Dragontail Pk. - Dragons of Eden IV+ 5.12a FFADate:
Obsession can be defined as a compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea
. After climbing Dragons of Eden last summer
Jens Holsten and I were so impressed with the climbing and the terrain we became completely obsessed with freeing the route. A September attempt later that summer saw us diverting to Der Sportsmen on the less stormy and warmer south face of Prusik, so we hunkered down for 10 months of daydreaming, training, and preoccupation. We both agreed that there was rarely a day that went by without us thinking about DOE. Finally, a year later, we were wrestling ridiculous loads up to the Lake to put in work and give it a shot
(notice no less than 18 beers ready to stash in the creek!):
It was a hell of a hump up to the route, and felt a bit awkward as we had ended up on the opposite specturm of our preferred fast and light style. Nonetheless, it felt really good to be embarking on the adventure and we rounded the lake full of optimism and stoke. The first day we hiked in, climbed the first half of the route via any means possible (lots of aid), hauled to the Pteradactyl Bivy Ledge and I scrubbed the Buttterballs to the Gripper
5.11 second pitch, while Jens cleaned up the crux 4th Pitch.Jens getting the junkshow as high as possible up the jingus approach ledges:Aiding the crux 4th Pitch:
It felt good to be putting in some work on the route. I transformed the second pitch by trundling two really scary flakes. It's crazy that we had climbed through the flakes twice already yet I was able to trundle each within a matter of seconds. Not only did it make the pitch safer, it revealed some locker jams and good stances, dropping the grade from 11c to 11b.Notice the two flakes in the fingercrack above Jens head in a pic from last year. The wee flake right below the big boy, they are now thankfully gone:
We were glad to have the Firstlight for the bivy as the bugs were horrendous! We caught a great sunset and settled in for a night of good rest. I had worked a 14 hour double shift the previous day and was pretty worked. The next morning we slept in and layed around for a while before getting back to work.
The Great White Headwall was the dirtiest section of the whole route. I led and cleaned the first 5.10 pitch and Jens linked the next two and scrubbed them. The key to this day was to not get too worn out, yet get enough scrubbing and prep done to be able to free the route the next day.Jens aiding up the second pitch of the Great White Headwall (P6), 5.11a roofs:Jugging the Great White Headwall:
On the rap down to the base we took some burns on the crux pitch which is both super pumpy and technical. We both made some progress and tried not to get too worked. The plan was to meet my wife Ginnie Jo, and our friends Keri Carlton, Max Hasson, and Ryan Paulsness at the lake that night.
Of the entire experience, this was definetly the best part for me. Chilling with my lady and some great friends on Colchuck Lake, work done, resting up, getting psyched to send. Ginnie and Keri had spent the day preparing an Indian Cuisine Feast!
We continued our trend of sleeping in and mid-morning began the hike up to the base of the route. We had stashed all the gear we needed and I became a bit concerned when I was struggling
up the pass with merely a windshirt clipped to my belt loop. I was obviously worked and prepared myself to dig deep. Ryan and Max took off up the NE Buttress intent on gaining the top of the Headwall where Max would rappel in and photograph the ascent. When we felt the time was right, we began climbing.
The fist pitch takes a hand crack up and left, we did no scrubbing on this pitch, it's a bit dirty and a bit chossy, but warms you up nicely. This deposited you at a belay under a roof where we prepared for the first pitch of business, the amazing splitter finger to handcrack of pitch 2. The pitch begins with a 5.10 traversing face sequence to gain the finger crack, from there sharp and steep finger jams brought me into the meat of the pitch. As I pushed through the crux I became pumped and things began to feel a bit desperate. I was able to stem out left to the arete and cop just enough rest to push on through the finger crux into the slightly less strenuous thin hand section. From here, i twisted and torqued my extra large mitts in the deviously sized crack until finally I reached a good stem rest hollered out in excitement knowing the pitch was in the bag. My hoot gained a quick reply from the ladies who were watching our progress from the pass.
