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denalidave

[TR] Dragon Tail Peak - Serpentine Arete 8/22 8/26/2009

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Trip: Dragon Tail Peak - Serpentine Arete 8/22

 

Date: 8/26/2009

 

Trip Report:

Buddy scored the permits for Colchuck Lake early this year and we started making grand plans. The original plan was to camp at Colchuck Lake and do Prusik Peak from there. However, since we ticked off Prusik in June, we decided to do something on the Colchuck side and avoid going over kick-in-the-Assgard Pass. Serpentine Arete seemed within our abilities and since the permit was from Friday through Monday, we should have plenty of time to do several routes while in the area, right? Hike in on Friday AM, set up camp, then go do Sun Chips, a fun looking 3 pitch route we had recently seen on a TR. Day two, get an alpine start and do Serpentine Arete, hoping to be topping out by 4 or 5 PM. Then, on day three, tick off Back Bone Ridge or the NE Buttress. This plan looks great on paper, even though my own personal experience on longer alpine routes, as well as my climbing experience with buddy, have proven “our eyes are usually bigger than our stomachs” type scenarios. Seeing how I am an average climber seeking mediocrity, I felt this may be a bit over-optimistic. But hey, you gotta dream big right? I thought it was indeed possible to have three days of climbing but also knew that we would likely have our plates full with Serpentine Arete.

 

Day one starts out great and we make it to the far side of Colchuck Lake about 12:30 or 1 and got camp set up. We decided it would be much better to relax, enjoy the afternoon lazen in the sun and then go stash the rack & rope at the base of Serpentine in the early evening. This way, we would be able to get to bed early and also get a sneak peak at the route, as well as not have to carry the rack and rope up in the early morning.

 

 

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Day two, the alarm never went off, so we get the not-so-alpine start around 6:30 or 7 AM. Rope up about 9 AM and start heading up. In my early years of climbing, I had earned the nickname (among many others) – “Off route Dave” or “Wrong Way Dave” so the warnings in the guide book about the extremely difficult route finding had me a bit concerned. As it turned out, we were able to stay on route, I think, all the way to the summit.

 

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The climbing was pretty straightforward, we swapped leads on most pitches and most of them went quickly and smoothly. I must admit that I had a bit of a commitment issue on the crux pitch and ended up aiding a move or three off the ground. I guess I did not like the idea of decking on the ledge out in the middle of nowhere. I was having “shrinkage issues”. Other than that, it was pretty easy and fun climbing with plenty of large loose rocks and tricky route finding to keep it a spicy. Buddy stepped up to the plate when I was not feeling it, thanks! OIt was pretty cool to watch quite a few very large boulders, some the size of houses, go crashing and careening down the Colchuck Glacier headwall. Man, that is a wild and rugged place!

 

We manage to top out about an hour before dark and I kept telling myself “as long as we can get to Assgard Pass by dark, we’ll be fine”. Which is exactly what happened. We got to Assgard at about 8:45 PM, right as the last bit of daylight was fading. We enjoyed a stellar sunset and a short break before the final slog back to camp. I finally took a deep breathe and thought it was an easy stroll back to camp.

 

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Now I’m not quite sure what Buddy was planning but I think it was one of three things… A- Go light and fast and save a lot of weight by NOT bringing the brand new headlamp battery, just use the older one as it is obviously much lighter now that it is almost dead. Or, B- Headlamps are aid so we don’t need em. Or, C- An epic, or at least a mini-epic, is the standard practice for these types of routes so we need to make sure we have one, even if it is only on the descent, so we can get the full meal deal alpine experience. Anyway, a few minutes into the descent down the pass, buddy tells me his headlamp is dead. Me, “I thought you just bought a new battery?” Buddy, “I did but I left it in the car.” OK, we’ll have to make do with one. A few minutes later, I hear a lot of swearing and screaming. When I get a chance to look over and see what all the hub-ub is about, I can see buddy’s pant leg is saturated in blood from the shin down He pulls up the pant leg and mutters something about “How about one of these?” and shows me a very nasty looking deep gash in his lower leg. I was not sure what to say. I wanted to ask if he needed medical attention, but since there was none available, why bother asking? It was obviously not broken as he was walking on it, but it sure looked gruesome and painful. At one point I decided to ask if there was anything I could do to help him and his reply was “yeah, give me your headlamp”. I replied something like “sorry, I guess I can’t help you then”. Around 11:30 PM we were thrashing around trying to find our camp but had gone a bit too far past it. We camped next to one of the biggest boulders in the area, just so it would be easy to find when we came down in the dark. Finally, around 12:30ish, buddy decides he is done and needs to start a fire to warm up before he gets hypothermia. He had been complaining about how cold he was, even though he had several warm layers on. Up until then I had asked him several times to take a break but he refused as that would just delay getting back to camp, which I agreed. I was in a short sleeve shirt and was neither too hot nor too cold so I knew he was likely going into shock and/or his body was just shutting down on him from exhaustion. I helped him get a fire started, then told him I was going to go find our camp.

