By Ben White
From the University of Utah campus, looking south-east gives a student between classes a view of the high peaks of the Wasatch. In the foreground with Twin Peaks looming above and behind, Mount Olympus rises almost 5,000 feet above the valley floor and the sheer looking west face catches the light of the sunset and turns a beautiful pink most evenings.
For a year, I didn’t think much of it as I rode my bike down campus from the dorms to class. Once I started climbing, I heard more about it and what an amazing climb it was. I looked at it for another year, thinking that it would be cool to climb it one day. I had no idea what it entailed, but heard that it was “really mellow” from strangers at various crags.
Steve, whom I had skied Cold Fusion with and had gone on various other adventures introduced me to Sam. Sam and Steve asked if I wanted to join them up the West Slabs of Olympus one Friday afternoon and said that any of my friends could join. Sam, Steve, Riley, Kyle and I hopped into the car and drove to the trailhead. It was a little late in the afternoon, but nothing to worry about. We cruised up the trail, which led into a gully. The gully got steeper and wider and there was more rock scrambling until we arrived at the slab. We shifted stuff around in our packs and prepared for the ascent of the slabs and then took off.
Billed as a 5.4ish on Mountain Project, it felt like that for maybe ten feet. Falling was definitely not an option, but I felt fine. Apparently, the majority of people who climb the West Slabs don’t use a rope or protection, and we fell into that majority. The higher we went, the easier it got. It really felt like very, very steep hiking where the use of hands was highly useful.
As we approached the top of the slabs, dusk was coming upon us so we decided to not summit. The fun part of the climbing was over, so we weren’t too bummed. After a snack of chips and salsa, we began the scramble down. Following the ridge down, we didn’t have to downclimb the way we went up, but we did make a lot of careful movements as the way down was a no-fall zone. It was getting darker and rain began to fall as well.
We descended back down to the gully we came from and walked out to the car. Cruising up 1800 feet of exposure in golden late afternoon light followed by a walk down in the rain with a headlamp was a great way to unwind at the end of the week. The West Slabs are definitely one of the best adventures to be had in the Wasatch.