A short pitch of 5.8 took us up to the base of the crux pitch where we sat down to recharge and wait for Max to reach us. Shortly thereafter he tossed his rope down the headwall. Jens moved quickly throgh the moderate start to the pitch and gained the top of the pillar where he placed a green brassie and prepared himself to send. He climbed strong and purposefully through the initial boulder problem, solid calculated movements. He got into the crack and was able to place a good green alien and protect himself from cratering into the pillar. As he moved through the next couple of stenuous finger locks he broke a foothold and screamed as he swung away from the crack. Somehow, he held on. He yelled, I yelled, and Jens one-arm campused off a fingerlock back into the crack. I thought for sure he was going to fall, but he held on. Once back in the crack, he pushed on. More screaming, cursing, and cranking continued and soon enough Jens had gained the belay.
Seconding, I felt strong moving through the boulder problem, but my strength quickly sapped and i fell from the first few fingerlocks. I lowered off and rested for a second go. I got higher my second try, but screamed in frustration as I again slipped out of the crack. I lowered again and this time took a longer rest. My third try saw me reach even higher but I was spanked, i fell, screamed in frustration, and shortly accepted that I was not going to get this one clean. I had hoped for a clean ascent, but I just didn't have it in me. Jens moving into the business, P4 5.12a:
We moved on up to the Pteradactly ledge at the base of the Headwall and rested again. I was worked, and tried to get out of leading the second pitch of the headwall but Jens called me out, saying he thought I could do it and that I should give it a burn. Thanks Jens! He lead the recently transformed first 5.10 pitch up the headwall to a ok stance beneath the series of large roofs that makes up pitch 7 5.11a.
We hadn't scrubbed much from this pitch, but it was clean enough to send and I did. Really wild climbing takes you out the roof of the headwall with solid hand cracks, it's hyper-exposed and very out of place in the alpine. Jens followed and we prepared for the final pitch, steep face and crack climbing leads to the top of the Headwall 5.11d.Nearing the big roof on P7, 5.11a:
This had been the dirtiest pitch of the route and though Jens had scrubbed what he needed to, it was still quite filthy, compounding the condition of the pitch, was the fact that we hadn't ever really given it a free burn, even on TR. Jens left the belay with his work cut out for him. A non-stop barrage of kitty litter rained down on me as Jens moved up the pitch. The first crux involves sequential deadpoints to positive flakes which Jens got through without too much fuss. He fired in some gear under the crux bulge, and rested up. After a few false-starts he was off, you could tell the climbing was hard, and Jens was going for it. He pushed through the bulge with footholds breaking and flakes flexing, at one point his last piece was a couple bodylengths below him and he was desperatly stabbing to continue. It was quite a show. He pushed on to the top mantled the headwall and DOE was free.
We continued as two parties of two up the NE Buttress to the NE Summit. The day had gotten hot and the shade of the east side of the summit was a welcome releif. Two double rope rappels got us down and we began the arduous trudge down Aasgard.
Since our ascent two parties of our friends have climbed the route and it has received good reviews, though they both commented about how dirty it still is. One party was able to place a bomber green alien from their tippytoes to protect the moves off the pillar on the crux pitch. This essentially takes the R out of the grade. Also, Blake and Pete H climbed a variation that we pointed out to avoid the crux pitch. It is an obvious crack about 25 ft to the right of the crux pitch and went at 10+.
I highly recommend the route and hope people don't let the difficulty of the grade deter them from giving it a burn. With just a few french free moves on a couple pitches, the grade can drop down to 11- or 10+ C1. I think even aid climbers would have a blast spending some time on the route, with only a mandatory move of 10b face on pitch 2. The hauling's clean and the climbing's steep. It is possible to rap the route without too much nonsense (and with two ropes) from the top of The Great White Headwall. Though this is a an option (for slackers) I highly recommend the finish up the NE Buttress which is pretty stress free, and aesthetic, and would earn one a full tick. Feel free to PM with any questions.
Hats off again to Wayne and Bob for their impressive 1989 ascent!
Free Rack: dbl blue and green aliens, triple yellow alien to #1, with dbl #2's and #3's. Single set of nuts with one green HB Brassie (#5). TOPO Climbing Hot Flash Jen's TR
Mucho gracias to Wayne Wallace, Max Hasson, Ryan Paulsness, Ginnie Jo Blue, Keri Carlton, Jim Nelson at Pro Mountain Sports, Adam at Leavenworth Mountain Sports, and Graham Williams at Cilogear (4 cilogear packs were used for this ascent) for their continued help and support. You guys rock!
Thanks for the patience in getting this TR written, edited, and refined.