MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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September 11, 2013

The Bailey Range; a True Paradise

Client Mike Natucci and guide Aili Farquhar headed out on the sunny morning of July 20th from Second Ascent in Seattle.  Their destination: the Bailey Range, a remote interior sub-range of the Olympic Mountains.  This range is rugged, with peaks soaring from sea level to 7,000 feet or more just miles from the ocean.  The lower slopes are covered with thick rainforest, some of which receives more than 300 inches of rain a year.  The Baileys are known for intricate glaciated terrain, rotten rock, and abundant vegetation, all of which the team would encounter on their nine day odyssey across the Bailey Range.

Aili Farquhar Photo

Mike was no stranger to off-trail travel in the Olympics, and had completed the Ptarmigan Traverse with Mountain Madness the year before.  Aili had traversed part of the Baileys on a personal trip years before, and had explored other areas of the Olympics as a wilderness ranger, Madness guide, and on personal time.  The first crux of the trip for this strong team was getting out of Seattle on the Edmonds-Kingston ferry before the hoardes of weekenders got ahead of them in line.  This feat accomplished, the two narrowly dodged the Lavender Festival in Sequim as they arranged a car shuttle from the Sol-Duc trailhead to the Hoh courtesy of climber Bret Wirta, who courteously offered to accommodate this shuttle despite the fact that he could not go on the trip.

Aili Farqhar Photo

Mike and Aili loaded up their packs with nine days of food, camping gear, fuel, and clothing before hitting the trail to the Baileys.  They climbed through big old growth trees in the hot sun, passing families and day hikers before beginning a steep uphill section.  They camped that night in the subalpine, filtering water from Bridge Creek before setting out in the cool early morning temperatures for what the ranger at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles had said would be a snowy traverse.  

Aili Farqhar Photo

When Mike and Aili arrived at the High Divide at 5,000 foot elevation they were pleasantly surprised.  The five feet of snow the ranger had warned them about had melted out and left in its wake waving fields of white glacier lilies with bright yellow centers.  They hiked on a good trail to the famed Catwalk between Cat Basin and Mt. Carrie.  This is the true beginning of the Bailey Range, and lived up to its reputation for tricky, rocky travel, bad rock, and precipitous drop-offs on either side.  Curious mountain goats observed the climbing team from a distance as they roped up and made their way through this half-mile of steep terrain with heavy second-day-of-the-trip packs.   

 

Aili Farqhar Photo

After a rest at the stagnant tarn at Boston Charlie’s camp, the team headed out of the forest and up the grassy lower slopes of Mt. Carrie.  They encountered snowfields and steep talus on the upper slopes, and roped up once again.  As they rested in the warm, windless afternoon air on the summit Aili spied a flat bivy site a few hundred yards down the ridge.  The team decided to bivy right on top of the Mt. Carrie ridge.  After setting up camp and melting water, the two settled in for a dinner of freeze dried food with a cup of hot lemon-ginger tea with honey and chocolate cherries for dessert.  The sun set over the High Divide and the folded ridges of the Hoh River drainage as the full moon rose over the peaks lit by red light in the east.

Aili Farqhar Photo

The next morning, the team traversed the Carrie Glacier to the pass that would take them to 11 Bull Basin.  The ascent to this pass turned out to be more technical than they had anticipated, with steep snow and a short walk over exposed glacier ice.  Mike climbed this obstacle with strength and grace despite the heavy pack and his limited experience on this type of terrain.  They ate lunch at the top of the pass, then dropped into the basin.  Elk tracks in the snow showed them the best way to traverse around the partially frozen lake in the basin until they encountered an outlet stream too big to jump across.  Aili was able to justify her decision to lug her Crocs all the way across the Bailey Range when the team used them to cushion their boot-softened feet against sharp stones during the wade across this stream with heavy packs.  They found a delightful flat campsite in 11 Bull Basin, and splashed clean in the melt water streams among snowfields and wildflowers.  

Aili Farqhar Photo

The team was burdened by their heavy packs.  The hot days and smaller lunchtime appetites of the two climbers made it apparent that they had brought more cheese than necessary.  The logical solution was to make as many quesadillas as possible.  To do this, Aili made a triangle of sticks and melted the cheese onto tortillas over the very powerful MSR Reactor stove.  This was a delicate process that usually resulted in the sticks catching on fire, but yielded delicious cheesy results.

