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JasonG

[TR] Mount Constance - West Arete 5/31/2015

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Trip: Mount Constance - West Arete

 

Date: 5/31/2015

 

Trip Report:

The Olympics aren't known for their alpine rock routes, and the south corner on Cruiser and the west arete of Constance invariably come up on the (very) short list of "good" rock routes. Like the route on Cruiser, the west arete is described as worth doing by most TRs, and so I put it on my list many years ago. Convincing others that it was a worthy objective, however, wasn't completely easy, and I didn't end up making an attempt until last weekend. If you ask enough people, eventually you'll get a taker and Kit bit. Maybe it was my offer to drive the Civic with his bike strapped to the roof, sans rack. Or, maybe it was the chance to spend some quality time listening to Diamond Dave. Whatever the reason, we found ourselves pedaling up the Dose road sweating under overnight climbing packs last Saturday en route to Constance lake. The lake, and its hungry Brookies was reached in due time, with plenty of daylight left to soak the feet, savor the whiskey, and chat with Jefferson County SAR folks who were heading up the South Chute the next day. One of the guys had climbed the west arete the year prior and warned of loose rock and the need to place the belays in protected alcoves. Hmmmmmmmmm.

 

We awoke the next morning to the sound of the SAR folks walking by and decided we better get up and on with it. I think it took us about 2 hours to reach Crystal pass, where we geared up and scrambled upwards until faced with the first steep wall of the route. We then belayed 2-3 fifth class wandering pitches on mostly solid rock, feeling that simul-climbing would be too risky for the second. After these initial pitches, the ridge backed off a bit and we unroped and scrambled until a short tricky bit around some gendarmes had us break the rope out again. This was shortly before the final steep wall, that looked a lot harder than 5.4 from afar. Thankfully, the way upwards was somewhat obvious once you started up, with pitons here and there to let you know you were on the right track. Again, while not terribly hard, the loose rock and run out nature of the climbing meant that we did fixed belays in this section- about three 30-40m pitches.

 

At the top of the final steep bit, the ridge backs off for good, and a bit of snow and scrambling intersects with the finger traverse route on the ridge crest. The summit looked close, but we found out that the route to it isn't very fast. Lots of loose, exposed third class, traversing gullies and ribs until a final easy meander around the summit block that leads to an exposed and trickier than expected finish. High clouds marred the light for photos, but the views were expansive- Baker to St. Helens, the Puget Sound, and all in between. A great day to have a prominent summit all to ourselves!

 

But wait a second, where were the SAR folks? We had been expecting to use their tracks to get us across the still snow covered "terrible traverse", and now we realized that we were going to have to feel it out on our own. I had been up Constance before, but it was in winter conditions and I had gone up and down the North chute, the south chute would be new. Kit had never been on the mountain before, and was depending on me to get us back to camp and the cars in good time. Though it was early afternoon I had a feeling that we were in for a long descent and we both texted our wives that we would be out late. This was a good thing, since I made several errors on the way down to the south chute, getting us into camp at 6:45pm and the cars at 10:30pm! I even managed to fully crash my bike on the dark ride out the road, though I didn't hurt myself or the bike too badly. Unfortunately, we had missed the last ferry from Kingston and had to drive around through Olympia, not getting home until after 2am. Getting up for work the next day may have been the crux.

 

Constance is an impressively rugged peak, I think I underestimated her!

 

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Gear Notes:

Bike for the road. Medium rack to 2", ice axe, helmet.

 

Approach Notes:

Lake Constance trail.

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Nice TR and thanks for the pics, there's a lot more snow up on top than I expected. Did you enjoy the slowly darkening skies that day?

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Thanks. Yeah, that was weird. We even got rained on for about a half hour. Thankfully it wasn't a soaking rain.

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Nice work. I've been eying that climb for a bit now. ... Occasional trail runs around the various trails and scrambles of the Constance massif. Sniffing it out. It IS a big mountain with unexpected surprises all over the place. Thanks for the beta and the stoke!

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Really not a lot of snow up there, thanks for the photos! That scree in the south chute is definitely some fun stuff. I think driving across the narrows bridge to Tacoma is a tad quicker if you are in the Seattle area, for people who don't want to pay for or miss the Kingston ferry.

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Amazing photos as always. The Olympics are cool. Thanks for the inspiration, I'm adding it to my to-do list short list!

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Wow, great tr! Takes me back to the heyday when David and I did this route ('04?). We had the place-to-ourselves except for the osprey diving for dinner in front of our wide eyes, and the goat that got in between us on the first pitch. What an adventure!!

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You know @wayne, you were mainly the reason I had it on my list!  I seem to remember you talking it up many years ago and it lodged in my brain.  Glad the TR brought back some memories.

Glad to have helped add some info to the interwebs @joe_catellani @willithewanderer

  • Rawk on! 1

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good memories for doing this myself long ago. weird how a good picture can put you right back in a time and place.

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