 

It was amazing how easy life was once I ditched buddy. I could actually focus on finding our camp, rather than trying to light up both our paths. By this time, I was pretty tired myself and I would start zoning off in my own little world and forget buddy had no headlamp. I can imagine his frustration when, right as he is about to make a difficult step over a rock, I move my head, leaving him in total blindness. At the same time, I have to see where I am going too and can only do so much as far as providing him some light. Anywho, once I left him, I found our camp in five or ten minutes.

 

Now back at our base camp, I grabbed his bag, pad and bivy sack, crammed them in his pack, and headed back to find him. Needless to say, he was pretty stoked! I mumbled something about just crawl in your bag and go to sleep, I need to go take care of my own needs now. You can have my liter of water but give me my pack in case I need something out of it. “But you don’t need anything in that pack!” was his reply. He was very reluctant give me my small pack and I certainly understood how hard that would have been for him. He would have to get up and move a few feet, but he was in no hurry to move anywhere and I don’t blame him one bit. “Just open the pack, take out the water bottle, and hand me the pack”, I told him calmly yet sternly several times. He finally gave in and handed the pack up to me. (He had to do it as I was about 10 feet above his emergency camp, on top a boulder, and would have had to hike down and around to get to him.) He tells me the next day that he did not want to give me my pack cause then I would not have any reason to come find him later. Which looking back the next day, we both found hilarious.

 

The next morning I slept in till 8:45 AM, made a nice hot breakfast and a huge cup of Vanilla Latte. I leisurely enjoyed the morning sipping coffee and the solitude of having it all to myself. I was expecting buddy to show up any minute but he never did. Once I finished breakfast and the usual morning rituals, I made him bagel/cream cheese sandwich and headed back to find him. He looked much better now that he had gotten some needed rest. His leg, however, did not look nearly as good. The large blood slick on his pant leg had dried over night, leaving the pant leg glued to the laceration. We went down to the lake where he soaked it long enough to get the pant leg off the wound. While he spent the next few hours cleaning his wound up, I went up and fetched the rest of his gear and brought it back down to the beach. Then I went back up and got all my gear so we could move our camp to the other end of the lake to make the hike out the next day a bit shorter.

 

 

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We had a nice relaxing third night and got to bed shortly after dark. On the hike out the next morning, some young kids coming up the trail ask if we were Dave & Ken. When we confirmed we were, they tells us the Sheriff is down in the parking lot looking for us as one of our wives had reported us overdue. Buddy says, “what do you mean, I don’t even have a wife”. (As if these kids are making up this story just to mess with us.). Well, obviously they would not make this up as they don’t even know us, was my response. As it turns out, my wife thought I was coming home late Sunday night, even though the last thing I said to her was “I will see you on MONDAY”. I had told her several times that we MIGHT come out Sunday, but since the permit went till Monday, we would more likely stay till then. This would be my first climbing adventure that I was not back when expected, so the lovely wife started calling to send in the troops. My bad, I forgot to leave a detailed note with all our pertinent details like when, where, etc… But you can bet your ass I won’t forget that not next time!

