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Ian Lauder

[TR] Mount Constance - South Chute & Finger Traverse & FT Bypass 08/03/2019

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Posted (edited)

Trip: Mount Constance - South Chute & Finger Traverse & FT Bypass

Trip Date: 08/03/2019

Trip Report:

 

SummitPost wasn't kidding saying Mt Constance is one of the most challenging peaks to climb in the Olympics. Its the peak seen from Seattle that has the biggest prominence on the horizon.

We did a "Leisurely" 3-day trip (24 miles & 9400ft gain) to climb Mount Constance in the Olympics. We figured it would be a 20+ hours of hiking and climbing and pushing bikes up the approach would only make the hot day hike in harder only to shave maybe an hour off the whole thing. In the end we were just fine having not brought bikes.  Its a quick enough and easy hike out they really aren't needed. That said the rangers did warn us if we were taking bikes to hide them as people even 5 miles in will strip bikes of parts and just leave the locked frame behind. 

After picking up our permit we did the 8 mile hike and 3rd class tree root scramble on Friday to get to Lake Constance in 5 1/2 hrs. Maybe a bit slower than usual but it was hot and humid so we took our time since we really weren't in a hurry.  Great campsite right at the lakes edge and not a bug to be seen.

6am start on Saturday, returned to camp 6pm. 6.5 hours up and 5.5 hours return. Great to not feel rushed trying to pack it into 2-day or even car to car. This would be a 20+ hour day trying to do it in a day and with it mostly melted out its a huge amount of boulder, scree and loose rock scrambling which would probably added some hours vs if it had been more snow covered.

Did the Finger Traverse Bypass route on the way up which was some interesting navigation around a hidden ledge and chimney system around the backside of that block of rock. If you find two tiny rock bivy site rings near the start of the Finger Traverse you are pretty close to finding the drop down to a ledge that looks like it cliffs out, but if you work your way down a narrow 10ft chimney you almost have to wedge yourself into it drops onto another ledge that works its way around and spits you out on the other side of the Finger Traverse.

No running water on the route once we left the camp but were able to refill water bottles from snow patches along the way and wound up with plenty of water.

On the way back we soloed the first half of the Finger Traverse then broke out the rope to lead around the corner considering its a literal finger traverse with not much in the way of foot holds if you are short with a monster runout over a cliff.  You can setup a belay about halfway across in a nice alcove with a boulder to sling.   Then sling a horn on the way over, place a #1 cam, then around the tricky corner there is an easy to miss rusty piton as you angle back up to where you can setup a multi-point gear anchor.

A solo climber we passed planning on doing the route in a day on our way out was planning on soling across the Finger Traverse but wound up turning back once he saw how exposed it was. We also saw a pair on our way out around 8:30am still an hour from the lake who were carrying light day packs planning on doing the route in a day but they were hours behind where they should have been to get out of the technical terrain before dark.

If you like scree surfing coming down was a fun run down 3 long scree fields.

I wouldn't want to do this route in wet conditions. We had great weather and everything was dry.

I think this one set the bar for the most amount of scree, loose rock and boulder hopping we've ever done in a day. And a lot of twists and turns navigating a complex route. While it wasn't high on the technical scale its a beast stringing the whole thing together. Over 20hrs moving time between the climb and hikes in and out.

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Gear Notes:
ice axe, crampons, light alpine rack (#1 and a couple smaller cams & a few nuts), 40m rope (the one that used to be 60m before a snaffulhound on Mt Cruiser chewed through it...)

Approach Notes:
boulders, scree, more scree, boulders, scree, little bit of snow patch, more scree.... don't under estimate the amount of scree, loose rock scrambling and boulder hopping once its melted out.

Edited by Ian Lauder
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It's a classic for sure, and certainly in the ass-kicking department!  As you've probably surmised,  in the early summer a lot of that loose rock is covered in snow.  Of course, if steep snow isn't very enjoyable, that could be worse than scree, depending on your preferences.  Any way you cut it, you won't forget the trip!

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My daughter and I were the pair that you met on Sunday on your way down. All day in approach shoes, no ice axe or crampons, I had a 30 meter rando rope which we did not have to use.

We left Olympia at 4:20 am, a little before 6 am we started up the road, we had bikes. At 7:15 started up the trail, at 9 am at the lake. We went up the North Chute, continuing with the Finger Traverse, on the summit at 1 pm, we spent an hour there.

On the way down we took the Terrible Traverse. We could easily avoid the snow just below it and then climbing up the little buttress on the left. We had to go on snow to the notch in the east-west ridge but by that time in the afternoon, with eastern exposure,  it had softened enough for comfortable step kicking. Then down on the South Chute.

Back at the lake at 4:30 pm, down to the road at 6:05 pm, at the car at 7 pm and back home at 8:35 pm.

We didn't see anybody else the whole day which was a very good thing.  I believe now that the road closure and the access "trail" are critical for that mountain, to keep people away. For much of the route, being there with teams above you, would be suicidal!

 

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Mihai Iancu said:

My daughter and I were the pair that you met on Sunday on your way down. All day in approach shoes, no ice axe or crampons, I had a 30 meter rando rope which we did not have to use.

We left Olympia at 4:20 am, a little before 6 am we started up the road, we had bikes. At 7:15 started up the trail, at 9 am at the lake. We went up the North Chute, continuing with the Finger Traverse, on the summit at 1 pm, we spent an hour there.

On the way down we took the Terrible Traverse. We could easily avoid the snow just below it and then climbing up the little buttress on the left. We had to go on snow to the notch in the east-west ridge but by that time in the afternoon, with eastern exposure,  it had softened enough for comfortable step kicking. Then down on the South Chute.

Back at the lake at 4:30 pm, down to the road at 6:05 pm, at the car at 7 pm and back home at 8:35 pm.

We didn't see anybody else the whole day which was a very good thing.  I believe now that the road closure and the access "trail" are critical for that mountain, to keep people away. For much of the route, being there with teams above you, would be suicidal!

 

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Damn, you two are fast then, we knew we were only going camp to camp that day so didn't rush.  One of the guys with us remembered your daughter from the basic climbing course and didn't think you two would be fast enough to get back down before dark from what he remembered, that and another guy we passed hours ahead (the day before) going solo had turned back.  Too bad we didn't talk longer and get names, my wife you passed by is Romanian - she's just been looking up some of you past climbing. Yea, you kicked our butts :)   Interesting you didn't pass anyone else because 2 other guys headed up that way from the lake around 7:30 (maybe 1.5hrs ahead of you) we figured they were on their way up as well, perhaps they took a different route.  Definitely a place I wouldn't want anyone above or below us in many places.

Edited by Ian Lauder

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8 hours ago, Ian Lauder said:

didn't think you two would be fast enough to get back down before dark

:lmao: Classic rival faction gossip

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10 minutes ago, JasonG said:

:lmao: Classic rival faction gossip

Nah, just expressing some concern that they would get back okay without knowing enough about them.

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Nice! I prefer it earlier in season when its more snow slog and then a glissade on the way back.

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