Grays Harbor County High Point Trip Report

Date: September 17, 2000
Author: Jeff Howbert

John Roper's previous report on this high point sounds innocent enough - a moderate walk-up, perhaps a little steep, with a bit of brush. I encountered the first rude surprise on the drive in. The Wynoochee Valley Road is now washed out 0.2 mile past the former Wynoochee Falls campground, a full 4.5 miles and 2400 vertical feet shy of where John parked his car in 1994.

Don't expect access to be restored anytime soon, either. From the condition of the road beyond, it's obvious the Forest Service has lost interest in keeping it serviceable - there's another gigantic washout at Copper Creek, at least 15 feet deep, and lots of major blow-down and slides. Fortunately I had my bicycle along, but it still turned a modest ramble into an all-day wringer. (A dirt bike would also do the job for the less pure of heart.)

The summit itself is a very worthy destination, a string of bare rock peaklets surrounded by a gorgeous expanse of heather rock gardens, with stunning vistas all across the southern Olympics. Be sure to go the extra 200 yards east from the county high point to Point 4949, where you'll find a climbers register and very intimidating, close up views of the west side of Capitol Peak. Getting to the summit area is another matter. John's original ascent took the NW ridge direct, but I tried to be clever and sneak through on a line where the contours looked less crowded, starting from the south end of the spur that traverses the west side of the mountain. This became a tedious thread through boulder fields and across slimy slabs, and is not recommended.

Coming down, I looked forward to easier travel in the "steep forest" of John's NW ridge. Steep, as we all know, is a relative term. In this case, it means dangerously steep, as in, if you slip and tumble, you will die. From around 4400 feet down to the road at 3500 feet, I was almost continuously hanging off some kind of vegetation, and often on my butt. When I got back, I called John and almost accused him of "sandbagging" on his trip report, but then I learned the true secret of his easy jaunt - snow. A nice, soft May snowpack, kicking steps the whole way.

So, experienced scramblers and bushwhackers needn't be put off by this high point, but it's clearly no place for small children or first dates. Take your bike, and above all, go in the spring, when there's white stuff to travel on.