Backpacking Olympics

I’d rhetorically ask you to explain to me why backpacking isn’t an Olympic sport – it certainly wouldn’t be any more boring to watch than “sports” like the biathlon, swimming, soccer – but I’m obviously preaching to the choir. Backpacking on TV is awesome, right? Well, maybe only when some euro is teaching you how to survive in the wild, because watching some American kid perish in an old van was, sorry, not awesome. Maybe it’s me. Well until backpacking takes its rightful place as a world class sporting event, may I suggest our own off-year Olypmic event: the Northeastern Olympic Loop.

Traversing Cameron Creek below Mt. Cameron (7192')

I’m throwing this one out as a first suggestion for our 2009 event as it meets a number of group requests/requirements:

  • It’s relatively close (Ploss, Franken, McLovin) – Google Maps calls it 4 hrs. 19 minutes from Chez McLovin
  • The daily average distances are down from the WLT (Franken)
  • It provides plenty of grim (14,000′) vertical (Ploss)
  • It’s apparently quite a scenic old growth forest/mountainous region (Ploss, Franken, McLovin)
  • It’s in the Olympics (McLovin, having McLovined himself out of the 2007 Olympics)
  • It’s a loop (Ploss, Franken, McLovin)
  • Potential for stealth camping, as well as optional campsite reservations available in Grand Valley

The area also tends to be drier than the western Olympic peaks, providing potentially for a better chance of killer weather, especially if we go in August which is also my suggestion. A few cons:

  • As detailed in Backpacking Washington it’s a relatively short 55 miles with side trips
  • Bear country: hard canisters “recommended” where bear poles are unavailable
  • Few glaciers (navis rainforests) but…
  • Some “dangerous” snowfields through late summer that make wayfinding difficult, especially if you’ve been McLeft behind

The facts: BPW scales this as a 4-7 day trip over 55 miles with 14,000 feet on elevation gain, which would figure to be likely about 9.2 miles and 2,333 feet per day over 6 days, say Sunday to Friday. That’s pretty pounding. On the 1-10 scale BPW rates this hike with a 9 for scenery, 5 for solitude, 7 for difficulty – pretty solid ratings. My man Douglas Lorain suggests we rock it in 5 days:

Day Camp Miles Elevation Gain
1 Falls Shelter 10.4 1800′
2 Dose Meadows (via Cedar Lake) 13.2 3800′
3 Dose Meadows (day hike to Hayden
Pass and Thousand Acre Meadow)
8.2 1600′
4 Grand Valley 10.7 4300′
5 Out (via Obstruction Peak) 12.2 2500′

Your thoughts, please: I think this hike fits the collective bill, and obviously should Ploss and Franken express an interest in further details, further details will follow. By several accounts this is a beautiful, difficult hike (Ploss) that we can accomplish inside of a full week (Franken) providing for bringing less food (P.F,McL) and more down time to enjoy Olympic splendor on the left hand side.

About McLovin

Author: MCLOVIN. Age: 41. Disposition: Gimpy. Resident: Itinerary Obsessive. Ancestry: Dutch. Politically: Left/Side. Nutshell: Magellan, P.I. Philosophy: Kali Ma!
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