The Project Goal
To experience and shine a light on the Olympic mountains by climbing the mountains of not only the outer edges, but the hard to reach interior areas. To raise awareness of the issues the Olympics face, from underfunding to a changing climate.
Use the map above to check out the 30 summits of the project! Track my progress in real time. All mountains start off with the red icon, which will change to green once it has been completed. Information and photos from the completed mountains can be located by clicking on the icon, or by checking the list below.
I am definitely what you would call a “goal-oriented” person. I know this because I find that I am the best version of myself that I can be when I am striving toward something. I am unsure if this is just a natural inclination of myself, or maybe the fact that 12 years of Army training left me with an affinity for having a mission to accomplish. Either way, it’s something I truly enjoy.
Since moving to Washington in 2013, I have been working on some loose goals in my outdoor life. Smaller and relatively easy things to tackle like learning glacier travel technique, learning how to ski, and finally learn how to shoot my camera in full manual mode.
But something I didn’t have was that overarching "so what?" reason to each of these smaller goals.
Over the years I’ve followed along on other people tackling big projects, everything from epic National Geographic expeditions to small local ones. An example of that is right here in Washington when another native Midwesterner, Scott Kranz, set out in 2018 to climb 50 peaks in the North Cascades to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the park. While watching him accomplish that incredible feat last year, I thought about how amazing that must’ve felt for him to follow through on a big project like that. It was big ideas like these that inspired me to come up with my own project to work on.
I had finally found my big picture that I had been unwittingly working on the past several years while working my hiking endurance up, learning technical climbing and route finding, learning the art of photography, even leaving the Army to allow myself the freedom to put down roots and immerse myself in an area I loved.
All of these individual goals brought me here, to my Olympic Mountain Project.
Washington’s National Park Fund
Washington’s National Park Fund (WNPF) is the official philanthropic partner of our cherished Mount Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic National Parks. The funds raised by Washington’s National Park Fund help fund 50 to 75 projects annually in these parks. The organization works closely with the superintendents of each of the three national parks who select the priority projects for their respective parks. The projects fall into four core areas: advancing science and research, improving visitors’ experiences, expanding volunteerism and stewardship, and providing for youth and family programs. It is the only philanthropic organization dedicated solely to these three national parks and 100% of the donations stay in Washington State for this purpose.
Founded by former governor and senator Dan Evans and legendary mountaineer Lou Whittaker, Washington’s National Park Fund has awarded more than $5.5 million in the last several years to support these national parks. The non-partisan organization is led by CEO Laurie Ward, who works with a team of four dedicated staff members and more than 20 passionate and engaged board members.
To learn more about Washington’s National Park Fund, please visit their website at https://wnpf.org/
To donate (yay!), please go to: https://give.everydayhero.com/us/olympicmountainproject
Why the Olympics?
I have a special connection to the Olympic peninsula because I lived in Olympia for the first 4 years of my time in Washington. It’s where I first cultivated my love of the PNW through the stark contrast of lush rainforest, high mountain alpine areas, and coastline. It is also a unique challenge… The Olympic mountains are hard to get to. It’s not your typical mountain range running in a long line with access from either side and roads passing through it. It is a circular cluster of mountains, with no road access into the center (or even close to the center, really). The closest most people ever come to seeing the interior is from one of the many viewpoints on the outskirts, looking over the many ridges of the wild and remote interior. The Olympic mountains remains one of the few truly remote wilderness areas in the country, and I want to experience that and see for myself what’s going on in there.
How did you pick which mountains you would include?
This wasn't an easy question to answer when I initially hatched this idea. I knew from the start that I wasn't interested in including only the tallest or most technically challenging mountains. The tallest mountains in the Olympics are in clusters which only make up a part of the entire peninsula, so I wouldn't feel like I had actually seen and experienced every part of the Olympics if I was going for that goal. Going for the most technically challenging peaks wasn't a great goal for me either for that same reason, and also for the honest fact that I am not a great alpinist. This decision was also made because the majority of these mountains require an expensive entry ticket in the form of 20-50 miles just to get in and out of the area. This means that I’m already carrying a heavy multi-day overnight pack, so if I don't need to worry about also hauling a rope and all the associated hardware with technical climbing, that's all the better for my back and knees (I’m definitely not 20 years old anymore!).
I also wanted to avoid doing neighboring peaks. If you zoom in on the map, you’ll see that I have spread out the peaks amongst the major mountain ridges in such a way that I will cover every part of the Olympic mountain areas without too much overlap.
In the end, I have created a list of mountains that serve my purpose of seeing as much of the Olympic mountains as I can, with specific summits that highlight the diversity of the range and cover the most ground.
What’s the start date of the project?
This project was kicked off in June 2019. I had already climbed some of the mountains in the project (including Mount Olympus), but I wanted to start fresh, so I will climb any mountain that I’ve previously done again. The difference this time will be the intention that I have going in to it, to document the experience and what I see.
When do you plan to finish?
As of today, it’s just too early on to have an end date. This will definitely be a lengthy project, which will have to be accomplished within consideration of multiple factors such as weather, seasonal availability of the interior, my "normal life" requirements outside of the mountains, availability of climbing partners, and any other unforeseen obstacles I might encounter along the way. I would like to have it complete within three years, but I am trying not to apply too much pressure on myself to get it done super quick. Having fun and being safe are my top two priorities here, so I will always err on the side of those as opposed to speed and the urge to complete it.
How are you planning this project?
My primary sources of information are coming from two books, each published by The Mountaineers. One is the Olympic Mountains Trail Guide (3rd Edition) written by Robert L. Wood, and the other is the Olympic Mountains: A Climbing Guide (4th Edition) by Olympic Mountain Rescue. I also use websites like the Washington Trails Association to check for any recent trip reports of the area I’m heading to (as well as putting in my own afterwards!). Google Earth is another excellent resource to recon the route in 3D. The maps I use are the Custom Correct Maps of the Olympic Peninsula, which I find are better laid out than the standard Green River Trails ones. The last resource I use is talking to the rangers at the park! They often have 1st or 2nd hand knowledge of the area through ranger reports and are the most up to date information I get when I’m about to head out.
Have a question about the project I didn’t answer here? Feel free to ask by contacting me!