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Author Topic: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater  (Read 6156 times)
hedonaut
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21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« on: 04/23/17, 04:33 PM »

After 5 years (and a week) of dreaming and scheming, finally skied this new 3,000'+ line with Tim H.  Highly recommended.  [Tim's photo, my scribbles.]



Among the many things I love about ski alpinism is the problem-solving, and the forced patience while waiting for conditions.  Wanted to attempt the line during a window one week earlier, but the forecast warned (warmed) me away.

We made use of a one-day window to blast this.  Ideally, lines on this aspect would be skied by approaching day 1, and then summiting early a.m. in order to ski in the morning corn conditions--something you could still do this season, if we catch a weather break.  Plus if you bivy, you could knock down both this line and the one I skied five years ago, which would comprise a fantastic couple days in an incomparable setting.

Also found an arguably better approach than the miserable (or maybe just comparatively inefficient, but I found it miserable at night) N Fork of Tunnel Creek. The better route takes the S Fork of Tunnel Cr, then climbs up and over the divide between the two forks.  Here's the approx route (don't click if you prefer to find your own adventure):
http://www.hillmap.com/m/ag1zfmhpbGxtYXAtaGRychULEghTYXZlZE1hcBiAgICovtG9CAw
You do gain an extra 1000' or so this way, but in my opinion this is a more than fair trade-off versus the dense forest wandering of the N Fork approach.

After racking at the trail-head a bit before midnight, we got moving a bit before 5a.  We reckoned that we'd benefit from a little navigational light once we left the trail in approx 2 mi., so aimed to be at the trail-leaving shoes-to-boots transition at first twilight (5:40a-ish).  This worked well, and after 500' of modestly tedious booting, the snowpack switched on and we began skinning.

First view of the objective circa 745a was skeptically energizing, esp given how warm the day already felt--it was supposed to be cloudy in the morning, but that darn bluebird came early.  The photo above was taken from atop the divide, as was this photo of stoke personified:



The ski down to the basin sucked. With that done, we began climbing the initial gully from approx 4400'.  Arriving at the first cliff band, we could see a viable schuss-gap, but some (mostly) modest ice/slush/debris-rain in the gut of the amphitheater steered us away from climbing that particular crux.  Instead, we picked a relatively sheltered route, scrambling approx 25' of loose and wet 3rd class far to climber's right.  The guy with more impaired judgment began:



And the other guy with poor judgment, but a good sense of humor, finishing:



[In the background, you can see where we came over the Tunnel Cr Divide--it's the wooded col feature approx. 1/4 of the way from the right side of the pic, and ties into that prominent gully feature about 1/2 way down.]

We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the climb; the setting was spectacular, plenty of local relief.







We dropped our skis approx. 150 vf below the summit at a subsummit on the ridge.  From there, we traversed an airy fin, exposed to Constance's precipitous northern aspect and the Salish Sea to the east, to the final summit moves.  The moves to the small, very airy and puckering summit platform were much more filled in and easier than when I last visited.  This part of the climb was sorta awesome.







A modest wind and occasional clouds had helped mitigate the sun's effect on the snow, but the ski conditions were not the perfect corn I'd enjoyed five years ago.  Nevertheless, we made do, skiing chalky pow, wet pow, slushy snow, and a little corn.  A couple ski cruxes involved shooting through angled weaknesses in the cliffs.  Fun!












Since I've relocated to Bham, weeks ago I implored Seattle friends to send suggestive and prurient photos of the east slopes of the Olympics, and they graciously obliged with some encouragingly snowy, but alas somewhat fuzzy and pure, art.  Figured it was worth a look, and glad we went. The route requires a bit of weaving through cliffbands, and is thus somewhat reminiscent of the Wilson Headwall on Mt Rainier--but I like this one much better. If you like ski mountaineering, recommend you check out either of these routes on Constance's east aspect, both visible from Seattle!

An album with more photos is here: https://goo.gl/photos/Zo9HufjZUDwaqjB38

And a broader view from a different perspective (NE), for context:



Constance just left of center. Our line drops straight towards the viewer along the summit ridge, then drops left down the sunlit shield of snow through cliff bands to the snow-filled gully.  photo credit: Long Bach Nguyen
{edited to add photos}
« Last Edit: 05/08/17, 12:17 PM by hedonaut » Logged
tabski
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #1 on: 04/23/17, 05:03 PM »

The Professor strikes again. Marvelous.
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cumulus
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #2 on: 04/23/17, 05:47 PM »

That looks fantastic, cliff slalom and all. Amazing you squeezed such a big route in such a small window. Nicely done!

