Posted by: runuphill | June 5, 2011

Olympus West Slabs

Goat on Mt. Olympus West Slabs

I absolutely love the Wasatch Mountains in the spring!  The weather has finally turned and the relentless grip of winter has eased.  With a successful Pocatello 50 behind me it’s time to do what I love and try to get fit while exploring a mountain landscape than changes by the minute as temperatures increase and snow melts rapidly.

Mount Olympus West Slabs - with Apollo Couloir descent

Probably THE best short journey in the Wasatch is a run up the West Slabs of Olympus.  It has it all: singletrack, bushwhacking, boulder hopping, a steep snow-field, 1,000′ of 5.5, a brief ridge running section, an unbelievably good glissade dropping nearly 1,900′, and a canyoneering-like river gully descent at the bottom of the Apollo Chute.  It is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re comfortable scrambling up easy 5th class quartzite and managing moderately steep snow this is about as good as it gets.  The snow-field decent is so good right now that I’m going to try and do it every single day until it’s gone….. and it’s going fast.

Yesterday (6/4/2011) I had been having an incredible day running trails and I wanted to finish it off with this route.    Ryan and I had done the route the prior day so I knew exactly what the conditions were like.  I ran into a large party on my way up the snow-field (Zeus Chute) as I approached the slabs.  The gully is chock-full of snow right now, more so than I’ve ever seen before in June.  The large group had started early in the AM and it looked like a guided group, probably Exum.  They looked at me like I was crazy in my shorts and running shoes.  I thought to myself that they were crazy spoiling such a perfect mountain experience as they schlepped 60 lbs of crap with them.  Ice axes, crampons, big boots, hundreds of feet of rope, and packs big enough for an everest expedition.  It was 6:30 PM and I was just starting the route; light, simple, and with as few man-made items between me and the ground I was travelling as possible.  Exactly how I like it.

Close-up of the West Slabs ascent and Apollo Couloir descent

I quickly hit the rock and looked down at where they were on the snow-field, about in the middle.  I had a strange surge of adrenaline and I made it my goal to summit and descend the Apollo Couloir before they got to their car.  I made good time up the slabs as the route was fresh on my mind from the prior day.  The ridge was perfect, and no rattle snakes at all, a rare thing in June.  Without losing a step I jumped onto my favorite snow field and only a few minutes later was at the bottom of it, some 1,900 vertical feet later.  Yesterday Ryan had pointed out that the descent was so fast that you have to equalize your ear pressure while glissading.  yee haw.

At the end of the glissade is the river gully section, which I  love!  I caught and passed the party on the trail out.  1:10 car-to-car.  I was giddy all evening.  The perfect Wasatch experience and finish to an already amazing day.  Life is grand.

Addendum:

On 6/5/2011 I returned and pulled off a 1:01 car-to-car.

Apollo Couloir. Oh so good right now.

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Responses

  1. A friend and I did this route recently and it took us 4.5 hours. What impresses me the most is Jared’s glissading on his feet down the top half of the Apollo couloir as it is very steep. We didn’t have nearly as much or as nice snow but damn he killed it. Very fun route.

  2. I was in SLC for a seminar this past week and had Wednesday completely to myself. I remembered your West Slab video and decided to head in that direction as, living in Texas, I don’t often have the chance to play in the snow. Wasn’t able to replicate your route or reach the summit but had a fun time trying. From the trail head on Thousand Oaks Dr things started well but quickly went south. Reviewing the suunto data I now know where things went awry. Missed the turn up the Zues chute but didn’t continue far enough to reach the Apollo couloir. Basicly ascended the gnarly overgrown slabs in between the two chutes following a goat trail. Eventually the trail disappeared and the bushwhacking became too intense to safely continue the ascent. Decided to move laterally and eventually dropped into the Zues chute. Ran into two stoners who were snowboarding and making videos; not sure who was more surprised the other. I climbed the snow to where it splits (where you actually start climbing the slabs in the video) and enjoyed the view. All the off trail bushwhacking was time consuming and exhausting. Had a nice glissade down Zues, said goodbye to my stoner friends and returned to the car.

    This was my first trip to SLC and I look forward to returning soon and exploring the Wasatch.

  3. Did a longer version of this route this weekend. The snow gully seemed way slick/hard to run up in running shoes. Did the YakTrax thing and was slipping all the way up. Ran up the slabs and ridge, then continued on to the South summit, then plunged down the “normal” Oly trail to Pete’s rock. Anyone work this longer route for time?

    • Hi Josh,

      That’s a great route you did! What was your time? I’ll jot it down for the FKT! 🙂

      Take care,

      Jared

    • 3:19… Not going too fast.

  4. Jared:
    I’ve done the slabs quite a few times but never via the apollo couloir descent. My previous best time was 2 hours going down the gully to the west. I went up yesterday for a time trial and managed a 1:15, much more enjoyable! Thanks for the idea. Next year I’m going to stash a sled at the top so I can make up the 15 minutes I i need to break your record.

  5. Hi Jared,

    I’m psyched you got out and did the Slabs, it’s a great route.

    For the 1:01 time, it was running hard up to the snow, pawing up the snow as fast as possible, then a pretty controlled consistent pace up the climb. It is obviously pretty high consequence so I didn’t get too crazy. 🙂 Once on top the ridge is fast and short, followed a high speed (teetering on the very edge of being out of control control) all the way down to the trail. Ryan and I did it again yesterday evening and the snow descent is starting to get pretty dangerous as the snow melts and exposes more rocks. About 1 week ago was the sweet spot.

    Take care,

    Jared

  6. I did your route this morning with some friends. Awesome.

    And 1:01 is astoundingly fast. Are you running up the slabs?

    That glissade was too fast for me.

    As always, thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Nice time! 1:01!!! Holy smokes that is fast. I think that your descent gully follow the Apollo for a couple of hundred feet and then you jump over to the east (skiers right) and the Apollo proper goes straight down falline. Apollo proper is much steeper and more dangerous of a glissade than your “sneaky” angling chute.

    • Sorry, Jared is right. That is Apollo. Zeus chute is the steeper, more falline. All these greek god names blend together.

  8. Us skiers call that the Apollo Couloir.

    • Thanks Jared, I’ve updated my post to include the name. Hope all is well. Jared

  9. “Sneaky Descent Gully” looks good … when Chris R and I did the slabs, the bushwhacking was so serious we had to get down on our hands and knees to get out.

  10. awesome write up Jared, the way you live your life makes the rest of us want to go big 🙂


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