an alternate route around Pulitzer from the W)

mount pulitzer
views under Mt. Pulitzer - love the Autumn colors turning - next stop - climbing Lone Tree Pass (right) (update - this is an alternate route around Pulitzer from the W)

ascending Lone Tree Pass. (update - this is an alternate route around Pulitzer from the W)

mount scott olympic
views of Ludden & Mt. Scott from Pulitzer Pass.

lone tree pass
Looking southish.  Mt. Dana and Mt. Wilder. (center - right)

bailey range
looking back at Mt. Pulitzer in my Seeya - getting ready to cross several small Glaciers

bailey range gear
crossing some Snow and Ice

lone tree pass
looking back from which I came - had a few steep and icy pitches

mount olympus olympic
looking down and across - after the first snow ascent

bailey range
looking south - can see the route which I must travel this afternoon - right up the middle

bailey range
lots of loose rock to travel on - decided to scramble up to the right onto the 'spine'.

trail food
'Gonna be there for awhile?  Grab a Snickers!'   lol

bailey range traverse
looking back from which I came - you can see the High Divide (way back there)

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looking down at the Elkhorn Glacier crossing.

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crossing the Elkhorn Glacier in Five Fingers - you can see some Ice peeking out. Cool!

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looking back from which I came - across the Elkhorn Glacier.

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 Mt. Childs

olympic mountains
lots of Spines

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looking back from which I came - lots of snow - just walk through the notch.

bear pass glacier
looking ahead to Bear Pass.  Mt. Barnes (left).

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looking over to Mt. Olympus from near Bear Pass - would like to do this route someday to get onto the mountain.

bailey range gear
looking off this cliff - Goldie Drainage below.  Yikes.

bear glacier olympic
looking down at Bear Glacier.

queets basin
Looking down into a snow covered Queets Basin - views of Mt. Barnes (left) , Mt. Noyes, Mt. Meany and Mount Queets. (note - Sept. heavy snow year)

upper queets
looking down the Upper Queets River Valley. (note - Sept. heavy snow year)

bear pass
looking back from which I came - view of Bear Pass - got tired of looking for a way down - just made my own path. (note - Sept. heavy snow year)

elwha snow finger
looking down the Elwha Snow Finger from Dodwell Rixon Pass - my route to descend from the Bailey Range. (note - Sept. heavy snow year)

elwha snow finger
time to cross over the Elwha Snow Hump which is down the Snow Finger - this is about 2 stories high. (note - Sept. heavy snow year)

elwha snow finger
descending the Elwha Snow Finger and Snow Hump in Vibram Seeya (note - Sept. heavy snow year)

elwha snow finger
looking back from which I came - a few 1,000' descent down the Elwha Snow Finger. (note - Sept. heavy snow year)

elwha snow finger
Snow Finger melting off into the Elwha River - thoughts of falling through a snow bridge may have crossed my mind once or twice.  About to enter Elwha Basin. (note - Sept. heavy snow year)

elwha snow finger
Was happy to see this - meaning it was time to climb through the brush on the Elwha Basin Primitive Trail.

Elwha Basin
ascending up the Elwha Basin Primitive Trail - full of Devils Club - watch were you grab.

Elwha Basin
Elwha Basin Waterfalls as the snow melts away.

Chicago camp
reached the Elwha Trail intersection - again

Chicago camp
Down in the Elwha Valley - third night at Chicago Camp - Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter.

  After being on the snow and moving fast; all that was on  my mind was drinking water. 

After a bath in the Elwha River; spent lots of time shoving my face.

  Not looking forward to walking down the Quinault Valley again; since just traveled on the trail a few weeks before.  I was no hurry to go to bed. 

Once dark I climbed into bed.  Where a friendly mouse joined me through the night.  Even ran across my face as I slept.

low divide olympic
Low Divide, again - crossing over from the Elwha to Quinault Valleys.

16 mile ford
fording the Quinault River at '16 mile' crossing.

North Fork Quinault Trail
the rugged North Fork Quinault Trail

North Fork Quinault Trail
walking the North Fork Quinault Trail in my Luna Sandals - describe this trail?  Rocks, Roots and Rocks.

North Fork Quinault Trailhead
mission accomplished - time to walk 5 miles of road before I got a hitch down to Highway 101.

A few days later, I would take the bus around the peninsula and return into the Bailey Range.

Updated in December 2015 by Barefoot Jake