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David_Parker

TR: Misadventure N. Fork Tunnel Creek

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This was supposed to be my Warrior Cirque traverse. I think I was dillusional! My plan was to approach via N. Fork Tunnell Creek, ascend the Papoose and then start traversing the ridge over the Squaw, Brave, over both summits of Warrior and then over Cloudy Peak and out Alphabet ridge topping off with Infinity tower. It looked doable on the map. I got messed up from the begining because Friday night I approached 2.5 miles up S. fork Tunnel Creek and slept in the shelter. So Saturday began at 5:00 am by hiking 2.5 miles back to the car and finding the proper start. The forest service road shown on the Gazateer is abandoned, so it's a longer hike up the seldom used trail towards Charlia lakes. I expected slightly better trail because this is an alternative "approach" to Constance, but I don't think too many climb from this side ever. About 3 miles in I left the trail l and crossed the river and made the approach up NF Tunnel Ceek which reminded me a lot of my bushwack up Access Creek last year. There were very few signs of traffic in the area. Well it's way too rugged on that Warrior Arm and the notches between summits are gnarly, so after breaking out above tree line I ended up just climbing up snow fingers as much as possible and a final ridge scramble to Desperation Peak which is just above Crystal Pass. Nice view of Warrior, Inner Constance, West Ridge route of Constance and all the way down Avalanche Canyon to Lake Constance. I was carrying bivy gear, stove, 8 mil rope and a medium rack. I concluded that from my position the only realistic way out was back the way I came, so I headed down again. The schrund on the glacier?/snow slope was huge and I was not sure I could get across, but the far west end was a small enough gap that I could jump. My plan was to then just bivy when I got to the bottom of the open slopes before going back into the forest. But it was only 6:00 so I decided to keep going. I didn't relish the idea of sleeping in the forest with mosquitos so I kept going into the dark and I made it back to the car around 10:30pm and in my bed at midnight. This trip can be improved I think if you approach all the way to Charlia Lakes and start up Alphabet Ridge and go the reverse direction. Like I've always said though, the Olympics are not a range to be underestimated. It's very rugged and remote out there!

 

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David_Parker said:

This was supposed to be my Warrior Cirque traverse. I think I was dillusional! My plan was to approach via N. Fork Tunnell Creek, ascend the Papoose and then start traversing the ridge over the Squaw, Brave, over both summits of Warrior and then over Cloudy Peak and out Alphabet ridge topping off with Infinity tower. It looked doable on the map.

You're a maniac! That's still a burly walk up to Desperation Peak. So you ascended a snow finger to the NW of Desperation? Also, would you say this is a decent approach to Alphabet Ridge?

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Interesting report. I'll bet you didn't see many people. Is it difficult to follow the trail?

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I am a NATIVE MAINIAC since I was born in that state and lived there until I was 22. As to an approach to Alphabet ridge, I can't say. I left the "trail" where NF Tunnel creek splits again and where I presume it continues towards Charlia Lakes. The Robert Wood hikers guide describes it as an unimproved climbers path. It was not too difficult to follow to the point I went although it is not maintained so there were plenty of blowdowns to go around. Looking at the topo map, the trail must ascend fairly steeply for a ways to get to Charlia Lakes. In retrospect, I wish I had gone that way. In another trip, It could be fun good to set a base camp there and attempt to ascend directly from the lakes up onto alphabet ridge, knock off Infinity Tower and a few of the other "towers" and then maybe Warrior too. The more established approach of course is over marmot Pass from the Dungeness drainage and then Cloudy Peak.

 

From high in the NF Tunell creek drainage, the chute up to between Papoose and Squaw was mostly scree already. Another chute led up to between Warrior and the Brave. It was quite narrow at the top and had a schrund that was hard to tell if it was passable. In the Olympics, you have to take into consideration (lack of) rock quality when soloing! I have photos of all this stuff.

 

Ironically I did see a couple people from a distance and it was a little baffling. There is a major morraine between the Constance Glacier? and I just as I was getting to it I heard voices. 2-3 people were bushwacking down through slide alder just above the forest level. They did not have packs on! On the way in NF Tunnel Creek I occasionaly saw freshly cut tree branches or topped small trees. This must be a technique used to mark the return route vs. using orange tape. They did not see me, nor did I call out. Since there was another car at the trailhead the night before, I'm thinking they came in and had a camp somewhere, went for a day hike up towards Crystal Pass but stopped at the tarn well below and went back down which is when I saw them.

 

I would be interested in doing the approach the same way all the way to Charlia Lakes (bigger than Lake Constance) and seldom visited I'm sure and forging a way up onto Alphabet Ridge. If you gain the ridge, everything seems really straight forward from there. It's a pretty cool and remote section of the Olympics without a long car drive!

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David_Parker said: I have photos of all this stuff.

 

Post 'em in the gallery when you can, I'm sure I'm not the only one who would love to see. It's funny, I was guide gazing this winter and idly contemplating a similar outing in that drainage.

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Let me know if you head in there again Dave it sounds cool. w

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