The craggy summit of Mount Olympus beckons hikers year round. Its relatively modest elevation (9,026 feet) and the absence of major avalanche paths on the west-facing trail make the standard route to the south summit a great choice for a winter training hike or an introduction to snow climbing. The trail is popular enough that it is usually easy to follow, and on an average winter day microspikes or similar traction devices are the only specialized equipment you’ll need to make it all the way to the summit.
This peak is a popular hike—but one strategy for avoiding crowds is to go when there’s lots of snow. It’s possibly even more fun this way than in the summer because there is no loose gravel to slip on and the western exposure doesn’t cook you on the way down. An ascent of Mount Olympus immediately after a major snowstorm may well require snowshoes, but probably only for the last half-mile to the summit beginning as you approach the saddle (at 3 miles).
From the saddle at about 8,400 feet, the trail levels off and turns north through a grove of mature Douglas fir. A rocky couloir leads up the last 600 vertical feet to the summit in about a quarter-mile. There is little to no exposure in the couloir, and the climbing is easy Class 3. You will want some type of traction devices here and perhaps trekking poles or an ice axe for stability. As you reach the top of the couloir, the summit is just a few more steps up and to the right.
At the summit, 360-degree views of the Salt Lake Valley and the Wasatch Range await. While enjoying the views, be mindful that the summit ridge can be heavily corniced, especially on the north side, where a precipitous dropoff leads into a couloir separating the north and south summits. When you’re ready to descend, retrace your steps to the south-facing couloir, where a prominent dead fir tree marks the top of the route.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.