Description: I climb Mt. Olympus in both 2007 and 2008. It starts with a flat 10 mile approach through the Hoh rainforest before gaining several thousand feet in the next 7 miles to Glacier Basin. Both times we did this as a 4 day day climb from Seattle including the drive and Ferry's. First night we camp at mile 9 or 10, second night is at glacier basin and the third is summit day and we came back to mile 9. By doing it this way you can stash some food along the way. The Blue glacier and environs is spectacular so this is a highly recommended climb to go with some fun folks and enjoy yourself in a hybrid backpacking/ climbing excursion. Its also recommended to setup a handline on the chossy summit and rappel off to avoid a dangerous fall on crumbling summit scramble.
Unfortunately in 2007 after a success trip to the summit and back, I was witness to an accident at the trailhead, where improper belay hand-off techniques led to an incident.
In the written report by Thomas Deml this is how it transpired:
I filed my accident report with the Mountaineers. The publishers of "Accidents in North American Mountaineering" already contacted me. They asked me if they can include the paragraphs below in their 2007 edition. Let me know if their write-up reflects the facts.
Sorry for the tragic end of this wonderful climb.
Fall on Rock - poor communications, inadequate protection, exhaustion
On Tuesday morning, July 17, M. Pond, F. Sail and A. Amber were waiting at the Hoh River trail head for a climbing party of nine returning from a successful attempt of Mount Olympus. The climbing party arrived at around 11am after jogging the last mile with 50lbs packs on.
"Jogging the last 1.4 miles seemed natural to us. Of course people were shaking their heads. But I was sure the little run wouldn't affect us much", Scott Heinz, one of the nine climbers said.
The accident happend during the subsequent celebrations. Thomas Deml, the climb leader, belayed the inexperienced M. Pond to the waiting Andrea Foegler. Right at the handoff M. Pond slipped through Thomas Deml's and Andrea Foegler's hands. It fell about 3ft to his death on the pavement. "I thought Andrea has it. I never thought something like this would happen to me" Thomas Deml said. "I wanted to remove the cap before I take it. I'm so sorry" Andrea Foegler replied. Two of the climbers, Jeb Steel and Scott Heinz, were so shaken by the accident that they had to be treated by A. Amber.
Both party members are experienced beer drinkers who got complacent at the end of a long climb. A clear handoff protocol like "got it? --- got it!" could have prevented this accident. The wet conditions at the trailhead and the boisterous mood of the climbing party probably contributed to the accident."
Just a reminder that even during the celebratory drink, it is critical to not get complacent or you may lose a dear friend.