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[TR] Mt. Constance- Finger Traverse 6/27/2006

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Climb: Mt. Constance-Finger Traverse


Date of Climb: 6/27/2006


Trip Report:

Anne, David and I loaded our bikes and gear into David's mini-van and caught the 6:30am ferry to Kingston. We parked at the Dosewallips Road wash-out and started riding and pushing our mountain bikes up the road. The three of us had decided to go light by taking minimal bivy gear and leaving behind the stoves. We reached the trailhead in a little over an hour and stashed out bikes in the woods and started up the steep trail.






There was no significant snow until above Lake Constance. We decided to camp in a flat area well up Avalanche Canyon. That night I was a bit colder than I would have liked and I did not sleep as well as I might have but it was worth the weight savings.






The next morning we were moving a little after 4:43am. There was a snow slope leading most of the way up the South Chute ending in snow patches and rocky outcroppings. We scrambled over the rocks and then followed a snow slope and descended into a moat in order to get to a favorable spot to scramble over the next wall of rocks. I had a scare when the snow at the edge of the moat collapsed under me and I fell back into the moat. Fortunately, I only fell a short distance onto snow and no harm was done. We eventually came to a simple scree slope leading to the notch and we were at the notch by 6am.






We traversed the snow slopes beneath the cliffs to approach the minor east-west buttress. Even with multiple route descriptions (or perhaps because of having multiple route descriptions) it was not entirely clear which scree gully to ascend. We finally picked one and we only knew that we had the right one when we saw an easy descent route on the other side. We then kicked steps across the steep snow and climbed fourth-class rock to reach the start of finger traverse.



Photo by David Johnson




I was expecting the finger traverse to be the difficult and scary crux of the climb. It was not. When I hear the name "finger traverse" I think of a 5.hard finger crack where you have to crank on your tendons to keep your fingers from pulling out. The finger traverse should be called the hand traverse. The feature at the top of the slab is more like a flake than a crack. It is a positive feature that you can grab comfortably with your entire hand. Even though footholds are sparse, it doesn't matter. The slab is not that steep and you can lean out and smear your feet on the slab. Because I did not know what to expect, I protected the short traverse with three nuts. Our 50M rope was long enough to belay the second climber tied to the middle and the third tied to the end (the middle person was belayed from both sides). On the return we discussed whether or not we would belay each other across. The finger traverse is exposed and we decided to play it safe but this time I only placed one piece of protection mid-way across.



Photo by David Johnson


After the finger traverse there was more scrambling and crossing snow slopes. The final uncertainty for route-finding came with trying to figure out which gully to take to get to the top of the summit ridge. The Climbers Guide to the Olympic Mountains says to take any one of several gullies. The gully that we picked appeared to dead-end in a difficult face. We down-climbed and picked another gully which worked. The scrambling was exposed but the rock tends to have plenty of good features for hands and feet.


Once we were on summit ridge, the terrain became much easier. We scrambled along the summit ridge and followed the ledge that corkscrews around the north side of the summit block to the top. We reached the summit by 10:20am, a little less than seven hours after we left camp.






We took our summit photos, ate our summit treats and then retraced our route.




As we approached the notch at the top of the south chute a big white goat wandered over to us and said that his name was Ghost and asked us if we had seen his buddy Eric. We told the goat that we had not but that we had found Eric's helpful Constance route description on the Internet.




On the far side of the notch we found an easier route than the route we used to ascend. David and Anne glissaded sections of the snow slopes.




We reached camp by about 1:30pm. After a brief rest and much hydration we packed up and started hiking back to the trailhead. The bicycle cruise back to the cars was glorious.


More pictures can be found here:




Gear Notes:

Pickets and crampons were not needed in the soft snow.


Approach Notes:

The trail was mostly snow-free to Lake Constance.

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I love that climb. Nice pic of the finger traverse section...that was almost totally covered with snow when did it.


Thanks for posting! thumbs_up.giffruit.gifyoda.gif

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Nice photos! That's a fun route.

The next morning we were moving a little after 4:43am.
I'm impressed with the precision of your timekeeping!

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Thanks for the fine TR. Usually don't see good shots of the E-W buttress, which can be a nightmare in foggy/cloudy conditions. I'm trying to picture the minor hang-up that forced you into the moat. Was that in the rock bands to the north of the upper chute? Thanks again for the great pics. thumbs_up.gif

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I'm trying to picture the minor hang-up that forced you into the moat. Was that in the rock bands to the north of the upper chute?


It is hard to describe but near the top of the snow slope the snow ended at a short rocky outcropping and the easiest way to get onto the rocks was to get into the moat on the side of the slope and follow the moat until it turned perpendicular to the fall line at the top of the slope.


We could have avoided this problem entirely. Going up the South Chute there were two parallel snow slopes separated by low rocky mounds. When we were hiking up Avalanche Canyon we turned right and headed up the more southern of the two snow slopes. If we had headed a little further north we could have taken the better of the two which was the one we used on the descent.

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Thanks for the great TR.


Did you need crampons anywhere?


My Olympic Mtns guide recommends crampons, but I think the temps would barely hit freezing at this time of year...

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