Forum Index > Trip Reports > Mount Constance - Finger Traverse / North Chute (9/16/2012)
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Gimpilator
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Joined: 12 Oct 2006
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Location: Edmonds, WA
Gimpilator
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PostWed Sep 19, 2012 9:46 am 
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I have been staring at Mount Constance from Edmonds for well over 20 years.  This mountain is one of my inspirations.  Greg, Dave and I started on the washed-out road last Saturday aiming to camp at Lake Constance.  Normally I would have biked the 3 miles of road, but Dave didn't have a bike so we all walked.

The Lake Constance trail is an amazing bit of engineering.  It rises 3350 feet in only 2 miles.  About half way up, it passes through a small basin where the creek has gone underground.  Above that, it weaves its way through a series of small cliff faces.  Many parts of the trail are solid class 3 with roots for handholds.

Lake Constance
Lake Constance
Dave At Camp
Dave At Camp
Greg At Camp
Greg At Camp

At the lake we set up camp and watched the fish jump for bugs.  I waited until 5pm before eating my Chipotle burrito.

Entrance To Avalanche Canyon
Entrance To Avalanche Canyon
Lake Constance Below
Lake Constance Below

The following morning we rose with the sun and climbed talus slopes into Avalanche Canyon.  This area is different than anywhere else I have seen in the Olympics.  With steep walls rising on both sides, and large rock pinnacles towing above, there is a sense of grandeur.

In The Canyon
In The Canyon
The Thumb
The Thumb

We passed by the South Chute and ascended loose talus up to the North Chute.  The South Chute route is full of horrible scree and is only pleasant on the descent.  On the other hand, the North Chute is steep and covered with rubble, alternating from class 2 to class 4 and back again.  More solid rock can be found on the right side where it is steeper.

Entering The North Chute
Entering The North Chute
Rubble In The North Chute
Rubble In The North Chute

At the top of the north chute we crossed a narrow ledge and joined the top of the south chute route where we went through a notch to a snowfield.  The snow was hard and icy so we used the moat for protection and followed it for some distance.  Beyond the snow, the summit ridge was visible.  We ascended loose slopes to ledges through downsloping slabs.  It's amazing how many ledges and cliffs there are on the upper mountain.

Above The North Chute
Above The North Chute
Nearing The Notch
Nearing The Notch
Looking At The High Traverse
Looking At The High Traverse
Summit Ridge And Summit Block
Summit Ridge And Summit Block

Greg was leading and he came to what looked like a bad spot.  We assured him that it was the correct way and he slowly edged his way around an exposed corner with an overhang.

"You'll die here", he said.
"What?" I asked, and laughed nervously.
"You'll die here, if you fall"
He said it again, with a weird tone in his voice, "You will die, if you fall here"

He was crossing the famous Finger Traverse, one of the most renowned route features in the Olympic Range.  I had invited him on this trip last minute.  He didn't get any time for research or mental preparation.  The first time I had seen footage of this spot I thought No F-ing Way, but now, years later, here I was.

Nearing The Finger Traverse
Nearing The Finger Traverse
The Finger Traverse
The Finger Traverse

It actually wasn't bad, yes very exposed, but sort of fun.  Foot placements were thin, but the handhold crack was wide open.  Dave came along behind me and then we had to drop down a ways.

Open Slope Below Summit Block
Open Slope Below Summit Block

We scrambled around to another loose slope and then ascended a diagonal ramp to the large open slope below the summit block.  Above the open slope we got back onto the rock and scrambled north until reaching the crest of a ridge adjacent to the summit block.  Strangely, there was a deep gap between the ridge crest and the prominent summit rock.

The Summit Above
The Summit Above
Nearing The Summit
Nearing The Summit

We followed the ridge crest around to the north where it connected with the summit rock and then explored the east side of the summit block to find the safest scramble route up.  On the summit I fulfilled a longstanding dream.  What an intense route!  This was definitely my favorite climb of the year.  For Dave and I, we had now stood together on the three highest peaks in the Olympics.  Pretty damn good for a guy in his 60's.

On The Summit
On The Summit
Inner Constance West Face
Inner Constance West Face

We reversed our route to the bottom of the diagonal ramp.  From there we descended rather than going back up to the Finger Traverse.  Dave said it would be faster to cross the Terrible Traverse.  Normally this snow slope was treacherous with cliffs below.  People have lost their lives there.  But this late in the season, the snow was melted back.  We crossed below the snow without any problems.  For some reason I was apprehensive about what we would find around the next corner.  It seemed like the unusual snowfield we had passed in the moat might be a problem for this lower route.  Sometimes I hate being right.

