The Brothers (South Climb)

The Brothers (South Climb)

Elev. Gain: 
6,062 ft.
High: 
6,842 ft.
Where:
Eldon, WA
Distance: 
17.00 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: 
Expert
Rating: 
5
Gorgeous climb to some of the best views on the Olympic Penninsula
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Features

Overview

As seen from Seattle, the iconic, double-summit of The Brothers is perhaps the most eye-catching peak in the Olympic line-up. So much so, that it's hard to believe the mountain tops out at less than 7,000' in elevation. Make no mistake though, this is one heck of climb and an instant Northwest Classic. We highly recommend experiencing what we consider to be one of the best views in all of the Olympic Mountains. It's that good. Believe it.

The Brothers is divided by a minor saddle into the South Brother and North Brother, officially Edward and Arthur Fauntleroy, respectively. The South Brother is nearly 200' higher than the North, and its approach can be done as a basic mountaineering scramble for most of the year, thus making it increasingly more popular of a destination. Although the route we describe is well-traveled, please note that it is one of four major routes to the summit, and still requires mountaineering competency, the ability to assess snow conditions, and route-finding skills. Do not attempt this route unless you have these aforementioned skills. Safety first around here.

The trail begins at the popular Lena Lakes Trailhead. This well-pounded path heads north through lush forest on an easy grade along Lena Creek to Lena Lake at 3.0 miles. Shortly before reaching the lake, you'll encounter a signed fork in the trail. Head right to reach the lake and The Brothers trail beyond. (Left heads up to Upper Lena Lake).

The trail continues along the western shore of Lena Lake, passing several campsites, and finally reaching a signed junction at the north end of the lake, at just over 3.5 miles. Head left to continue up to The Brothers. The trail quickly narrows and enters The Brothers Wilderness. This beautiful stretch of trail parallels and crosses East Fork Lena Creek in a canyon area known as the Valley of the Silent Men. Fittingly so.

At about 6.0 miles and 3,000', reach The Brothers base camp, nestled alongside the river. This is a great place to set up camp or filter water. It's here that the maintained trail ends, and in just a half-mile beyond, the serious climbing begins. The route may be marked by ribbons as it almost immediately enters snowpack in early summer.

From base camp, the route heads northwest up a broad gully on an easy-to-miss boot path, finally climbing out of the trees at just over 4,000'. Ascending on a mix of snowpack and rock, the route turns north at 4,400' and it's all leg-burning and heart-pounding from here on out. (Depending on when you attempt the climb, you may be on snowpack nearly the whole way, so plan accordingly.)

At 5,200', the route goes east to attain a minor ridge. Climb to 5,600' and then head northwest to regain the chute. The section of chute here is steep and narrow, and informally known as The Hourglass. Use extreme caution.

Head northeast above the chute to avoid the western ridge. It's here, at 6,500', that you'll reach the crux of the climb. You'll likely be on rock at this point, and unless you have rope, you'll want to be watching out for a large crack (passage) in the rock on your right (east) side. If you're lucky, it may be marked by cairns. Although it does not initially appear so, it is the least technical and safest way to reach the summit. Continue on up the class 3-4 scramble to the summit. (Note: we highly recommend watching our video so you know what to look for.)

Once on the summit, you'll be treated to a magnificent 360-degree vista. Truly spectacular on a clear day, from this vantage you can see nearly every peak in the Olympic Range – including Mount Olympus – and Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, and Mount Rainier out west as well. The North Brother is, well, to the North, across the saddle about one-quarter-mile away. Technical gear is required to reach it from here. We suggest you kick back, soak up those views, and give yourself a little pat on the back for ticking this one off your list. Well done. Down-climb the way you came. Pay attention. Keep it safe.

Permits & Tips

Northwest Forest Pass required. A cash drop box is located at the Lena Lake Trailhead ($5/day). Toilets available at trailhead and Lena Lake. There is water and snow to filter, especially on the lower section of the route. This climb is best accessed late May through September. Trekking poles are advised prior to the snowpack; an ice axe is required thereafter. Other required gear: helmet, mountaineering boots (we switched from tennis shoes to boots at the snowpack), and, depending on quality of snowpack, crampons. Roping up is not typical, but we've seen it done. Also, be sure to bring plenty of layers as you will be gaining more than 6,000' of elevation en route, and the summit conditions change quickly.

This climb is manageable in a day, but we recommend making it an overnight. Camping is allowed at Lena Lake and at the climber's camp at 6.5 miles (3,000') on a first-come, first-served basis. No fees are required to camp. Check out the Forest Service website to learn more, or contact the Hood Canal Ranger District for more information. Leave no trace.

>>Google Directions

How to get there

From Seattle, take the Edmonds-Kingston ferry or drive around the peninsula to reach Highway 101.
Turn west onto N Hamma Hamma Road (30 miles north of Shelton or 33 miles south of the 104/101 junction) and drive for 8 miles to the Lena Lake parking and trailhead. The trailhead is on the right (north) side of the road.