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Ade

[TR] Dragontail- Serpentine Arete 3/13/2004

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Climb: Dragontail-Serpentine Arete

 

Date of Climb: 3/13/2004

 

Trip Report:

So... not being able to decide on what to do Alasdair and I "lamed out" and headed back in to Colchuck Lake. We'd been in earlier in the year and not climbed anything - too much snow, not enough time and not enough psych. This time it was warmer than in Feb but pretty windy.

 

It took six hours to reach the lake from the road (Al and I are both shitty skiers - you can probably do better). We sat on the lake for a bit and considered our options. The TCs and North Face routes both looked in but maybe a bit thin. Both the couloirs on Culchuck looked banked out. After some debate on our choices, option A "Fuck it, let's do what we said we'd do" won out.

 

A further one and a half got us to the bivi on the moraine below the Colchuck Gl. about 700' above the lake. The snow conditions below the lake were pretty trashy but the slopes above there were iced. The wind and sun had pretty much setup the snow. There are a couple of OK bivi sites among the boulders on the moraine lip that are out of the wind.

 

We left the bivi at 5pm and started up the ice smear, that covers the summer approach pitches, by 6. The smear leads you to a snowy ramp that goes up and right to the ledge system and tree on the arete below the 5.8 crack systems. A couple of hardish mixed pitches get you to the large ledge at the cracks.

 

Above we climbed pretty much pure rock with short snow ramps, as per the summer route. Lots of the 5.7 and mid-fifth turned out to be much harder than we remembered - lots of aid moves. Luckily only one of the upper crack systems was iced in (probably the crux). The snow was hard enough to kick steps and didn't require crampons.

 

We managed to simul-climb a few short sections but for the most part had to pitch the whole route. The final rock pitch to the summit can be avoided by dropping down a short gully on the left and then climbing up to the summit ridge at the top of the fin.

 

We summited at 6:30 (12:30 hrs total) just before it got dark. It was still windy but great views of Stuart and the rest of the Cascades. All of the snow slopes on the descent were very icy. Both of us had done Dragontail before so it was pretty easyroute finding in the dark but required care under foot. I've nearly gotten majorly lost in bad weather on the summit there so take navigation gear.

 

We descended Asgard pass and skirted the bottom of the North face to get back to the bivi. the last few hundred feet back up to the moraine were hard work. We made it back by 8:30pm (15:30 hrs round trip). Bivi high and it saves you time in the morning when it counts.

 

If it snows this week then conditions up there are going to get dicy, new accumulations over an icy base. As we skied out Sunday morning conditions were starting the deteriorate.

 

Disclaimer: Climbing is dangerous, watch TV instead.

 

Gear Notes:

Full set of wires, bunch of pins, three cams and two screws. Two belay jackets, food and a stove (which we didn't use).

 

Approach Notes:

Skied up the road, which has started to thaw out. By next weekend you will not be able to ski all the way from the turnout. The trail is almost hikable but needs a cold night to harden it up. If its cold you might manage without floatation.

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Good job gents! That route doesn't get done in winter too often. Must of been a blast.

 

Cheers for sure!

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Well......did you two spoon at the bivi?.....yes or no? I'm not jealous!!!

 

I will save my spooning for you pat_o

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To add a couple of notes:

 

The first section of ice off the deck was a really nice AI 3 pitch. Worthy of an ice climb in its self. From a distance it looked really thin at close inspection it was perfect.

 

Several sections of the N. Face route looked to have very simmilar ice on it. From the base the N face looks like it would be a very good climb right now.

 

I think that TCs is pretty much in right now.

 

The whole area has fairly nice cramponing on the snow. Makes me think that the obvious couloir to the left of the summit of Colchuck would be a pretty nice route right now.

 

Snow conditions deteriorate as you get higher. So the exit couloir on TCs probably sucks.

 

As ade said any significant snow accumulation is going to make this area pretty scary.

 

If you were one of the people who climbed N buttress couloir on colchuck on Sat and found the quick draw on the snow below dragontail, i suggest you dont use it. It fell at least 1000 ft hitting many rocks on its way down.

