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jstluise

[TR] Colchuck Peak & Dragontail Peak - North Buttress 08/11/2018

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Trip: Colchuck Peak & Dragontail Peak - North Buttress

Trip Date: 08/11/2018

Trip Report:

 

After thru-hiking the Enchantments a couple years ago, it has been on my list to get back in the area and tackle some of the surrounding peaks.  I'm not sure why it took so long!  Just looking for a scramble, we decided to do the North Buttress route on Colchuck Peak and then hit Dragontail on our way to Aasgard Pass and back down to Colchuck Lake.  From a bit of reading it seemed that staying on the west side of the ridge would make for some class 3/4 scrambling, while staying on top of the ridge would give some low 5th class climbing.  We had some awesome weather, great views, and fun climbing.

 

We arrived at the trailhead Friday night and after a quick bivy we were on the trail shortly after 4:30am the next morning.  We cruised up to Colchuck Lake in a couple hours and arrived at the southwest corner of the lake where the approach toward the Buttress begins.  It was light out by then and we were pleasantly surprised to see clear blue skies.  It was quite hazy the day before due to the wildfires but the incoming weather system must have pushed the smoke out.  We stopped at the lake edge to filter some water and then off we went up the talus field toward the notch/col on the route.

The scramble up to the notch was straightforward, basically just hugging the right side of the lower talus field and before crossing over some of the vegetation to the upper slope which contained more scree.  From there we just made our way straight up the gully to the notch.  It took about 45 minutes to ascent the 1,100' to the notch (6,800') where we could finally get a good view of the route, as well as views off to the west where Sherpa Peak and Mount Stuart sit.

View of Colchuck Peak and the North Buttress.

View of Colchuck Peak and the North Buttress.

 

From the notch we could see a couple options.  There was what looked like an easy traverse but it seemed a bit far off the ridge.  This may be a way to the Northwest Route but we decided to stay as high as possible on the ridge which turned out just fine.  The first couple hundred feet of scrambling was a bit slow.  There was definitely come class 4 mixed in and at points we were directly on the crest so we had nice views of Colchuck Lake, Colchuck Glacier, and Dragontail Peak. 

A little exposed.~7000'

A little exposed.

 

Eventually this beginning section was over and we started to really gain some elevation.  At this point the route turned into an easy class 3 scramble where we followed goat trails most of the time.  At points where the trails began to traverse more and deviate off the ridge, we abandoned the trail and went up where more fun and interesting climbing was.  A bit of exposure in spots but the holds were easy and plentiful.

One great part about this route is that you're in the shade the entire time!  The weather definitely cooled down from the day before, but not being in the direct sun was sure nice.  It was clear during the climb up to Colchuck with some clouds off in the distance past Mount Stuart.  We also got to see a helicopter circling Mount Stuart multiple times.  It sounds like a hiker broke their leg, according to the Seattle Times.

The rest of the route up until just below the summit was easy going and fun.  About 200' below the summit we ended up heading directly up the south side which probably had the most exposure so far in the climb, but we felt comfortable on the rock.  There may have been a way around the west side of the summit at this point but we didn't investigate because the route we took looked doable.  After that section of climbing we hit the summit!  It was 10:30am, a little over 3 hours since leaving the lake.  We were moving at a comfortable 1000' an hour.

Colchuck Lake, Colchuck Glacier, and Dragontail Peak from the summit of Colchuck Peak.

Colchuck Lake, Colchuck Glacier, and Dragontail Peak from the summit of Colchuck Peak.

 

After a quick break we were on our way down to the col between Colchuck and Dragontail, then on our way back up toward Dragontail.  Easy scrambling up the gully before we gained the ridge and traversed over to the summit just as a party of 3 was on their way down.  At this point we were getting some light cloud cover which gave us some shade.  We were on the summit by 12:30pm.

Looking down Colchuck Glacier.

Looking down Colchuck Glacier.

Argonaut Peak, Sherpa, and Stuart.

Argonaut Peak, Sherpa, and Stuart.

Colchuck Glacier seen from the ascent up Dragontail.

Colchuck Glacier seen from the ascent up Dragontail.

Summit of Dragontail Peak.  Looking toward the upper Enchantments.

Summit of Dragontail Peak.  Looking toward the upper Enchantments.

Pano at the top of Dragontail.

Pano at the top of Dragontail.

 

We had some lunch on the summit and then off we went down and towards Aasgard pass.  At this point I realized I forgot about the snow traverse.  Luckily the snow was soft and there was already somewhat of a boot pack so getting down wasn't too bad.  And we were glad we decided to bring trekking poles as they helped some too.  If the snow was harder I think an ice axe would have been nice to have.

Looking back at the snow traverse.

Looking back at the snow traverse.

 

We made our way down Aasgard pass and back to the lake.  A quick break for some water at the lake and we were back on the now very busy Colchuck Lake trail.  We arrived at the car at 5:00pm, just shy of 12.5 hours.  Here are some stats:

 

Splits (excluding breaks at lake and summits):

-Car to Colchuck Lk. - 2:00

-Colchuck Lk. to Colchuck Peak - 3:15

-Colchuck Peak to Dragontail Peak - 1:30

-Dragontail Peak to Colchuck Lk. - 1:40

-Colchuck Lk. to Car - 2:00

Car-to-Car Total Time: 12.5 hours

Mileage: ~13.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 6'800'

Bluetooth Speakers on the Trail: 5

 

Here is our route and the approach to the North Buttress from Colchuck Lake:

GPS Track

GPS Track.

North Buttress Approach.

North Buttress Approach (track drawn on ridge is not exact).

 

We had a great time on this route!  Fun scrambling with options for more exposed terrain.  And you can't beat the views!  I'd recommend this route to anyone that is looking to get off the beaten path and would prefer a scramble over one of the true rock climbing routes in the area.

Gear Notes:
Helmets. Trekking poles were useful for snow traverse and descending Aasgard.

Approach Notes:
Obvious trail that splits off (right) the main trail at SW corner of Colchuck Lake. Follow talus field up and to the climber's right, which leads to a gully below the notch.

Edited by jstluise
Added captions.
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