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tvashtarkatena

[TR] Dragontail - Triple Couloir 4/19/2007

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Trip: Dragontail - Triple Couloir

 

Date: 4/19/2007

 

Trip Report:

Two Codgers, Three Couloirs (4/18-20/07)

 

After two failures in two weeks to get up anything above Colchuck Lake, the self-abuse center of my Celtic/reptilian brain remained unsatiated. After all, good things come in threes.

 

At the first hint of a decent forecast, I PM’d Catbirdseat (aka CBS, aka Brian), knowing that he was also a miscreant bum whose hands should never be allowed to remain idle.

 

We trudged in Wednesday to the now familiar strand of trees at the far end of Colchuck Lake. Snowshoes provided a little extra conditioning weight before we stashed them en route, unused.

 

Trail Booty

 

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Ice is Nice

 

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Up until the moment I unpacked, I felt that we were well prepared for our venture, by then a neuron fired deep within my brain’s Accidental Lobe.

 

‘I’ve got something to tell you and I might as well tell it right now. I don’t have the stove burner.’

 

CBS’s face went blank. ‘That was an awful long hike in.’

 

Two former Boy Scouts without a stove: time to go Old School. CBS quickly built something not quite officially sanctioned out of locally found materials that soon boiled water for dinner while I chopped a foot-deep hole into the lake ice with the pick of my Quark; not enough to punch through, but enough to fill with liquid water. To prevent refreezing, I covered our new water source with fir branches. My cook pot still looks like it barely survived atmospheric reentry. It has a crust that won’t come off by any means. I think CBS, a chemical engineer by trade, may have inadvertently created the world’s most durable BBQ-scented ceramic. Who knows from when and where fame and fortune will come?

 

Morning light on Cashmere

 

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We started out the following morning at 5:45. Cold and partly cloudy. After climbing the sporty entrance ramp we were soon doing the Triple Two Step up the Hidden Couloir’s firm neve. About halfway up I noticed CBS, in the lead, stopping to rest more and more often. He seemed to sprint, then stop and pant. I began to chill down and put my puffy on.

 

After simuling the couloir in one pitch, CBS reeled me in. By now he was breathing rapidly almost to the point of hyperventilation. ‘I think I’m bonking; I’ve got to eat something.’ Then, moments later ‘I’ve never been so cold in the mountains.’

 

‘Maybe you should put your puffy on.’

 

‘You think I should?’ he replied with slurred speech.

 

That’s when I began to suspect that something might be wrong.

 

As CBS donned his puffy and ate a snack, somehow our fluke got loose and skittered down the couloir.

 

I led the thin, slightly sketchy little chute to the base of the transition ramp between couloirs 1 and 2, then brought CBS up. His face looked ashen. 'This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.' His breathing was still very labored, and his arms were vibrating as if electrified. Finally, he bent over, 'I think I’m going to puke.'

 

I thought: ‘Oh shit.’ We were both wearing everything we had: two under layers, a soft shell, and a puffy. At this point, it would probably be quicker to keep going than to retreat, but the crux pitch was just ahead.

 

 

CBS on the Hidden to Second Couloir transition

 

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Close up of same

 

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I led off, dry tooling the lower ramp (easier than the upper) with a few French free moves for good measure, to a pre-fixed rap station (lost arrow and a nut). When CBS hit the ramp he was all smiles, ‘I feel SO much better’.

 

‘Me too, brother. Me too.’ The rapidity of his recovery from what was probably a combination of hunger exacerbated hypothermia was amazing.

 

 

CBS on the crux (lower) ramp: Hidden to Second Couloir transition

 

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Close up of same

 

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After the short rap into the Second Couloir, CBS led a steep, short chimney (thin but decent ice) to gain the mellow portion, where we resumed the Simo Two Step up deeper snow. With the crux behind us, life was suddenly looking very, very good.

 

I swung past and set up a belay just below the final mixed pitch that provided passage into the Third Couloir and home. By now, CBS felt good enough to lead this interesting section. The best way up this pitch is to climb directly up the obvious runnel, but CBS’s creativity got the best of him (damn musicians!) and he wound up climbing himself into a little corner just left of the final couloir entrance. Soon I was so cold I began growling loudly. Real Russian Front style suffering. After a shouting ideas back and forth we agreed that, unlike the Russian Front, retreat was the most attractive option.

 

CBS placed a black Alien and down climbed about 25 feet to where he could traverse into the third couloir, fix a belay, and bring me up. By then I could no longer feel several fingers and toes.

 

I quickly reached the bottom of his detour and realized just how shitty the conditions on that section really were. I got up to the Alien by raking through sugar snow and poorly bonded ice to find hidden dry tool sticks, plucked it, and began gingerly backing down to avoid a king swing. Spicy!