Aili Farqhar Photo

In the cool of the morning the team climbed over the shoulder of Stephen Peak onto the rocky ridge above Cream Lake Basin.  The mosquitoes greeted the climbers with great glee at the top of the ridge and happily hung around all day, delighted for the warm-blooded company.  The ridge proved quite a challenge – loose, third-class ledges gave way to groveling through thick evergreen branches of the Ridgetop Krummholtz.  Finally, Mike and Aili were able to follow a veritable elk highway to the gentle snowfingers that led to Upper Ferry Basin.  

This campsite was a delight.  A former glacier had become a big, partially frozen lake.  After setting up camp Mike cleaned up in the lake and Aili jumped right in.  They dined on olive oil-salmon couscous, tea, and ginger snaps as the long summer sunset, reflected in the glacier lake, changed with the setting sun.  The Milky Way was visible in the warm summer night until the bright moon rose.  

Aili Farqhar Photo

After a restful evening the climbers began their traverse of the Bailey Range proper.  They climbed over the shoulder of Mt. Pulitzer.  They spied a lone hiker climbing up from Lone Tree Pass.  This mystery hiker must have wanted solitude, and somehow passed by the team as they rested and ate on the upper slopes of Pulitzer.  They descended to Lone Tree, where Mike got a shot by the tree that gives the pass its name.  They continued on the eastern slopes of the Baileys, passing jagged ridges and side-hilling until they reached the massive snowcapped Bear Pass. They found the trail that descends steep heather meadows towards Dodwell-Rixon Pass and stopped for water by a lovely tarn that overlooked Queets Basin.  They descended gentle snowy slopes until they reached a flat grassy campsite in an open, barren part of the basin. 

 

Aili Farqhar Photo

Mike and Aili set up camp and spent the rest of the afternoon on their own exploring the thundering cascades, sun-warmed tarns, rocky outcroppings, abundant wildflowers, stunning glacier views, and fascinating geology of this remote basin which is not accessed by a single trail.  The team also found some sticks lying around the basin, and therefore delicious MSR Reactor quesadillas were again on the evening menu.

Aili Farqhar Photo

Aili’s Crocs again came in handy the next morning as the two forded the Queets River.   The first ranger Aili had worked with in the Olympics had once told her that if ever she had route-finding difficulties that ‘the animals know where to go’.  This advice proved correct, and Aili and Mike followed the ancient trails over which generations of elk had passed before, through the steep forests and meadows leading to the terminus of the Humes Glacier.  A few times the team had to employ the infamous ‘veggie belay’ technique ubiquitous to Olympic and North Cascade off-trail travel. 

They finally reached the polished glacier rocks at the base of the Humes.  Thousands of aphids rose as they wove among slide alder and the wreckage of an old airplane to gain the smooth travel that the low-angle Humes Glacier provided.  The lower part of the glacier was below the ablation zone – the zone in which the previous years snow all melts away – and was therefore blue ice.  Small streams ran over this ice, and running water burbled below the glacier’s surface.  

Aili Farqhar Photo

The team then climbed into the snow and over Blizzard Pass.  The Hoh Glacier flowed down into blue ice, moraine, then became the thundering Hoh River below.  They descended steep snow to the island in the sky that is Camp Pan, a small enclave of trees and flat dirt perched on a rocky outcrop a few hundred feet above the Hoh Glacier.  From this campsite they enjoyed a long glacier sunset and another splendid moonrise.

Aili Farqhar Photo

The next day found them again on steep glaciers.  They ascended snow to the base of the East Summit of Olympus.  Fourth and low fifth class loose Olympic rock led them to the summit and through a loose and blocky downclimb to the security of snow below this summit.  When they joined the footprints of the regular route to the summit of Olympus they set a picket, clipped off their heavy packs, and took a light pack with food, water, sat phone, and first aid kit and headed over the middle summit feeling light and fast in pursuit of the westernmost and true summit of Olympus.  

Aili Farqhar Photo

A steep snow slope and 5.4 rock pitch through a blocky chimney led the team to the summit of Olympus.  On the seventh day of the traverse, they had reached the ceiling of the Olympic Mountain Range.  They enjoyed photos and a snack as they looked at Baker, Rainier, and St. Helens floating in the distance.  After rappelling off the summit block the team made haste back to the packs.  As they donned the heavy beasts once again and began to descend they met two Park volunteers going for an evening summit.  These volunteers, Dave and Mary Anne, were doing work to keep the Snow Dome research station in good repair.  The team decided to accept the volunteers’ kind offer of popcorn and a visit to the station and made camp on the shoulder of Panic Peak on top of Snow Dome.

- MM Guide, Aili Farquhar