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Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - Mount Constance/South Chute

Successful Mount Constance climb via South Chute.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Initial plan was to climb West Arete and down climb South Chute route but while planning the trip, reading various beta sources and discussing with climbers who went up there before, concluded that as long as none of us climbed the South route before (with known navigation challenges), it would be wise to do the South route first, familiarize with it and push out West Arete-South Route combination  for a future climbing season.

    The climbing route is melted out and had to deal with endless scree slopes requiring high comfort level climbing / plunging steps / surfing chossy terrain while mitigating the rock fall danger. We only encountered short snow sections from the  east-west notch (~ 100 ft snow finger we down climbed with crampons and ice ax on our way up and then scrambled up in the moat without crampons in the afternoon on our way back)  and crossed another snow field right before the north side of the  peak).  

    We did the Finger Traverse Bypass (FTB)  on our way up and the protected Finger Traverse (FT) on our way back in the afternoon.

Party of four hiked (without bikes) the 5 miles  of the washed out Dosewallips river road to the actual Lake Constance TH. We didn't miss carrying and pushing bikes while carrying overnight packs.

The early stretches of the trail to Lake Constance (~800 ft) were steep (Mailbox old trail grade) and led us through  the old burn  while forcing us to  do lots of mantling and hoping  over downed logs. The next section was  less steep (Mount Si grade) but still requiring full body workout in places to get under/over various fallen trees. The  upper section of the trail (the last 600 ft below the lake)  is the one requiring scrambling skills  in some sections . Fun moves  given the dry conditions we encountered but I can see  some of those  being treacherous   in wet conditions.

We camped for two nights (Friday, Saturday) on the North side of the lake, close to the climbers trail up Avalanche Canyon. Beautiful and quiet spot.

On Saturday am we headed up Avalanche Canyon and the South Chute, while scrambling scree slopes and gaining  1900 ft to get to the top of the Chute / notch. It took us longer than expected (2.5 hours) due to  very chossy conditions and high rock fall danger. We were not looking forward to this section for our way down in the afternoon but it proved to be easier than expected, after we found scree steps plunging / surfing opportunities  and  down climbed  the 1900 ft in one hour.

From the top of the South Chute, the route goes down on scree, around a buttress, then back up on more scree to gain the east-west ridge notch. From the notch, we downclimbed the steep snow finger (~100 ft)  and then climbed back up on the ridge to find the FTB  which descends on the west side of ridge , down a small class 3 exposed chimney some of us down climbed after lowering packs. 

From there, we crossed more chossy terrain and headed up to a visible ledge, under a greenish wall which looks impossible from afar but it proved to be large enough to be scrambled. Then  we headed all the way to north side of the the peak and scrambled up to the base ofthe summit block.  A few class 3-4 moves are required for the summit. We climbed without pulling out the rope but some of us decided to setup a quick short 20 ft rappel on our way down from the summit block .

On our way back, we did stick with the plan and did the FT instead of FTB. All of us soloed its first half and then we had one of us leading the second half  and fixing a line for the other 3 climbers. The lead was able to sling one horn, place a #1 cam and missed a hidden old but solid piton which would protect the crux move at the end the traverse but safely made it around the corner where a multi-cam point anchor was built  (0.4, 0.5, 0.75 worked ok). As a second, I noticed the piton after I  passed it and decided to attach a sling to protect the very last person who would clean the route. It worked well. Definitely a no mistake traverse  and probably way easier in climbing or approach shoes. All of us climbed it in boots.

The rest of the down climb was uneventful and we made it back at the camp  under slightly less than 12 hours, happy and relieved we  made it through the endless scree slopes without any injuries. We had a relaxing dinner / night, slept in on Sunday and hiked out in exactly 4 hours from the camp (without bikes aid).

Complex route and snow free conditions definitely increased its difficulty , placing it at the border line between a high end basic climb and intermediate.  Thanks to Tom's party  GPX track from a few years ago and great beta sources existent out there, we had no navigation issues. Would probably go back some day for the West Arete-South Chute combination  but earlier in the season, when some of the slopes are still covered in snow. 


5:40 h car to Lake Constance camp (including 2 h on the washed out road and 40 minutes lunch break)

6:30 h camp to summit

20 minutes on the summit, 20 minutes lunch break at the base of the summit block

~ 5 h down climb to the camp

4 h camp to car

24 miles RT and ~9400 ft total elevation gain