Ricky Kresslein

Storm King


Storm King. Just hearing its name evokes a sense of treachery. It sounds as though, when one reaches its peak, lightning bolts will strike the ground and send rocks and debris sailing through the air, creating a sort of war zone. Well, I reached the top of Storm King mountain, and it wasn’t the peak that was treacherous, but the trail to get there.

Storm King is a mountain located in the northern region of Olympic National Park, with an elevation of over 4,500 feet. That doesn’t sound very tall, and it’s not for a mountain, but it is the quick elevation gain that is killer.

To get to Storm King, one must start out on the popular Marymere Falls trail. 0.6 miles into that trail, a large boulder with a small sign below it marks the turn off for Storm King. As soon as one turns, one begins the ascent. Not gradually, but quickly and intensely.

The trail climbs over 1,700 feet in about 1.9 miles. That is around the same grade as Half Dome, the toughest physical challenge I have ever completed. From the get-go it is steep switchbacks, and it doesn’t end or offer any breaks until very close to the end, where it gets even more difficult.

At the end of the trail are five ropes that one must pull oneself up on, and at the same time try to keep foot-ing on loose dirt and gravel. Even at the top, when the end seems so near, anyone with a fear of heights may have more issues. The rockface rises like a stegosaurus’ back, creating walls and edges that one must walk over and across–and the whole way look at how far the fall would be if they were to miss their footing.

But the view is worth every aching hamstring and stitch in the side. The peak looks out over the surrounding mountains, Marymere Falls, and Lake Crescent. And if you think you are brave enough to descend the steep ropes and switchbacks in the dark, it would make the most beautiful sunset photo. Are you up for the challenge?