 

After ten feet I called for a little tension and began a controlled pendulum into the third and final couloir. I led off and quickly unloaded our picket for my partner to lug the rest of the way up. After that we agreed to screw the pro and just go. CBS at full strength once again, and we moved quickly upward. Here we encountered the deepest post holing of the climb, but relief, a ticking clock, deteriorating weather, and summit fever kept the climbing enjoyable.

 

 

CBS midway up the Third Couloir

 

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We topped out to a full blown blizzard, fortunately sans much wind. I shot a bearing on Aasgard Pass in case of white out, scarfed the rest of my sandwich (I’d eaten only a cookie and half a sandwich on the way up and was beginning to feel it), donned my goggles, and off we went. The Dragontail Glacier was perfect calf deep powder. Oh, for a pair of skis! The descent of Ass Guard was a bit less enjoyable: 2 inches of powder over ice, a perfect meat tenderizing regimen for bruised balls of my feet.

 

CBS detoured over to base of the Hidden Couloir in a vain attempt to recover our yard sale items; I butt scooted straight for camp, a cold dinner, and warm sleeping bags.

 

We hobbled into camp with all the fluidity and grace of stick insects enjoying a recent dose of Raid, bearing all the symptoms of an acute case of Old Man Syndrome.

 

Just before I started snoring like a malfunctioning outboard motor, CBS had the last word that evening:

 

‘Wouldn’t you love to do that route car to car?’

 

PS: Thanks to all of you who provided recent TRs and advice on the route.

 

 

Gear Notes:

1 picket

1 ice screw

4 pitons (3 bugaboos, one Z)

5 small stoppers

red camalot

pink tri cam

blue flexy friend

black alien

yellow, blue TCU

 

 

 

Approach Notes:

Road gated but mostly snow free. Road work has begun. Should have left the snowshoes behind.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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beautiful guys! Glad to hear you got up something. I have the same feeling lately, doing lots of climbing without much summiting

 

Cheers!

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Way to persevere through the various 'hardships'! Looks/sounds a little more challenging than when i did it about a year ago (maybe a little later in the season...?). My partner (scottgg) did it car to car that time, while i (thankfully) slept the night before at the lake and I definitely did not envy him!

 

Once again, way to go!

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wtf? have i gone into the twilight zone? didn't this tr have a different title and a random post by me or did i imagine it all during one of my "episodes?"

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FOUND: fluke at base of TCs doesn't have quite the same cachet as "Found: Neutrino on Girth Pillar" tho.

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A friend of mine spoke to two climbers today near Bridge Creek Campground. They had made an attempt on Triple Couloirs today but retreated from the first couloir after they heard "whumping" sounds in the snow and feared avalanche. We heard no such sounds only two days earlier. Temperatures have warmed slightly but who would have thought? Could the two inches of snow Thursday night have affected the route that much?

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Tvash forgot to add that at 2:30 am on Thursday morning I heard the voices of two persons walking past our camp. We never spotted their foot prints on the way to the couloirs, so we assumed they must have been headed for Colchuck.

 

The most direct route to Colchuck doesn't go all that near our camp site, but either they were following our footprints on the lake, or else the sound just carried a long ways over the flat surface.

 

Since it snowed that night, we never did see their footprints on our way out.

 

About the road, we noted that it had been cleared and bladed as far as the big mud slide. One must assume that workers will tackle that this week. Once that is clear the few shallow patches of snow will have melted or been bladed off and road should open.

Edited by catbirdseat

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One or two weeks ago I predicted this climb would not be in again until the next ice age. Way to prove me wrong. Looks like you guys had fun.

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One or two weeks ago I predicted this climb would not be in again until the next ice age. Way to prove me wrong. Looks like you guys had fun.

 

The ice runnels were definitely not in. You may well be right about that particular route option.

 

I'd be interested in hearing from someone familiar with the third route option that bypasses the 2nd couloir entirely.

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STFU, you cripple.

 

We'll save the Icecliff Gl. for ya.

Speaking of which, Tvash and I ran into Brian M. and his partner Matt on the road as we were hiking out. They had huge packs on and said they were heading in to do Ice Cliff on Saturday and the Stuart Glacier Couloir on Sunday, an ambitious plan. They were to be joined by Pochi and another climber for the latter. I wonder how they fared. Weather in the Icicle was drizzly on Saturday, but pretty good on Sunday.

 

We could only assume the huge packs were part of training for their upcoming Alaska trip. Okay Brian, let us see a TR, successful or not.

Edited by catbirdseat

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Yeah, I was one of the climbers that someone's friend talked to on Sunday evening (day or two after this Trip). We headed up there on Sunday morning, but as mentioned, got turned around by loud shifting/breaking noise from deep underneath my feet... not once but twice. There was certainly more than a couple of inches in the couloir- I was definitely mid thigh deep when I tried to cross the couloir the first time (halted by aforementioned unsettling snow noise). It warmed up substantially during the day, and we left in a good rain. I did my best to take some pictures of the new conditions from below if anyone's interested.

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