Dragontail Peak - NE couloirDate:
We decided to climb Dragontail North East couloir on a weekend February 28th – March 1st 2015. My friend Gerry had hiked over Asgard Pass 2 weeks before and made some pictures. Both of us already have climbed Triple Couloir and we wanted to try nearby North East couloir described in Fred Beckey book. We started our approach on Saturday at 11am from 8 mile parking lot. Gerry hiked with his snowshoes on and I left mine at home expecting snowpack to be thin. It could be my mistake, because it snowed last days and there was a fresh layer of snow on a trail. Luckily for me many climbers trod a good boot pack to Colchuck Lake.
We camped at the south side of solid frozen Colchuck Lake.
Next day we started around 5.30am. The start of North East couloir is about half way towards Asgard Pass. We decided to take a straight line in the direction of the pass through the bushes. Maybe we should keep to the right closer to Dragontail Peak walls. Our way was not pleasant bushwhacking and snow covered boulder hopping.
Near the couloir entrance the snow became deep; probably there were some slides recently. We stopped to look at our way and discuss the potential avalanche danger. From our spot we could clearly see the mixed pitch at the top. The rock slopes on the sides of the couloir looked more or less clean and it was not much avalanche danger from there.
We decided to enter the couloir and evaluate the snow cover. In the beginning the snow was hard and we decided to go on unroped.
After one pitch distance or so the angle lowered and the snow became deep again. We started sinking to our knees, then to our hips, then to our waists.
We moved on breaking trail in turns. The progress was very slow. We tried to take path to the left close to the rock wall. That helped, the snow cover was shallower near the rock and we moved faster.
At 10am we came to the mixed pitch. We roped up and I started climbing the gully.
The climbing itself was not so bad – thin ice, rock and some snow. The protection however was marginal. The rock on the sides was pretty loose and held no features, just some thin cracks. I managed to put 2 pins and one short screw only to the half.
I climbed to the broken corner with a slab on a right which had to be a crux of the route. I put one yellow tcu in a questionably looking crack and gave it a try. The rock was horribly loose in the corner - what looked like holds crumbled in my hands when I tried to grab them. I detached several rocks and one laptop-size block. I howled “rock” - luckily Gerry belayed from a well-protected spot. I made several attempts, but always stopped, being afraid to commit without handholds and with the runout and the danger of bad fall. Then I tried to use thin verglass of ice in the inner part of the corner. It was probably less than an inch, but enough for my tools to make a purchase and hold my weight. I committed and made a belay on a ridge.
Gerry climbed the pitch quickly...
and continued on a snow ramp. I followed him on a fun traverse and took a lead again before the notch.
Some drytooling moves brought us to the notch.
From the notch we observed the North East ridge. It looked like 5-ish grade rock at the beginning, but we didn’t know what we would have further. It was already 1:30pm and we decided that we don’t have enough time to climb the ridge to the summit and go all the way back to the car. We lost too much time wallowing in the snow and climbing the mixed pitch. 2 half-rope rappels brought us to the snow slopes. We didn’t find good stations and made our own.
Descend to Asgard pass and to the Colchuck lake was straightforward. We came back to our camp at 4pm and to the car at 8:30pm. Another good weekend in Cascades! Gear Notes:
2 ice tools each
5 ice screws – used 1
2 pickets – didn’t use
Rock gear up to #1 – used yellow tcu and Camalot# 1
5 pitons – used 2
Webbing and rappel rings to make rappel stationsApproach Notes:
Snowshoes might be helpful