The Cruise

Posted by Ken Campbell February 12, 2010 0 Comment 982 views

The Olympics are not known for quality rock climbing. The rock in most areas is friable and tends to slough off in the hands at just the wrong moment… anyone looking for multi-pitch granitic perfection is going to be disappointed. With that said, Mount Cruiser may be among the best of the bunch, at least from the point of view of dependable rock.

Mount Cruiser, at 6104 feet, is the highest summit of the Sawtooth range. Its distinct summit block is considered one of the classic climbs of the Olympics. It is a climb, not a scramble, and the easiest route is a technical 5.0, which might not make their eyes water over in Index or Icicle Creek, but it’s still a committing task.

Summit heights in the Olympics, if you’re used to climbing in other locations, are a bit misleading. First of all, approaches here tend to be longer and/or more difficult than in the Cascades. There aren’t as many people, as many trails or as many access points; the base of any given climb can be significantly more difficult to get to than it might be elsewhere. Secondly, the loose and disintegrating nature of the stone means rock fall is a constant danger and the sound of fragments whizzing past a climber’s ears can add to the stress that increases climber’s fatigue.

Most important to remember, however, and so often forgotten is that most climbing approaches begin at, or very close to, sea level. In other words, to climb Mount Cruiser, for example, you’ll need to physically start “climbing” about 6000 feet below the summit. Compare this to Mount Rainier, where although the summit stands at 14,410 feet, the climbing process for most of those making the attempt starts at Paradise, about 8000 feet down the mountain. In other words, to summit Mount Rainier, the highest point in Washington, you’ll climb only a couple of thousand more feet than if you climb Cruiser, and you’ll do your approach in a car.

This reality, as much as any questions about the quality of the rock, serves to keep Olympic climbers a small community.

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