Mount Olympus

Elevation: 9,026
Location: Wasatch Range, Utah

Mount Olympus is one of the most popular peaks in the Wasatch range. The hike to the summit is exceedingly popular, and for good reason. The peak has a very rugged north face, displayed on the Mount Olympus water bottles. From the north or south it appears as one peak, but from the west it is obvious that it has a north peak and a south peak, divided by Tolcat Canyon. The south peak is slightly higher, and that is the one the trail goes to.

Olympus north face from Salt Lake Overlook (Rattlesnake Gulch Trail) While some great rock climbing routes exist on the north face, most people climb the peak via the standard route up Tolcat Canyon. I've climbed the peak six times, most on or near to Memorial Day, which is an excellent time of year to climb the peak. Formerly cars had to park along Wasatch boulevard, but now a small trailhead exists on the east side of the road. Still, on busy days, cars overflow back onto the main road. Pete's Rock is a popular rock climbing area at the base of the mountain.

The trail starts very steep, and I'd reccomend going slow up the first 200 feet to avoid getting out of breath so soon on this 4,200 foot climb. Beyond the beginning, the trail is still fairly steep as it heads up the hillside and eventually into Tolcat Canyon. You will see the two peaks above at various points early in the hike, the right one (south) is where you'll be climbing to. In spring, a thin waterfall cascades down the side of a cliff across the canyon. At the stream crossing, you've hiked two of the four miles, but only climbed about a third of the mountain. Enjoy the water because it's probably the last you'll see unless you find snowbanks early in the season up higher.

Olympus summit in late May After the stream crossing, new switchbacks ascend the mountain steeply, but not as steep as it once was. From here to the saddle at 8,400 feet the trail is nothing but up. In late May snow patches often start to linger onto the trail. Arriving at the saddle, surely out of breath, you'll be rewarded with your first view to the south since the beginning of the hike. Twin Peaks towers above, usually still buried in snow. Some people opt to camp here near this saddle, as it is one of the only relatively flat areas on the mountain. Above you can see the trail leading into the final 600 feet of the peak.

Follow the trail into the rocks as far as you can, and start scrambling. On most weekends you'll be in some traffic here. Most of the scrambling is easy, but one or two areas are a little tricky, especially if the rock is wet. Finding your way thru the rocks is not too difficult. If you find yourself in particularly dangerous terrain, back up, because the main route is not that dangerous. Be careful not to kick rocks down onto hikers below. Soon you'll get a view north to downtown Salt Lake City far below and straight down into Tolcat Canyon and the rugged north peak. The peak is a short boulder hop from here.

Looking north to north peak and Salt Lake valley The summit of Olympus offers a grand view. As Greek mythology has Olympus as the home to the Gods, you'll probably agree the peak has a fitting name. The view in every direction is awesome. Behind the north peak, the valley sits far below, but major landmarks are easily visible, including the Great Salt Lake. Grandeur Peak sits below to the north. Rugged Wildcat Ridge leads east over a series of unnamed peaks and is for experienced scramblers only. To the south are the higher peaks of Big Cottonwood Canyon and the Twin Peaks wilderness area. You'll clearly see Broads Fork and Lake Blanche Fork (with Sundial Peak). To the west, on a clear day you may see Deseret Peak behind the closer Oquirrh Mountains. The summit is a jumble of large, often sharp boulders, and has plenty of space to accomidate numerous hikers.

I've climbed the peak six times: '90 with Chandler, '93 with Dan, '94 solo, '95 with Allen, '96 in October solo (bland scenery then), and '98 also solo in somewhat rainy conditions. Be careful downclimbing from the summit back to the saddle, and don't get caught up here in a lightning storm. Even from the saddle, the hike down is very steep and another of those hikes that is murder on the knees. Fortunately, it is so steep, you'll be back to your car quickly!

Flag on Olympus summit, Memorial Day, 1990 The hike to Olympus is just under four miles each way, and climbs 4,200 feet. It takes two or three hours up, and about two hours down. This is one hike that easily makes any list of best hikes or climbs in the Wasatch. I hope to attempt Wildcat Ridge in the next year or two just to see how difficult it is in comparisson to some of the more rugged peaks I've climbed in the range. Crossing the south peak to the north is also a tricky downclimb of steep rock, then a steep climb to the north peak, not for beginners either.