Mount Constance in Olympic Mountains via Lake Constance / 康斯坦絲山

  • Reading time:15 mins read

Mount Constance is the tallest peak in Eastern Olympic Mountains. At the same time, it ranks #3 in the entire Olympic Range after Mount Olympus and Mount Deception. Plus, the near 2000-foot prominence often attracts climbers and mountaineers alike.

Mount Constance in full display
Mount Constance in full display

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Mount Constance at a Glance

Access: Dosewallips Road closure
Round Trip: 18.5 miles
Elevation Range: 440′-7756′
Gear: helmet, bike
Route Info: mountainflamingo.com, LarryN, Dan Lauren
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

The Preface on Mount Constance

I first saw the top of Mount Constance from Mount Townsend. But I didn’t see it up close again until seven years later on Mount Walker and The Brothers. Then it piqued my interest greatly after spotting the peak earlier this year.

The pups and I spent three days climbing in Pasayten Wilderness last weekend. So I wanted to give them a break this week. Of all my back burners, Mount Constance looked like one I could potentially climb in a day.

Before sunrise
Before sunrise

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Dosewallips Road Washout

In 2002, the storm-induced water swell had wiped out 300 feet of Dosewallips Road. Since then, the roadway has been out of commission to motor vehicles. But the road-turned-trail is still accessible to the public on foot.

Thanks to Chris for fixing my bike to ride the five extra miles. Friday night, the busy trailhead had forced me to park half a mile down the road. Then the following morning, I took off for Lake Constance Trailhead at 4:45.

Bridge over Constance Creek
Bridge over Constance Creek

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Lake Constance Trail

All reports plus the trailhead sign pointed to an incredibly steep trail. I stashed the bike under the bridge and then went up through the 2009 Constance Fire debris. There was lots of veggie belay through the first 1400 vertical feet over lots of logs.

The steepness was like the section past Pyramid Lake en route to Snowfield Peak. It also reminded me of the incline on Davis Peak in NCNP. Then above the old burn, the second third of the trail later flattened, and it was more enjoyable.

Stairway to Mount Constance
Stairway to Mount Constance

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Lake Constance Below Mount Constance

The latter third of the trail felt steeper than the lower part. So I moved up using the exposed tree roots in some places. After 3200 vertical feet over 1.8 miles, the lake finally came into view. Though, Mount Constance wasn’t yet visible.

The two-person tent by the outlet looked empty; perhaps the people had gone climbing. I soaked in the lake view for a bit and then continued along the east shore. Soon, I was at the north end, also the last place for water.

Lake Constance with The Brothers
Lake Constance with The Brothers

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Mount Constance via Avalanche Canyon

Above the lake, I found a faint path over the scree slopes. Then the cairns guided me up into Avalanche Canyon on a moderate incline. The fitting name had me imagine the periodic releases coming off the steep, snowy terrain.

Other than a few dwindling snowfields, scree strewed the entire canyon. So I switched between snow and boulders for the next 200′ as I went uphill. Then at 5200′, it became clear that I would spend some time in the access gully.

Aiming for the saddle
Aiming for the saddle

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6560′ Saddle by Cats Ears

As talus slowly turned into scree, I went toward the gully entrance. But when walking became laborious, I decided to avoid most of it by making a beeline for the adjacent buttress. The larger rocks there also looked more enticing.

Going above the middle of the buttress required a short 4th class move over downward slabs. But once I went up, the climb became much smoother. Then I made my way up to the notch by hugging the headwall.

East view from 6560' saddle
East view from 6560′ saddle

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Mount Constance South Chute to 7300′ Notch

The saddle gave the east view to Puget Sound. Then straight ahead was more scree that awaited my arrival. The faint path over the shifting gravel didn’t look like fun. So once again, I hugged the headwall and went up using rock ledges.

It took some time to reach the top of the scree. Shortly, I located the 7300′ notch, where Mount Constance first came into view. Much of the snow finger on the north side has melted. So I was able to bypass it via the shallow moat.

Entering the south chute
Entering the south chute

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Mount Constance South Summit

After leaving the moat, I continued moving up toward Point 7520. There I spotted a few cairns along the slanted slab ledges sprinkled with gravel. The markers, in turn, took me around the high point from the east.

The terrain slowly eased as cairns guided me up to the south peak. There the downward slabs on the east comprised the infamous Finger Traverse. Below the crux was a steep dropoff into the abyss.

Point 7520 and Mount Constance south summit
Point 7520 and Mount Constance south summit

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Finger Traverse Bypass

So I opted for the 4th class bypass on the west, which didn’t look obvious at first. I only spotted the hidden 4th class step when I looked around the tower. Then it led me down onto a ledge encircling the high point.

Later I scoped out the route from the notch. The standard way went down through the basin and up the key ledge to arrive at the summit ridge. But Dan Lauren‘s track suggested that he went high on the ridgeline.

Bypassing the Finger Traverse
Bypassing the Finger Traverse

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The Final Stretch

The high route looked way more enticing as it would let me bypass the scree as well. So I traversed the ridgeline through to the summit area. During this, I went over several notches on the crest.

I later joined the lower route below the summit pinnacle, where cairns showed up again. There I followed the path to the peak’s north. Then a steep ramp hugging the tower took me to the west.

Taking the upper scenic route
Taking the upper scenic route

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Mount Constance Summit Views

The short, 4th class step below the summit would take me straight up to the top. But I went farther south for better holds above a deep chasm. Soon, I was on the narrow high point, comfortable for seating just a few.

As luck would have it, clouds had rolled in earlier. So views to Puget Sound were virtually none. But I enjoyed the scenery in other directions, including The Brothers, Mount Olympus, and Inner Constance.

Northwestern panoramic view
Northwestern panoramic view

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Outro

Clouds dissipated a bit as I left the top. Then I briefly saw Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, and even Mount Rainier. Later I retraced my steps back to the south chute. Then I plunge-stepped my way down and saved lots of time.

Back on the rocky trail above the lake, I chatted with two campers checking out the area. Then I reversed the 1.8-mile steep path down to the bridge in no time. But best of all, it took only half an hour to bike back to the car!

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

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