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sambataro

[TR] Mt. Constance - North Chute/Terrible Traverse (1A) 1/11/2015

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Trip: Mt. Constance - North Chute/Terrible Traverse (1A)

 

Date: 1/11/2015

 

Trip Report:

Adding my trip report for our January climb of Mt. Constance, since I couldn't find anything online for a winter climb.

 

Having grown up in Edmonds, the skyline of Mt. Constance across the Puget Sound is embedded in my brain. I especially love the view of its snow-cloaked ridgeline on a crisp winter day, just beckoning to be climbed. My last climb in the Olympics was a winter solo of the South Brother in 2006 so I was long overdue. My longtime friend and climbing partner Kyle "Engine" was in town from Chicago and had 3 days to climb, looking to train for an upcoming AK trip. On our last WA climbing trip together in 2008, we lucked out with a week of perfect summer weather, climbing Colchuck Balanced Rock, Mt. Stuart's Girth Pillar, and Thin Red Line on Liberty Bell (aid). I recruited Laurel "Machine", who is always up for an alpine adventure. Maybe it was the forecast, but we had no other takers. I for one take my alpine suffering medicine in smaller doses these days, preferring clean granite lines at Index, Washington Pass, or the Enchantments.

 

I warned Kyle that favorable winter alpine conditions in the Northwest are a complicated concoction of ingredients, requiring the right timing and proportions to get it right. Sadly for our skiing and snowpack, recent snow was followed by skyrocketing freezing levels and rain up high Sunday January 4th. Avalanches released throughout the Cascades and Olympics, but then settled down as the snow firmed up with freezing level down to 4,000 ft by Saturday January 10th. But we didn't have a clear weather window with light snow forecasted.

 

Regardless, we decided to give Mt. Constance a go on Sunday. The three of us left Seattle at 3:00AM and pulled up to the Dosewallips Road washout around 5:30AM. We started the long 5-mile march down the road, only to accidentally pass the unmarked trailhead in the dark by a mile. I marked the Lake Constance trailhead on my Inreach satellite messenger/GPS, but the tree cover prevented a clear signal.

 

PhotobyKyleStory_2_.JPG

 

7 miles later, we started up the actual trail, which was strung with downed trees for nearly a mile. We were sure glad we weren't carrying skis! The old growth giants, house-sized boulders, and silent morning made the area feel like a true Wilderness. We didn't see a spec of snow until the lake at 4,700 ft. It felt more like summer, hopping boulders in the scree.

 

PhotobyJoeSambataro_3_.JPG

 

We finally reached more consistent snow at 5,500 ft. While Kyle and Laurel started cruising up the North Chute (1A/Mountaineer Route) in perfect neve snow, I felt my legs burning. Originally thinking a turn around time between 2:00 and 3:00PM, we decided to toss that in the garbage bin, giving the amount of effort it took to get back this far in the winter. Two days would make a more reasonable slot of time for a Constance winter attempt. At the top of the chute, we wandered our way around buttresses and snow gullies in rolling clouds of snow across the "Terrible Traverse". We climbed a short ice step only to realize we started up to the skyline too early. The clock ticked down towards sunset.

 

PhotobyKyleStory_3_.JPG

 

PhotobyJoeSambataro_1_.JPG

 

An incredible mini-corkscrew ridge led to the summit. Nearby mountains and foothills peaked through the clouds and I could even see crevasses on the north side of Crystal Pass between Constance and Warrior Peak, adding a greater sense of remoteness as we climbed the last couple steps to the 7,743 ft tall summit. 4:15PM. After a short stay, we down-traversed back to the notch just before dark. The chute proved easy enough to downclimb backwards, yet slow. The path down was straightforward enough with headlamps. Once back to the road, we started our delirious trudge back to the car, relieving our barking feet and knees at 12:45AM. 20+ miles and 8,000 ft of gain was more then enough for a day trip.

 

PhotobyKyleStory_1_.JPG

 

PhotobyJoeSambataro_2_.JPG

 

 

We carried a rope and small rack, but they stayed in our packs. While the exposure wasn't negligible, the climbing stayed third class. We did encounter some snow, but we never got rained on. Best of all, the Olympics were silent with very little to no wind on the climb.

 

Gear Notes:

One ice tool, helmet, and crampons. Rack and rope carried along for training weight but never left our packs.

 

Approach Notes:

Park at the end of Dosewallips Road and hike 5 miles to the trailhead, which is currently unmarked but just across Constance Creek. The main 2002 wash out is about 3.7 miles from the trailhead but a new wash out means you have to hike further now.

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That is a monster undertaking on a short winter day, well done!

 

Meanwhile, I was in the Tacoma Dome, watching monster trucks with my boys.....

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Great work! I've done that hike out in the dark too and it kinda sucks. It's fun when you hit the mountain in conditions though! I need to get back in there.

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I'll say it again Joe: You're a glutton for punishment. Looks like a fun outing in a type 2 kind of way.

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beyond spectacular! On this list for this spring but that's just something to get after it this time of year.

 

late night getting back to the car delirium can almost be fun, after a few days have passed..

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On this list for this spring but that's just something to get after it this time of year.

 

Now that you mention it, it looks a lot like the conditions I had on an early May climb of route 1A several years ago. Perfect neve!

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Thanks for having the crazy idea and inviting me along! Here's to going out and taking a look even if conditions probably suck, to tossing turnaround times in the garbage bin, and 3am (the most alpine of times).

 

Here is a photo of Joe (who did not get the garishly colored jacket photography memo) in one of the class 3 rock/snice chimneys:

 

16251007736_174635bd4a_n.jpg

Snow traces the ways through the rocks by Laurel Fan, on Flickr

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Having done this before in spring (but with spending the night at the lake and sleeping in), to do it on a shorter winter day...all I can say is impressive. Such a beautiful area, especially after you hit the lake. I've always wanted to go to the left and up after the lake and check out where that plane crashed.

 

Congrats on the climb and endurance to pull that off! You've got to have some fitness, that trail up is fun!

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