Distance: 15.5 mi.
Elevation Gain: 7000 ft.
I’ve wanted to climb to the top of The Brothers ever since watching a glowy sunset over the Olympic Mountains for the first time five years ago. Craig had climbed The Brothers once before (and another failed attempt with me), but he agreed to go back once again… mostly because he wanted to go fishing in Lena Lake.
We weren’t in any rush to get started since we were camping at Lena Lake, only 3-ish miles in. We started hiking at 3:15 PM. There were a slew of low angle switchbacks on this popular trail (thanks trail crews!), so it was a gentle climb.
We reached the rock outcrop above Lena Lake at 4:30, and then continued down to cross Lena Creek (currently spanned by one flimsy log) and to find a campsite at the lake. We only saw two other parties camping on this late October weekend, and we chose a spot on the north end of the lake. Craig did some fishing but spooked all the fish away due to the placid water (so he says). Meanwhile I started a little campfire in the ring and we had a relaxed evening, heading to bed early due to the short daylight hours.
We woke up fairly early but dilly-dallied a bit and didn’t actually start hiking until about 7 AM. It still was dark out at that time, so we started with headlamps. Before too long we reached the (dry) East Fork Lena Creek and accidentally crossed to the other side too early (due to hiking in the dark and bad map data on the GPS) and bashed around on the wrong side of the creek for probably 20 minutes. Eventually Craig remembered that he had a GPS track from another Peakbagger in his phone and we were able to get back on track using that. We followed the East Fork for the next 2 miles or so, with four crossings over the creek in total. The way through was a lot simpler in late season since the creek bed was mostly dry and we could walk directly in it, rather than taking one of the higher routes that we had to take in the spring. There was flagging to help along the way.
We reached the climber’s camp at 9:00 AM and continued on. There were lots of little climber trails around camp so it was easy to get off the main route, but our loaded GPS track helped us once again. Once we were above camp it was pretty easy to follow the route, with a few tricky places mostly flagged or marked by cairns. This is a true climber’s trail, climbing 3,900′ feet from the creek to the summit in less than 2 miles. As we reached the open slopes in the south bowl of The Brothers, we had to climb over and under several downed trees, which was tiring.
Then we reached the neverending scree pile of torture, which we climbed until we reached The Hourglass at 5800′. This was the crux of the climb, with a couple fairly exposed 3rd-4th class moves. Unfortunately, this was also the point when a climber ahead of us was coming down, so there was some inevitable scree rockfall that got funneled into The Hourglass. Luckily none of it reached our noggins.
Above The Hourglass was more scree. We went in a generally northeast toward the summit, often hugging solid walls on our left to help keep us from sliding back downhill. We reached an obvious path up to a notch so we were excited to be almost at the summit, only to realize that we had climbed to the wrong notch in the ridge and were on a tower west of the summit. We retraced out steps back down to the scree. Just below the tower/false summit were a couple large cairns marking a narrow notch, which had some fun, easy scrambling inside to reach the final climb toward the true summit. The summit scramble was 2nd-3rd class. The views from up top were spectacular in all directions, and I had finally fulfilled the first peakbagging goal I ever created after moving to Washington!
Unfortunately, the hike down wasn’t all that much easier than the climb up, since the scree was mostly too large or firm to plunge step. It also wasn’t super easy to stay on route and we had to check our GPS several times, both in the scree fields as well as the bushy slope below. Once we were back in the forest near the climber’s camp it was easy going. However, we still had a long way back out and not a lot of daylight! We made it back to Lena Lake a little after 5 PM, packed up camp, and finished our hike just after sunset at about 6:50 PM. I’m really glad I was able to sneak this one in fore the end of the season, but would much prefer to do it with some snow to avoid a lot of the scree.
(Download the free Gaia GPS app on your phone to view tracks and then get a Gaia GPS membership if you want offline access. Discount below!)
Recommended brew: Barrel Brothers Dark Sarcasm Porter
- Backpacking tent
- Fishing pole
- Hiking boots (Craig)
- Mountaineering boots (Vanessa)
- Sleeping pad
- Summer sleeping bag
- Trail runners (Vanessa)
- Trekking poles
- Water drops/filter