 

If anyone is on Serpentine any time soon and finds my sunglasses I would like them back. I will buy you a beer.

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Undoubtedly a sporto.

 

Whats that supposed to mean catshit...Oh...I forgot...your an alpine hardman...... HCL.gif

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Undoubtedly a sporto.

 

Whats that supposed to mean catshit...Oh...I forgot...your an alpine hardman...... HCL.gif

post of the day

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I think you guys have the first reported winter ascent of the Serpentine Arete.

 

Dont think so. I believe there have been at least a couple of others.

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I thought I looked it up in Beckey and that someone did it a long while back but I'll check tonight when I have the book to hand.

 

BTW: There were ski track heading up towards Stuart from where the trail forks to go to Colchuck Lake. Does anyone know who went in there and what conditions were like?

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We skied all the way to the base of the Ice Cliff glacier Sat, Feb 28th. Don't know if the tracks would still be there. The glacier looked great, easily passable on left or right, or you could bite off more in the middle if you so felt. I could post a picture tonight if you desire.

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Alasdair and Ade, nice job guys. It hope it wasn't too cold for ya...I did that route in cold snap in october a couple of years ago and remember some damn cold belays on that shady side of the mountain. Then again we weren't dressed for winter temps.

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I think that TCs is pretty much in right now...So the exit couloir on TCs probably sucks.

 

 

TC's is good to go. Was up there on Sunday. The exit from the runnels into the middle couloir is thin and the exit from the middle into the third requires a little rock climbing. The rest of the routes varies from firm wind crust to really nice neve.

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I think you guys have the first reported winter ascent of the Serpentine Arete.

 

Dont think so. I believe there have been at least a couple of others.

 

Ok, upon further checking I realized that the climb referenced in the Beckey book was acctually done in April, but is described as a "winter variation", hence the confusion. There is also no reference to winter ascents in the AAJ. So thanks for the heads up Kyle, it does appear that we have inadvertantly done the first winter ascent of that route. If anyone knows any differently please let either Ade or I know.

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how did "think there's been a couple of others" {ascents] turn into "the only previous winter-like ascent was in April" confused.gif did you find out the other ascents were also in the spring?

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So Skykilo that was you guys who left those great tracks! My partner and I started up there on the 29th and used your tracks all the way up to where you turned around. The approach was cake because of your tracks!

 

We ended up getting shat on a couple days later so it was all for naught. Thanks anyway!

 

Mark

 

Y'know for what it's worth, I'd be pretty surprised if Serpentine hadn't gotten done in the 70's or 80's.

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Easy... not enough book time prior to climbing smile.gif

 

I misread/misremembered Beckey, who mentions a winter variation in 1983. Being conservative, we figured that if it had been climbed once then it had probably been repeated, as that's how it usually goes. Hence "a couple of others".

 

Turns out the variation in Beckey was climbed by Tim Wilson and John Wesson was in April 1983 (vol. 1, ed. 3, p282-3), so isn't technically a winter ascent. At least as per the somewhat arbitrary rules of the game.

 

The line, as described in Beckey starts right of the Serpentine and follows thin ice for four pitches to a snowfield, followed by a mixed pitch and up and left to meet the arete route. Wilson's account in the AAJ (1984, p162) clarifies this, saying they joined the Serpentine two mixed pitches from the top. Regardless of the date of their ascent it seems that it's essentially a separate line in the depression right of the Serpentine. We could see some of this line from the arete. I'll try and post some pictures when I get them back.

 

Like Marko I still find it surprising that a line that obvious hadn't been climbed in winter. However, it's hardly alone in that regard, there's plenty more like it in the Cascades. Al and I looked this up in Beckey, Nelson (vol. 1, ed. 2) and the AAJs back to '73 and can't find anything else.

 

If anyone has any more information on this, or any other unrecorded winter activity in the Colchuck basin, I'd love to hear about it.

 

Cheers,

 

 

Ade

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I have found that when you claim a first ascent, if its been done before but not reported the rats will suddenly come out of the woodwork with their claims yellaf.gif "Me first! No I was!" bigdrink.gif

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