After following another series of ledges we came to the snowfield and it barred the way just as I had feared.  We scrambled down into the moat/gully adjacent to the snow and followed that up to where the snow made full contact with steep rock walls.  There was no safe way around it this time.  We had some choices.  We could try to cross the snow at a narrow point and get down onto a lower slope but this was not the standard route and it would likely dead-end.  We could use our crampons and ice axes to climb the 60 degree snow, but a mistake would be fatal.  While we were trying to decide, Greg got onto the rock and free climbed to a point above the snow.  For a guy without rock experience, he did it surprisingly fast.

Starting The Free Climb
Starting The Free Climb

Dave went next, using his ice tool on the snow on the left and climbing crappy rock on the right.  I climbed further to the right and then there was a difficult corner to get around with no footholds.  Some of this rock felt like 5.8.  The features were just small rounded bumps with depressions in between.  None of the moves I made felt very trustworthy, but we didn't want to spend over an hour backtracking to the Finger Traverse and then have to face the cliffy section of the trail in the dark with full packs.  After 30 feet of free climbing we got back to where the moat was open.

Below The South Chute
Below The South Chute

We scrambled back through the notch and then descended a very loose scree gully to some open slopes, way down on the east face.  From there we passed through a col to the top of the South Chute, and more screeing.  Back in Avalanche Canyon I felt glad to be alive after free climbing.  I believe sometimes in the mountains we are forced to make quick judgments and take some risks to avoid other hazards.

Back at camp we packed up quickly and hit the trail hoping to make it to the road before dark.  This we did accomplish.  We even made it most of the way to the washout before headlamps were necessary.

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Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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Bryan K
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Joined: 29 Sep 2005
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Bryan K
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PostWed Sep 19, 2012 4:30 pm 
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Awesome looking trip!!!! Nice job!!

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www.youtube.com/bkraai | www.flickr.com/photos/bkraai/sets/
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IanB
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Joined: 21 Jul 2010
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IanB
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PostWed Sep 19, 2012 8:02 pm 
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Sweet climb Mr. Gimp!   up.gif

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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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Ancient Ambler
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Ancient Ambler
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PostThu Sep 20, 2012 5:06 am 
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Awesome TR and photos.  Congratulations!
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cascadetraverser
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cascadetraverser
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PostThu Sep 20, 2012 7:41 am 
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Amazing climb!!  Heading up to Lake Constance this weekend and was thinking of climbing Constance.  I sure know what I am getting into should I attempt it.  Might just hang out in camp smile.gif  smile.gif Thanks
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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
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Location: Stuck in the middle
puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks
PostThu Sep 20, 2012 9:56 am 
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Gimpilator wrote:
Nearing The Finger Traverse
Nearing The Finger Traverse
The Finger Traverse
The Finger Traverse

These photos really capture that crux. I think it's great that neither of the two most prominent peaks (as a view) on the Olympic skyline are walk ups. As you say, we spend our lives getting glimpses of these, and it's very rewarding to summit them.

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Mid Fork Rocks flickr
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Magellan
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Joined: 26 Jul 2006
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Location: Inexorable descent
Magellan
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PostThu Sep 20, 2012 12:03 pm 
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Looks, uh, interesting... Glad you got up and down. Glad I was not there to get hung out on that 5.8.
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coho
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coho
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PostFri Sep 21, 2012 3:03 pm 
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Great climb, congrats.

Of the 3 other Constance reports and my own, that I've seen on nwhikers this summer. No one took the same exact route. That's pretty cool. A lot of variations on getting up there (and back).
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Greg K.
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Greg K.
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PostSun Sep 23, 2012 9:46 pm 
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Sweet Hike!  I had no idea what I was getting into after we left the lake but glad I was able to go.
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Matt Lemke
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Joined: 15 Jul 2010
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Matt Lemke
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PostSun Sep 23, 2012 10:30 pm 
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Very nice...are you still planning to do Silvertip this weekend? Were you thinking about something a little more technically challenging?

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EastKing
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EastKing
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PostMon Sep 24, 2012 10:19 am 
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Oh My!!!!  eek.gif  eek.gif  eek.gif Excellent TR and video from this peak!!!

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I am addicted to summits! I can't eat, drink or breath without them. Life without mountains would really suck.

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Timc
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Timc
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PostMon Sep 24, 2012 8:24 pm 
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Nice report my friendiq coho and I recently did it. Have you did Deception I would like to climb it soon.
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Mount Constance - Finger Traverse / North Chute (9/16/2012)
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