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awilsondc
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awilsondc
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PostSat Sep 07, 2019 6:15 pm 
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I've wanted to climb Mount Constance for some time, and it felt like the right time to get it done.  I had always wanted to go up from Tunnel Creek since it's a bit more direct and a bit more of a lesser traveled route, more of an adventure.  It was a dawn to dusk affair with complete solitude.  I ran across the wreckage of a wwII plane, had some route finding difficulty that greatly set me back, and hiked through loads and loads of choss.  In a departure from my normal photography, I left the big camera home and went light with only my cell phone.

I arrived to a completely empty Tunnel Creek trailhead around 6am and was on the trail in earnest by 6:15.  I had my headlight on for about five minutes before turning it off and putting it away.  I've been on this trail several times and it is a lovely easy warm up the first 3 miles to the shelter and foot bridge.  Where the trail to the footbridge turns left, the trail up to the basin and Cunningham Pass heads straight off into the brush.  The trail is becoming heavily traveled and has been thoroughly flagged ala the Bedal Peak trail, making it super easy to follow.  This was much appreciated and quite a surprise compared to my 2008 trip up the same path which was a pure bushwhack with very little signs of human travel.  At the first expansive boulder field, look up and to the left for the next flags, otherwise route finding is pretty easy due to the flagging.  Soon I emerged into the final basin.  Cunningham pass is a hard right due north at the end of the basin, pretty obvious the closer you get.  It's a choss fest, but there is firm footing on the far left.

Tunnel Creek Trail
Tunnel Creek Trail
Forest
Forest
Illuminated tree tops
Illuminated tree tops
Suns coming out
Suns coming out
Sun light breaks through
Sun light breaks through
Winding trail
Winding trail
Mushrooms
Mushrooms
Getting close to the shelter
Getting close to the shelter
Fungus
Fungus
Trail
Trail
Roots
Roots
Shroom tops
Shroom tops
Shroom bottoms
Shroom bottoms
Tunnel Creek meets the trail - last water for the trip
Tunnel Creek meets the trail - last water for the trip
Illuminated
Illuminated
Morning in the forest
Morning in the forest
Shadow and light
Shadow and light
April Peak
April Peak
Gendarme at the end of the valley
Gendarme at the end of the valley
End of the valley
End of the valley
Looking up at Cunningham Pass
Looking up at Cunningham Pass

Once at the pass you have to drop down to into the valley to get around some cliffs.  There are not one, but two sets of cliffs you have to get around.  I didn't know this.  I had a GPS track of the standard route and I aimed to connect to it right at the south chute.  I dropped down to ~6000 ft and headed in that direction when I ran across some scrap metal.  I figured it must have been from the plane crash I had heard about.  I continued a bit further and ran right into the wreckage of the Douglas B-18 Bolo wwII bomber that crashed here in 1941.  It was a fun surprise and cool to poke through the remnants of the crash.  I was surprised how thin the sheet metal was.  I that all there was to the plane?  The walls of the bomber must have been so thin, it didn't seem right.  Cool piece of history though, RIP soldiers.

First scraps
First scraps
?
?
Prop
Prop
Scattered wreckage
Scattered wreckage
Prop
Prop
nose?
nose?
landing gear?
landing gear?
?
?

After exploring the wreckage I made a left turn and started ascending a sharp V shaped gully, intending to meet up with the south chute from the due south.  I ascended close to 700 feet of loose choss only to reach a tiny saddle at ~6600 ft with sheer cliffs on both sides and another steep choss gully on the other side.  What?!  I thought I'd be able to pop around a rib and meet up with the standard route which was about 200 feet away on the other side of the wall.  There was definitely no way across that isn't class 5.  Reluctantly I started to head down, looking for a way to get over the wall of cliffs.  I followed a ledge that looked like it might wrap around, but it was a dead end.  I headed down further and tried another ledge that looked like it would go.  This one terminated in a skinny 4th class gully that looked like it might go, but half way up I decided it wasn't worth the risk to find out.  Looking down hill I could see the end of the cliffs way down there.  I had already wasted about 90 minutes and tried to figure out if I'd have enough time to get back before dark.  I set a firm turn around time of 3pm, but figured I could make it by 2pm I pushed it a bit and things went well from here.  Plan in place I took my medicine and descended to ~5600 ft, costing me close to 2 hours in time and losing about 1000 ft of elevation that I'd have to make up due to my mistake.  Once around the cliffs I could tell I was finally on the right route.

The key here is, from Cunningham Pass you have to drop down to ~5600 ft (about to the second permanent snowfield on the topo) to get around both sets of cliffs.  Once around the cliffs you ascend almost due west to meet up with the standard route shortly after it leaves the south chute.

This is the wrong gully, don't ascend
This is the wrong gully, don't ascend
Looking back down the wrong gully went up.
Looking back down the wrong gully went up.
Finally around the cliffs looking back at Cunningham Pass
Finally around the cliffs looking back at Cunningham Pass
choss - 1000 ft of this to meet up with the standard route
choss - 1000 ft of this to meet up with the standard route
Crack flowers
Crack flowers
Where the route (I came up left of center) meets up with the standard south chute (off screen right of center)
Where the route (I came up left of center) meets up with the standard south chute (off screen right of center)
First scramble section
First scramble section
rugged!
rugged!
ledge
ledge
Summit ahead
Summit ahead

