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[TR] - Dragontail - Serpentine Arete 8/02/08

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I know, I know, another Serpentine Arete trip report. I had been itching to do this route for awhile as a barometer for my ability / readiness to jump on some bigger routes. Wayne1112 was parter-less for the weekend, and agreed to get out with me. The weather was great, we didn't hit any snags, and overall it was a great day in the mountains.


We left the already crowded Stuart Lakes / Mountaineer Creek parking lot around 5:15am, making quick time up the trail to Colchuck Lake and up into the basin below Dragontail. By the time we made our way up alongside the very melted out Colchuck glacier, we discovered there were 3 parties ahead of us on Serpentine, and 3 parties were headed up Backbone.


Cool Views of melted out Colchuck Glacier and Colchuck Peak:




While eating and drinking getting ready to climb, it was cool to ponder the more serious routes over on the slabs west:



Wayne and I agreed that it'd be optimal to try and pass the parties as quickly as possible. It was also friggin' cold in the shade, and neither of us wanted to hang around - my hands were numb just from touching the rock scrambling up! There is solid 4th class terrain slightly left of the beginning of the route we were able to quickly scramble to overtake the first two belaying parties. From there, Wayne led a pitch up to the base of the good pitches.


Here we met another party. It appeared the party's leader on the pitch, Lisa, was taking a line up a dihedral on the left. There was a sweet handcrack in a corner that appeared open; I started up it. Lisa merged over to it, and so I hung out off of a piece. She was very unnerved by our attempt to pass her, and wasn't shy about letting us know. She had some choice words, and I think we made her feel very uncomfortable by attempting to pass. Sorry! It's the way of the world on easily accessed moderate terrain.


Wayne led the next fun pitch, then we transitioned to simulclimbing the rest of the route. I asked to be on the front of the rope, feeling that the stronger and more experienced partner (Wayne) should second. This worked well, I occasionally got a quick belay at a short 5th class step. It was pretty chilly out, and I was grateful for the near continuous movement to stay warm!


Cool view of the lake from higher up on the route:



We tried to climb a fun finger crack just below the summit, but after about 40 feet it got mossier, steeper, and the smearing opportunities quickly vanished. Wayne's speculation about it's difficulty made me a little nervous about getting up it even on TR, but fortunately I was able to clean it without event, pendulum over to the easier ground, and top out. Here's a pic of Wayne on it:



After this fun diversion, we were on the summit at noon. It was nice to finally have the sun warming us up after climbing a few hours in the shade.


Cool view of the Dragontail summit ridge:



Mount Stuart + my hand:



After a half hour of eating lunch and packing up, we start to descend the backside. There's awesome views down into the Enchantments here:



We took tennis shoes, aluminum 'pons, and a single ski pole each. I was a little nervous heading down the steep snow slope on the backside, but I'm relatively new to the whole tennis shoes / strap-on crampons thing. I'd advise at least crampons and a ski pole to anyone heading up there with approach/tennis shoes right now. If you hit the snowfield later in the day (we were going down 12:30ish), it might be softened up a little more by the sun and easier to negotiate sans 'pons.


Before bitch-slapping your knees, Aasgard Pass gives you a nice view down to the lake:



Also cool are the awesome views of the eastern / northern aspects of Dragontail from the Aasgard descent:



We got down to the lake and re-fueled, heading off around 2:15 and making it back to the car by 4:15. I was very happy with doing this route 11 hours car to car; it was faster than I expected. I am also appreciative of Wayne, a far stronger and experienced climber, roping up with me and accomodating my comfort level in terms of when to belay and when to simul.


Unsolicited words of advice to aspirants of this route: IMHO, this route rewards the swift-moving. Being fit, comfortable running it out a bit more than you would at the crag, quickly constructing adequate anchors, and simulclimbing smoothly all contribute to having a good time on this climb. Placing pro every ten feet, trying to construct John Long - approved anchors, and belaying each pitch would make this climb tedious and less fun. I say this as someone aspiring to bigger and more challenging climbs. That said, it can be (it was for me, anyways) a great experience and confidence builder.

Edited by jared_j

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She was very unnerved by our attempt to pass her, and wasn't shy about letting us know. She had some choice words, and I think we made her feel very uncomfortable by attempting to pass. Sorry! It's the way of the world on easily accessed moderate terrain.


Sounds like Lisa needs to gain a better understanding on what climbing a well established, VERY popular route is about. You don't go to the Stuart Range's known climbs for solitude. What were you supposed to do - sit there and wait as slower climbers moved at their pace instead of persuing your own pace? :wazup:


And yes, climbing with Wayne is aid. :) Nice job guys.



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Ha! Good one. I wanted to be ahead of all folk' cause I forgot my helmet. It is hard to believe that in "27 years of climbing" That nobody had tried to pass her before. Anyways , she was nice after she saw we werent going to pull her off the pitch. It is sketchy to pass someone while they are leading.

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