Geurt's Ridge to Memorial Couloir on Mt. Olympus

Geurt's Ridge to Memorial Couloir on Mt. Olympus


I am again trying to catch up on documenting a few past adventures. Julie Jung and I set out April 15, 2023 looking for a big day and got it. We climbed up Geurt's Ridge on Mt. Olympus, traversed around the south summit, and "skied" the Memorial 1 Couloir out into Neff's Canyon.

We got a rare melt freeze cycle after a huge snow year, giving perfect mountaineering conditions, but we weren't prepared for the large amount of snow on the ridge.

Trip Report

We started at a reasonably late hour in the morning, thinking we might make quick work of the ridge and get some afternoon corn for our ski out. I think I was a bit biased from my January ascent a few years ago where I caught the south side of the ridge mostly dry in a long high pressure cycle. With the massive snow year we had, conditions were very different.

Excitement at the trailhead that did not last long

We moved up the trail pretty quickly and left the trail for the ridge a bit earlier than normal, kicking steps up what would normally be a bit of a dirt slope and avoiding the contouring bushwack that's more normal. The nice firm spring snow would have been welcome were we outfitted a bit better. I had my waterproof trail running shoes, and Julie had some very old and slippery approach shoes which were not confidence inspiring. Our crampons were outfitted for our ski boots and we had no spikes. Not having mountaineering boots was a huge mistake, and we didn't want to climb the rock in our ski boots.

Kicking steps
Working towards the lower part of the ridge

But we made our way over, kicking steps for a very long time. By the time we gained the lowest part of the ridge, my feet were hurting a bit from kicking in my inadequate footwear.  The lower part of the ridge was almost completely snow covered, and I switched back and forth between kicking and chopping steps with my ice ax. It felt like a long time before we finally got to some actual rock to climb.

Lots of snow
More snow
Even more snow

A lot of the rock we encountered was wet. We soloed most of the bottom rock, then simul climbed a small bit up to the rappel. We luckily had a lightweight shovel, as the rappel was fully buried and had to be dug out.

Finally rocks
Then back to snow, but at least it was finally softening up in the sun
Still making our way up the lower ridge
A welcome stretch of rock leading to the rappel
Pulled out the rope to get through the final stretch to the rappel
Digging out the rappel station 

We simul climbed most of the remainder of the ridge, stopping in a notch just a hair below the summit. The snow here was quite deep heading up, so we put our ski boots and crampons on and down climbed a firm gully to the south and traversed around the summit on some very exposed ledges.

Booting down, finally got our ski boots on
Traversing around the summit
Almost to the saddle at the top of Memorial 1

By the time we finally gained the top of Memorial 1 it was late in the afternoon and any hopes of afternoon corn skiing were gone. We were looking down an ice chute. Not only that, but a few hundred feet down it was full of bowling ball sized wet slide debris from the week prior that had refrozen.

Eyeballing our line and regretting our choices

We strapped in and I made three turns before hitting the frozen chunky debris. We transitioned to crampons again, and down climbed the entire couloir as the sun set on us. Morale was low and we were out of food and water, with a long way out ahead.

At this point we were getting pretty tired and sadly had to boot down most of the way

At the base of the couloir, we put our skis back on and side slipped our way out of the bushwack that is Neff's Canyon, finally reaching our shuttle car fourteen hours after we started our adventure.

In retrospect, boots would have obviously been good for the ridge. My judgement was clouded by conditions on a previous winter ascent. I should have brought extra food and did not. We also could have down climbed or rappelled from near the summit to the north into Tolcat Canyon and had the nice leisurely corn skiing we were looking for, and we did not.

On the other hand, I was three weeks post knee surgery, and this gave me a lot of confidence in my recently cut open knee going into the spring.

Weather, Clothing, Food

Temps were forecast to be near 60 F, with cool temps near freezing overnight.

For clothing, I had OR Cirque pants with light leggings, a sun shirt, Montbell vest, Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer hoody, and a Montbell Ex Light wind shell. I had enough versatility to stay comfortable and light in the warm afternoon sun and also at night after the sun went down.

I had several servings of Gu Roctane drink mix, two caffeinated Gu, two Spring speed nut, and one Cliff Blocks, which was not enough.

The rack!

Time Splits

Our adventure took us 14 hours on the dot, which was more than planned. 5.89 miles and 4,472 feet of gain.

  • Start to top of Blister Hill/Leaving the trail 1h24m
  • Leaving the trail to the rappel 7h
  • Rappel to leaving the ridge 1h10m
  • Leaving the ridge to top of Memorial 1h45m
  • Memorial down to Neff's ~3h
Geurt’s to Memorial 1 on Olympus - John S.’s 5.8 mi backcountry ski
Conditions on the ridge warranted boots and we were in tennis shoes and memorial was atrocious but we got a full value mountaineering adventure