Nice views too ...and more lines. You're going to have to go back!
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Stefan
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #3 on: 04/23/17, 06:56 PM »

Beautiful, way to snag the micro-window
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philfort
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #4 on: 04/23/17, 07:56 PM »

YEs!!!!
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runcle
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #5 on: 04/23/17, 08:29 PM »

WOW! Thanks I think.
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ryanl
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #6 on: 04/23/17, 09:21 PM »

 As always you make it look easy. Nicely done you two!!
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eze
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #7 on: 04/23/17, 10:14 PM »

Yeah now! Way to go E$ and Tim!
Glad you found an enabler of your poor judgement and multiplier of the can-do attitude, Sqwehrly. Wish I could have joined you guys.
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shred
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WWW
Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #8 on: 04/24/17, 12:38 AM »

This wins the weeks internet!! Well played, Well Played. 
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Kyle Miller
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #9 on: 04/24/17, 04:45 AM »

Wild!! Strong work as always!
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In a perfect world, everybody would act with the correct etiquette and follow the rules. Human nature as it is= NOT GOING TO HAPPEN....no matter how many discussion on ski blogs/websites. Face reality............
Norseman
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #10 on: 04/24/17, 08:16 AM »

Solid push, nice work!
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KLW
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #11 on: 04/24/17, 09:09 AM »

Nice to see Telemark gear still works on steeper slopes  Cheesy Thanks for the TR!
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joeb
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #12 on: 04/24/17, 01:59 PM »

A very enjoyable and thorough report on a rarely visited, and even more rarely skied, route.  Truly defines what it means to get after it.  It's cool when proper planning and good weather come together to result in a successful adventure, especially given this seasons ever changing weather.  Congratulations and thanks for sharing!
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discostew
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #13 on: 04/24/17, 03:49 PM »

gnarly!
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #14 on: 04/24/17, 04:58 PM »

Good things come to those who wait -- and pounce. Thanks for both keeping the bar high and coming home.
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Rowan Stewart
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #15 on: 04/25/17, 03:49 PM »

Inspiring. Thanks for the report and photos
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Walking makes the world much bigger, and thus more interesting.
-Edward Abbey
danpeck
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #16 on: 04/25/17, 06:46 PM »

Solid
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Salal
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #17 on: 04/25/17, 08:50 PM »

 Stout and direct..the way to go on that mountain. Really enjoyed seeing this as I have the carried the plank up there a couple of times. What a great summit. A dynamic spot for sure!
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tabski
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #18 on: 04/26/17, 09:59 AM »

Seems like Salal and Joeb's comments vaguely suggest previous ski descents of this route and/or on Mt. Constance generally. Would you like to know more? Y/N

Y
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hedonaut
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #19 on: 04/26/17, 11:41 AM »

Y

Me too, keen to hear of any previous descents on this mountain. I recall Salal had at least walked up in there 5 years ago. For that matter, would like to hear if you found a straightforward way up the N Fork approach.

Seems v. unlikely to get overrun if you do have something to share.

Happy to strike "new" from this TR, this daytrip was a recent personal highlight whatever the case.  There's more terrain to explore up there too...
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Salal
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #20 on: 04/26/17, 11:57 AM »

 I've tried three times now. Once with a friend from lake constance and twice solo up the east side. Never touched the great amp. I made it fairly high the last time with the board but did not summit. I'm not worried about the masses running up there. I've wandered around in the dark up the north fork enough to know its a deterent. This is a long day no matter how you cut it. That route over the divide looks like a good alternate way to go! Plenty of stuff on inner constance and warrior it looks like as well. This report has me frothing to get back in there. Be a good spring for it. Thanks!
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Norseman
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #21 on: 04/26/17, 04:05 PM »

Y

Another vote for not attempting the N fork tunnel creek. Took my bow for a walk up there once. Jungle gnar. Might be fun in the hot summer with dry understory.
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hedonaut
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #22 on: 04/26/17, 04:27 PM »

just an FYI: joeb was kind enough to impart that no, he is not aware of any ski descents.  if anybody does know of any, still interested in hearing about it/them...

thanks guys for sharing the misery that is the jungly n fork.  a cool thing about the s fork/divide approach, besides the trail, is that you get to follow this cool ramp feature that seems like ma nature dropped it there just for us ski-trippers.
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David_Britton
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #23 on: 04/26/17, 08:59 PM »

Constance is a bear, and not one many should poke....here's to your ascent and the Olympics!

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RonL
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #24 on: 04/27/17, 08:46 AM »

Wow, that is a big line in a special place. Similar to Salal, I have made a couple of runs at constance but haven't quite had it all fall into place. None of my attempts were this ambitious though. Good job!
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JasonGriffith
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Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater
« Reply #25 on: 04/27/17, 08:39 PM »

Sheesh.  I've looked down that wall in April and it scared me.....such relief and snow plastered rock baking in the sun.  Well done guys!

At the exact instant you took these photos, Steve and I were slogging up isothermic mush somewhere up Hwy 20 (on snowshoes!).  We ultimately did nothing but find an extremely scenic lunch spot.  It's embarrassing to compare the time stamps.
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