If only hiking were actually an Olympic sport, I might have a chance at making it… 😀
In honor of the upcoming Summer Games, I hiked Mt. Olympus this past weekend. Not really, but the timing worked out well! To make certain that it was sufficiently challenging, I went for a hilly 33mi bike ride the day before and had a HIIT class 2 days prior. My legs were so excited when we arrived at the trail head at 6:30am!
My friend, Casey, and I had been talking about this hike for a while. It had been postponed for various reasons that I don’t even remember now. After our last hike, we decided that we had wasted enough time talking about it and now was the time to actually hike it! We put aside the day in our calendars and come hell or high water, nothing was going to stop us.
The Dispatch song that wakes me up every day sounded rude at 5:45am on a Sunday morning and I hit snooze, tempted to just stay under the covers. Alas, that feeling was quickly overcome by the guilty feeling that if I didn’t show up, I was going to let down Casey. Plus, I had already made my snacks and really only needed to put on clothes and stumble to the car (literally.. I didn’t even drive because Jackson joined too). About half way to the trail head, I remembered that my hiking poles were at home. Those would have been helpful, but I didn’t want to be late, so we didn’t turn around.
We got started early enough that Olympus protected us in his shadow and kept us cool for a long while. The first 1.5 miles were relatively easy with an initial staircase followed by gradual elevation gain between switch backs. We got to the dried up creek, which I had hiked to before on a leisurely outing (Feb 2015, it was 65 degrees), and felt great. We jinxed ourselves early and often by saying it wasn’t that bad. Note: anything that is about 7 miles RT with about 4,000 feet of elevation gain will be challenging at some point. If it isn’t challenging at the start, that means it will be doubly so close to the summit. And so it went. The next 2 miles to the top got increasingly steeper with each step. We kept repeating the same reasons that we were grateful: we were outside, we were in the shade, we weren’t too hot yet, we were in good company, we were outside, we were in the shade….
We saw very few people on our hike up. For quite a while, it seemed that we were the only three people on the trail. At one point, we stepped to the side of the trail for a rather obnoxious group of teens on their way down. They were so loud that it was difficult to enjoy the surroundings, and part of the group literally stopped to talk in the middle of the trail as we waited for them. I greeted myself with a brief, “HI…” and they got out of our way. We were passed by a man who has hiked Olympus over 350 times in total so far. Talk about bruised egos. It was otherwise quiet and incredibly peaceful.
We gained the ridge and took in the amazing view of Big Cottonwood Canyon and beyond as we stared South. The real fun was just about to begin. The final section of the Mt. Olympus hike is mostly scrambling. Several times, we talked about which boulder would be easier to clamber over and where exactly to place our hands and feet. It was great fun and nice to have such interaction for a day hike. Usually I’m coming up with 12 reasons that I’ve earned a pint of ice cream as I’m huffing and puffing up the mountain, and this was an opportunity to focus on the actual hike, the surroundings, and each other.
Finally, we made it to the top! We took the obligatory summit photos, which we had all to ourselves for several minutes, then sat down to enjoy our trail snacks. In true fashion, I finished my entire bag of dried mangoes without sharing more than a slice. We soaked in the stunning, panoramic view for about 30 minutes, then reapplied sunscreen and faced reality – we were only half way done.
Getting down the scramble was a challenge and on more than one occasion, we decided that sitting on our butts and sliding to the next foot hold was the most logical option. We also faced the rock several times and essentially down-climbed certain sections. Everyone handled the rocks well, though, and in no time, we were back to solid ground – and a steep hike back to the dry creek. Our knees collectively screamed with each step, and the mountain no longer hid us from the sun. The wind was subtle at best and the heat was increasing rapidly. We were done. Except that we still had a lot of hiking left to do.
Close to the bottom, my ankle rolled over and I fell to the ground. I sprained it years ago and it gives out randomly and at the most convenient times. I took a minute to brush the dirt off of myself, drink some water, and collect my thoughts, then we continued. With each step, we saw the cars getting closer and were nothing short of excited to be almost back.
We finished in the early afternoon with a sense of accomplishment – and probably some relief too. It was a spectacular day with great people. I felt recharged after being outside on the mountain for several hours. I repeated it to myself multiple times on the hike and only realized after we finished did I how genuinely grateful I was to be outside. Can’t wait to get out for the next adventure… Until then, enjoy these #viewsfromthesummit! PS – thank you to Casey and Jackson for a great day!