Mount Olympus Adventure

Mount Olympus from Sugarhouse Park.  Copyright Nate Young and Crux Photo.

For this post, you’re going to have to be a little creative.  I planned this adventure to ski Mount Olympus this weekend.  I had been eyeballing a chute off the western side called Tolcat Canyon.  From the middle of the Salt Lake Valley, you can see this long section of snow that starts between the north and south summits of Olympus.  Because the weather was less than ideal for deep powder (no new snow and 40 degrees), I figured it would be a great time for an adventure, and to check out a line that I’d wanted to ski.  

I figured it would take about 4 hours to hike to the top of the line.  In the summer it’s about a 3 hour hike on the trail to the South Summit.  We would be hiking the trail about half way up, and then skinning up Tolcat Canyon to the summit saddle.  At first, this worked well.  With very heavy packs, we headed out around 12:30 up the trail.  We made great time and reached the point where the trail crosses Tolcat Canyon probably within an hour and a half.  Here’s where we made our mistake.  It looked pretty difficult to hike up Tolcat Canyon, so we decided to hike further up the trail, and then traverse into the canyon above the thicker scrub oak.  In the end, we ended up hiking for an additional 30 minutes, to end up probably 5 minutes up canyon from where the trail crossed and avoiding very little bush whacking.  We should have just bushwhacked right up.  After another 45 minutes of steep boot packing, we were finally able to put our splitboards on and skin the rest of the way.  After 3 hours, we were at the bottom of the ski run, not great for group moral.  In addition, the idea of hiking down the trail after the sunset was not making anyone happy.  Luckily (and unluckily), someone had actually been up here before us.  We had a nice skin track to follow, which definitely allowed us to move a bit faster.  At this point we were pretty tired, and the heavy afternoon snow was sticking to our skins pretty bad.  About half way up the line, our skin track ended, and we had to break trail on our own.  Although we didn’t think we’d make it to the saddle in time, we pushed on, and just before 6pm (almost five and a half hours of hiking), we reached the saddle. 

At this point, we realized that skiing down North Canyon, into Neffs Canyon, would be a lot better.  There were tracks in that direction, and we were pretty sure we could ski to the parking lot.  We called our trusted friend Tom, and he said he would pick us up and give us a ride back to our car.  So here’s where the imagination is required.  We were up there at the perfect time to get the perfect skiing shot that I had hoped for.  But because of the gnarly decent, we skied into the shade down North Canyon.  So for this next picture, just imagine a snowboarding arcing an amazing turn, throwing up a huge wave of powder into the reflecting sun.

Sunset from the saddle of the Mount Olympus Summit.  Copyright Nate Young and Crux Photo.

IfWhen I do this tour again, I think I’ll skin up Neffs and into North Canyon to reach the saddle.  I’ll plan on being there about an hour before sunset to get a few turns at the top of Tolcat Canyon for photos, and then do the long (4000 vertical feet) ride back into Neffs.

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~ by cruxphoto on February 19, 2008.

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