I ascended about 1000 ft of loose choss to meet up with the standard route.  Mostly solid footing was available with careful route finding, but it's a horrible loose chossy 1000 ft.  Not fun.  The route from here was not that hard to follow.  There are obvious signs of human travel and a few cairns here and there.  I had a GPS track to consult, but didn't need it much.  Still, this is a complicated route and it would be easy to get yourself into trouble if you are careless.  I took the finger traverse bypass which had a more challenging than expected down climb of a chimney, unless I missed an easier route to the left.  Whatever, it went.  The summit block was also a bit more challenging than expected class 4, unless I missed an easier route.  Most of the route up was type 2 fun.  Lots of, why am I doing this, and thoughts about turning back, but the satisfaction really kicked in at the summit block.  By 2:10 I was on the summit!  It felt great to finally summit a significant peak that I've thought about for years!  The summit views were bad.  Overcast skies and washed out views, surrounded by a sea of featureless brown piles of choss.  Very boring IMO, but I didn't care.  I also didn't stay long.  I stayed 15-20 minutes, just enough time to eat a sandwich.  It was windy and cold and the views sucked and I was happy to leave.  hahaha.

summit 1
summit 1
summit 2
summit 2
summit 3
summit 3
summit 4
summit 4

I re-traced my route back to where my route would split with the standard route.  Things started getting good here.  The thing about choss is that while it sucks going up, it can be fun going down!  I was able to find great plunge stepping lines the whole 1000 ft down to the base of the cliffs.  I had to stop twice and once at the bottom to empty out my shoes when the rocks in them became too painful.  To ascend back to Cunningham Pass I picked a line up a vegetated ridge which had great solid footing that got me back to 6000 ft.  I poked around in the wreckage once more, then stuck to boulders back up to the pass.  Most of the day was overcast, but as I neared the pass sun started lighting up some of the surrounding cliff faces.  It was nice.

Looking back up towards the pass
Looking back up towards the pass
fuselage
fuselage
misc parts
misc parts
Cunningham Pass
Cunningham Pass
Nearing the pass
Nearing the pass
flowers
flowers
Constance from Cunningham Pass
Constance from Cunningham Pass
Evening light on Constance
Evening light on Constance

The route back down from Cunningham Pass was the best part of the trip.  Heavenly soft plunge stepping (avoiding disturbing the vegetation when possible) for about 800 feet with a sun illuminated April peak to gaze upon as I coasted down the hill.  It was a very enjoyable 20 minutes or so.  From there I just followed the flagging back to the trail and meandered back to my car and a still empty trailhead, reaching it right around sunset ~7:45.  I had the entire countryside to myself.  I encountered 0 people and saw 0 cars at the trailhead, a first for me that I can remember.  That was kinda cool.

Last look at Constance
Last look at Constance
Descending from Cunningham Pass
Descending from Cunningham Pass
Evening light on April Peak
Evening light on April Peak
Good night April
Good night April
Tunnel Creek
Tunnel Creek

It took me 13.5 hours c2c although it should have been sub 12 without my route finding trouble.  My GPS recorded 16.3 miles and 11k gain.  The 11k gain part is total BS.  At Cunningham Pass on the way back it said 9500 and it was at 11,000 when I got back to the car.  No way in hell I gained 1500ft on the way down.  I'd guess it was ~8k for me, 7k if you stay on route.

Route
Route
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Hesman
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PostSat Sep 07, 2019 9:50 pm 
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Nice!

Many many moons ago my dad and I decided we would climb Constance as a warmup for climbing Mt. Adams. We did it from the Lake Constance/Avalanche Canyon side. The weather was not the greatest and by the time we had reached the Fingertip Traverse, it was snowing huge snow flakes that made for rather poor visibility. Since we couldn’t see where we going, we called it quits at the Fingertip Traverse and headed back to Lake Constance and our tent. The kicker was that once we had returned to Lake Constance, there wasn’t a cloud in sight: it was all blue sky and sun. I have never been back to Mt. Constance since then, having never been to the summit. Though I did pass through the area from Lake Constance to the Dungeness Trail about 11 years ago.

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IanB
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PostSun Sep 08, 2019 7:43 am 
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Fantastic trip - thank you for sharing!  And great photos too - amazing at the pace you must have kept!   up.gif    up.gif

Would love to return to Constance someday via this route...

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"Forget gaining a little knowledge about a lot and strive to learn a lot about a little."    - Harvey Manning
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meck
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meck
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PostSun Sep 08, 2019 7:56 am 
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Very cool!  Thanks for explaining the route up w.r.t. which chute to take and the pictures.  Nice to hear that it could be done in a day from that side.  There's nothing quite like knowing (or at least feeling) you're the only one out there!

Where does the route go from the "Summit Ahead" photo?

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awilsondc
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awilsondc
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PostSun Sep 08, 2019 8:34 am 
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meck wrote:
Where does the route go from the "Summit Ahead" photo?

My GPS track showed a route straight up the middle.  That didn't look good to me.  They went in early June so maybe there was snow?  I knew from research that a route went around the ledge below the green rocks bottom right so that's what I took and it was just fine.  All the ledges look super sketchy in pictures and from afar, but are sidewalk wide and pretty comfortable once you are on them.
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Gimpilator
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PostSun Sep 08, 2019 8:58 am 
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What a neat way to complete a very route-challenging peak.  Have never heard of this variation.  I was excited to get that photo from you while you were up there.  smile.gif

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ozzy
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ozzy
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PostSun Sep 08, 2019 6:35 pm 
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Nice f### route man!! Never really heard of this approach. Thanks for the Intel and sweet tr like usual! Cheers man! cheers.gif

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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Mount Constance via Tunnel Creek and Cunningham Pass 9/5/19
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