Rescued part 1

After resupplying in Port Angeles, I rode the bus to Lake Quinault. This time I was loaded with ten days worth of food. My goal was a high country traverse of the Park from south to north. I would attempt to stay off designated trails whenever possible. The last day before leaving I would shift my route to avoid a trial. This would be my downfall.

It was a hot summer day, with the highs just below 90 degrees in the Quinault. I ended up walking eight miles of road after public transportation dropped me off on Highway 101. This wasn't the best way to start the trip, but it comes with the territory of not driving myself to the trailhead. Finally a nice man gave me a ride and dropped me off. It was good to have a trail under my feet. I’m not fond of walking on modern roads.

The plan was to leave the maintained trail at the seven mile mark, ford the East Quinault River, follow game trails, stay on the ridgecrest best as possible, traverse the southeast side of a prominent peak and then continue the next leg of the journey. I went into this section with no beta of it ever being done. Throwing the first piece of the puzzle in last minute, I shortcutted usual 7.5 minute topos and satellite image research. Never take shortcuts when attempting things off trail. A plain and simple lesson learned.

Editor's Note: Article part of an extended trek in the Olympic Mountains.

east fork quinault river
Made good time to my first campsite. I would sleep here at the confluence and ford the river when at its lowest state, first thing in the morning. A large herd of Olympic Elk came to me that night. Waking me up from a dead sleep, with talk by the mothers to their calves. It gave me an eerie feeling, since it was pitch black and they were only a few feet from my bed. The next morning I broke camp and forded the swift moving Quinault River, it was to my hip and moving fast. I continued toward the direction of my route, through a plush alder meadow, to find a lone Park-collared cow elk had been watching me all along. She had a blank stare. Probably wondered what the heck I was doing over there.

o'neal ridge
After fording the river I would follow a very steep ridgecrest. Because there was no water where I was going and it would be a hot summer day I was loaded with five liters of water. Between 1,500 and 5,000 feet elevation I encountered very thick wild berry bushes - some sections were over my head. This made for very slow going and a hell of a workout. I quickly exhausted my water supply. Looking at this photo, can you see the route? Neither could I. Map and compass skills are crucial in the Olympic Mountains since GPS devices don't always work.
chimney peak
Getting mentally frustrated because of thick never ending brush, I was happy to have this first glimpse of the Burke Range. Chimney Peak is the most prominent pictured. I find it impressive how mountains can just sprout out of an old growth rainforest.
o'neal ridge
Out of water for three hours, I was happy to see an elk trail leading to a low meadow just a few hundred feet off the ridgecrest I had just climbed. Having no choice, I reluctantly gave up elevation and dropped into the meadow. I spent about an hour here drinking water, bathing and doing laundry.

After dropping down to the water, I regained the ridge and continued toward my destination. Came upon a series of flat areas in small meadows. This was rare since I hadn't seen a piece of level ground all day. Looking at the rough and steep terrain ahead - then at my watch - I decided to call it a day.
chimney peak
View from camp. Part of the Burke Range from Chimney Peak to Mount Anderson, which shows Linsley Glacier.  
mount olsen
The next day, looking back at Mount Olsen from O'Neal Ridge.
steep terrain
The next day was very slow going - full of treebelaying and very steep terrain. There were several times I had to baby crawl up impassible gully systems, using vegetation as my only handhold. Unfortunately I got to a point where the terrain was too much to let me pass, so I doubled back to look for another way toward my destination.
burke range
Burke Range panoramic from O'Neal Ridge. Pyrites drainage center of photo.
After doubling back, I decided to drop down this snowfield on the opposite side of the ridge. Being out of water for three hours, I felt the urge to head towards the water like a wild animal. Once there I took a bath, laundry and drank lots of water.
o'neal peak
After my water break, I had two choices: scratch the whole thing, follow game trails down the ridgeline and reford the Quinault or continue toward the direction of travel. Mistakenly I chose to continue. The route ahead was full of treebelay and very rotten class 4 rock. Rock that I shouldn’t have been on, the type that falls apart when trying to get handholds. Class 4 means the Climbers Guide suggest rope protection.

Upper Pyrites Basin & June 10th Peak.
chimney peak
Chimney Peak.
o'neal peak
The route to the false summit consisted of more rotten rock. Chunks crumbled from my feet and hands while climbing. I was holding on to false hope that the down climb would be more gentle on the other side, like my undetailed map showed. This was turning into a very bad day, since I could not climb down the way I came. Backed myself into a corner this time.
quinault valley
O'Neal Peak summit; looking SW. Mount Olsen, East Fork Quinault River Valley, Lake Quinault, Burke Range and Mount Anderson (left to right).
o'neal peak
After climbing to the high point I realized it was only the false summit. I would still need to baby crawl across a 'knife edge' to reach the crest. Once there I took pictures of everything prominent - in every direction. The breathtaking view was short lived. I began the climb down the opposite side from which I just came.  O'Neal Peak Benchmark. I was not even trying to summit, rather just traverse through the area. Ended up happening anyways as it was the only route across O'Neal Ridge.
muncaster mountain
Muncaster Mountain.
o'neal peak
If I had not of taken shortcuts in my route planning I would have seen all the gullies and cliffs make a traverse around O'Neal Peak impassible. Honestly wouldn't have attempted this, if I had seen this terrain.
The climb up in the direct summer heat, with very little water, kicked my butt and left me feeling lightheaded and lacking balance. I decided to spend the night just off the main summit - in some bushes hoping not to fall off the mountain if I rolled over in the night. There was a little snowfield nearby that I could use to melt water and rehydrated. I built up an area for my head to be level, but my legs hung off the slope into the brush.  


What would you do?  These are important things to think about, before heading into the woods!