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Raoul Duke

[TR] Dragontail - Northwest Face 4/22/2007

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Trip: Dragontail - Northwest Face

 

Date: 4/22/2007

 

Trip Report:

My buddy Noah and I climbed a route up the northwest face of Dragontail on Sunday, generally staying left of Backbone Ridge.

 

It snowed on us Saturday night up at the lake, probably a couple of inches. I understand from other recent posts that others found conditions unacceptable this weekend, but when we got up at 5 on Sunday it was clear, windless, and we decided to go for it.

 

We started pretty low on the face, aiming for a pair of iced-up runnels at mid height that are obvious from the lake. We snuck around the first serious rock band by using a short snow couloir on the right, then traversing leftwards on a snow bench for a couple of simul pitches until we found a corner system that was iced up enough to work with. To our surprise, this turned out to be crux. First, I lead a pitch up a short, smooth corner with a little iced up crack. This involved some not-so-fun lie backing and half a spectre in some turf as the one piece of pro. After that we moved up a short stretch of snowfield, really a snowed-over slab. That brought us to the base of another corner.

 

This was Noah's lead, and an impressive one. The gear was VERY marginal, and the corner just barely held ice; the hardest moves involved camming the picks in a crack and balancing the feet up on verglassed rock. Nasty shit, in my humble opinion. There may well be an easier way to access the runnels we were going for, but this pitch brought us a onto a nice little snowfield where we could relax and take a breath. Or in my case, a smoke.

 

From this point the route started coming together really nicely...the crap conditions on the lower face gave way to some thick, bomber snice in the steeper sections. We simuled through snowfields and the runnels that we had seen from below, stopping every 300 feet or so to change leads. There were small steep sections, and the last two runnels we climbed in the middle of the face were real water ice, solid and incredibly fun to climb. Might have even taken screws!

 

A bunch of simuling thorough this kind of territory brought us to a snowfield below the Fin, and the corner system running up its left side. This yielded more snicey terrain, until we encountered a steep section that had no ice in it. This was a little cruxy (again, Noah's lead, big high-five) but it deposited us at the base of TC's third couloir. Ran up that to the summit, just in time to see the sun to set above the clouds.

 

In general, I guess we found the face in "acceptable" conditions. I don't think we were too close to either of the routes described in the WA Ice book, at least not in our finish...maybe closest to Beckey's Northwest Face route? We found some fixed pieces in the lower runnels and also in the rocky corner below the third couloir of TC.

 

We didn't take many pictures because the goddamned clouds fogged up the lens, and besides we were trying to be businesslike...but I'll try and post what we have.

 

All in all, a great route.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

Bring your knifeblades, and be ready for some run outs.

 

Approach Notes:

We biked Mountaineer Creek Rd. The hike out after breaking camp sucked ass. Got back to Seattle arround 6:30am Monday morning.

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I wonder, were the other guys on the bike that offered me a bike pump near the trail head? Regardless, great work guys. Glad the conditions worked out well for you.

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Nice Guys! Sounds like you did the August 1971 North Face route in Beckey's Guide. That one is definatly on "the list"!

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Cool! Looking forward to any photos....

 

Nice work! So good to see someone climb something other than TC's....

 

Not that there's anything wrong with TC's....

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For whatever reason, I can't seem to find a good way to "draw" on any pictures (i've got a mac) but in your BIG picture, we started in the depression midway between backbone ridge and the lowest part of the face, climbed up through the obvious runnels at mid-height, and exited just left of the fin into TC.

 

We didn't get a look at the face until Sun morning, briefly, in between cloud banks, and saw some good terrain to aim in the middle. We knew if we could hit runnels, they'd take us out the top. While we were antsy for some "good" climbing as we started out, 4-5 pitches up we were antsy for the path of least resistance. The lower half was sketchy, for sure, but conditions improved noticeably as we moved higher, till they were down right fun. Still, no time to dilly-dally--6:30a...on the move, 9p...toping out.

 

Certainly a good one for the list, and certainly in fatter conditions it would be a fantastic alternative to kick-stepping up TC.

 

 

 

 

And ya, we offered you the pump--I can't imagine that back tire lasted long...

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And ya, we offered you the pump--I can't imagine that back tire lasted long...

 

Oh it lasted, little bumpy, but I got down the road faster than on foot.

Then again I haven't check if the wheel is straight anymore.

Edited by kevino

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Nice job on a fun climb! Yes, it sounds like you guys basically climbed the August '71 line. I've done it a couple times, and I think it is one of the highest quality ice climbs in the Cascades. Rarely more technically difficult than TC, but with 8 times more technical terrain. Also, it seems to come into condition almost every year, about equally consistent as TC.

 

If you look at a topo map, the entire "north" face of Dragontail definitely faces to the northwest. However, what is commonly referred to as the "Northwest Face", as per Beckey, is either the terrain between Backbone and Serpentine or the terrain to the right of Serpentine.

 

I think maybe Dylan and I ran into you guys while you were hiking in and us hiking out, at the Colchuck-Lake/Stuart-Lake junction?

 

I was in the middle of fucking reptile zoo, and someone was giving booze to these goddamn animals! It won't be long now 'till they tear us to shreds...

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there is a conspicuous lack of a topo line up Backbone...and the obvious ice smear that comes out of the hidden couloir (i think Wayne did this before?)

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Thats the TC Direct. It has to be all Ice or M8-X. Colin and I tried it a few years ago.Got 80 up it and bailed to the N.face

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Picutres; I hope this works, but I'm about as computer savvy as a cinder block. Like I said, nothing impressive...

 

My rotten attorney making lude, childish gestures at the offending clouds:

 

phpv9mHM3PM.jpg

 

Looking up at the face in the erlay morning:

 

phpPG8ufvPM.jpg

 

Closeup of the runnels:

 

phpbVur9JPM.jpg

 

First pitch, and the last picture we took on the face:

 

 

phpExlEgTPM.jpg

 

Getting really really excited to hike out at 11pm:

 

 

php10Br7uPM.jpg

 

 

Oh, in my gear notes I forgot the first aid kit: we had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers... Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls.

 

 

Hopefully I fixed these great pictures-TTT

Edited by To_The_Top

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Ya, the green lines are right on it...

 

We were initially gunning for something on the quote, NWF (right of serpentine), but went for the first thing we saw due to poor visibility starting out.

 

and, yup that was us at the turn off...

 

N

 

 

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