21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater ski descent

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21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater ski descent

Postby E_$ » Sun Apr 23, 2017 4:34 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.]

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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:

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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:

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

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[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.

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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.

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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!

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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
{edited to add a photo!}
E_$
imminent whippage
 

Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater ski descen

Postby skykilo » Sun Apr 23, 2017 4:50 pm

super duper cool. glad to see this thing is still working. i really need to do some maintenance on it before we all become russian pawns.
User avatar
skykilo
olikyks
 
from Santa Fe

Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater ski descen

Postby ryanl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 12:48 pm

for what it's worth, I still look at SS from time to time, even though I have little to offer these days. Maybe we should start a board in the forum for Life Sickness, and publish Life Reports about daily low land adventures. Seems the older I get the more truth I find in the that George Eliot quote about adventure not being outside man, but within. Says the guy quitting his job and starting anew.....

That said, got to give you some more congratulatory backsplaps $ even though I already commented on TAY. You'e an inspiration hoss. Not just for your combination of age, fitness, and skill, but for your persitance and vision. Hope to join you both again some fine day.

Long live Ski Sickness!!!!
ryanl
 

Re: 21 Apr 2017 Mt Constance - Great Amphitheater ski descen

Postby Alex » Fri May 26, 2017 10:15 am

Nice!

And to echo Ryan's comments, I too come here every so often. Not necessarily to see new stuff, but it's where this group comes when there's stuff worth mentioning.
If you want to be more active in the Episodes section, I'll come heckle you :D

And E_$, I should come down to B-ham one evening and drink beer.
Alex
 


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