Gaining confidence on a scramble to Mount Angeles

It’s amazing the difference a rope can make.

I learned that over the weekend on a scramble with the Everett Mountaineers at Mount Angeles.

I was nervous about getting down a section of rock. But, with the safety net of a rope, I scrambled right down, no problem. I wasn’t as fast as the mountain goats in our group, but I went down without hesitation or fear. The rope offered me no physical help, it was only there in case I fell. A boost of confidence does excellent things for my scrambling skills.

The trip started early. Mount Angeles is at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. The trip leader picked me up at my house at 6 a.m. so we could head down and catch an early ferry out of Edmonds.

The ferry ride was gorgeous, as usual. The water was glassy smooth and we even saw a few porpoise on the ride over.

When we arrived at the park, we got a nice little surprise. Admission was free because it was the park’s 75th anniversary. Happy anniversary!

The trip started in the parking lot at Hurricane Ridge. We all looked a little absurd with our ice axes, helmets strapped to our packs and heavy boots walking along the paved path. Soon enough, though, we left the pavement and followed an excellent trail along the ridge toward Mount Angeles.

If you’re at Hurricane Ridge, I highly recommend this trail. It’s currently covered by a small bit of snow, but it won’t be for long. The snow is also easy enough to cross at this first part of the trail. Look at the maps at the visitor’s center to help you orient yourself.

The trail rolled along the ridge reaching a steep snow field. Depending upon preference, we either glissaded or walked down. Me, I chose to slide. The wet backside was worth the — rather bumpy — ride down.

After a bit more easy hiking, the trail branched off toward the summit and got more serious. Up, up, up. We eventually reached enough snow to warrant pulling out the ice axes.

Near the summit, we had some decisions to make. The more nimble of our party took a sporting route right up the ridge. The rest of us continued around the backside for an easier approach.

While this route was certainly easier, it still challenged me a lot. I appreciated the whole group’s patience with those of us who needed more time. Our group leader was excellent.

The last scramble to the summit was all on rock. I made it about 10 feet from the summit before I got stuck. I needed to make one step around a rock, while basically hugging it. It was a small step, but it was exposed and scary for me. I asked the trip leader to come back down. He was already at the summit. I was hoping he would give me a bit of advice or show me a better place to get a handhold.

Interestingly, as soon as he was standing near me, I was fine. I didn’t need any help. I took the step. It was easy and I was at the summit in seconds. He said I just needed moral support. It’s true.

As we were approaching the summit, the clouds rolled in. They blocked our view for awhile, but they were also gorgeous. And as they came and went, we got some great peakaboo views of the water and Vancouver Island. The clouds did eventually clear and give us great views.

I was absurdly proud of myself for making it to the top. I was just as proud of making it back down safely — even if I did need a rope.

It was fascinating to learn a bit about myself. I’ve always known that a large part of scrambling was mental, but knowing it and experiencing it are two different things.

I feel a lot more confident in my skills after this trip. It’s a good feeling.

The trip back to the parking lot was pleasant. The ridge view is, if anything, even better on the way back. We saw several of the resident deer along the trail, including a young buck with velvety antlers.

Many flowers are blooming in the area. If you’re looking for a trip for the upcoming holiday, Hurricane Ridge would be a great choice. Be sure to pack your camera.

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