 

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All in all, it was another great trip and I can’t wait to go back. Then again, next time buddy wants me to come along on a big climb, I will certainly give it careful consideration before jumping on it. (This comment has nothing to do with ability or the head lamp incident, but rather, out tendency to both go agro on each other and also having a hard time coming to a consensus on some decision. This has only seemed to be an issue for us on longer routes, though.) Not too many pics of the climb itself as the camera only made it out a few times and it was also not working half the time… many of the pictures were fuzzy and out of focus, no matter which setting I had it on. (Probably from the numerous times I dropped it, including the last time I was in the area and I left the brand new camera on top of my car in the Snow Creek parking lot. I pulled out and it fell off the roof a mile or so up the road. When I came back a half hour later, all I found was the case in the road. Lucky for me, good Karma prevailed when a kind soul found it in once piece and mailed it back to me. :) )

 

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Then again, next time buddy wants me to come along on a big climb, I will certainly give it careful consideration before jumping on it.

 

I am looking to do Stuart - West Ridge as soon as the leg is healed up, if anyone is interested.

 

Thanks again for retrieving my bag and bivy!

 

Dave: My New Hero...

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after a public slagging like that I was going to say that "buddy" probably won't be asking you to go on anymore big alpine climbs...but I guess I was wrong.

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after a public slagging like that I was going to say that "buddy" probably won't be asking you to go on anymore big alpine climbs...but I guess I was wrong.
Some of the names were changed to protect the innocent... :lmao:

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"It was amazing how easy life was once I ditched buddy"

 

Brutal, but honest!

 

Great read but an unfortunate injury! My bro. got a similar injury comming out from the Tooth years ago, scared the hell out of both of us. Gotta watch those sharp rocks!

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after a public slagging like that I was going to say that "buddy" probably won't be asking you to go on anymore big alpine climbs...but I guess I was wrong.
Don't get me wrong, "Buddy" is a great partner, I just love giving him a little grief when I can. I'd expect, and have already received from him, nothing but the same treatment. :P

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"It was amazing how easy life was once I ditched buddy"

 

Brutal, but honest!

 

Great read but an unfortunate injury! My bro. got a similar injury comming out from the Tooth years ago, scared the hell out of both of us. Gotta watch those sharp rocks!

Yeah, I would totally be off in my own little world staring in space and then remember, oh yeah, he aint got no headlamp. What a bummer, but I bet he will have two good lamps next time, as will I. At a bare minimum, I will insist on three headlamps for a party of two.

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Different! Thanks for sharing.

 

One of my longtime climbing partners has had too many headlamp epics from his partners, so he brings two headlamps with him now.

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:lmao:

wait! i learned awhile ago not to laugh at ken afte rhe gets hurt - it makes'em cranky, so that was just for you dave! ken, did that fucker take stitches? looks narsty!

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Yeah, there's no excuse not to take two headlamps now days, their so light, just take the 2nd one without it's band and reuse the first band.

 

I still take just one though when it's harder climbing, just make sure there's brand new lithium batteries.

 

nice TR :tup:

 

that's a "good" injury compared to broken bones and needing a carry out.

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:lmao:

wait! i learned awhile ago not to laugh at ken afte rhe gets hurt - it makes'em cranky, so that was just for you dave! ken, did that fucker take stitches? looks narsty!

I offered to stitch him up with my sewing kit but he was not at all interested. I am going to get some sutures for my first aid kit though.

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For the record, Ken is a stand up partner and we have done some really cool climbs together. Don't get the idea he was not up to the task, sometimes these adventures can be trying for the best of partners. All in all, we have had many great adventures and if it was not for him, we would probably not even finished the route. He sacked up on some sections when I was not feeling it. Thanks for a great trip Ken, and for scoring the permits too.

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For the record, Ken is a stand up partner and we have done some really cool climbs together. Don't get the idea he was not up to the task, sometimes these adventures can be trying for the best of partners. All in all, we have had many great adventures and if it was not for him, we would probably not even finished the route. He sacked up on some sections when I was not feeling it. Thanks for a great trip Ken, and for scoring the permits too.

boooooring! :P guys, it's cc.com , can you please be monkeys that fling poo at each other?!

 

ken probably didn't need no stitches no-how, he no-doubt had all the requisite pain-killers - i brought a staplegun on denali, sounds like ya'll oughta start rolling w/ one

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boooooring! :P guys, it's cc.com , can you please be monkeys that fling poo at each other?!

 

I second that one... I love it when dave sprays! the story-telling process is an epic in itself :lmao:

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Most of us have had ugly one or no lamp descents. Glad it wasn't worse. Maybe if you'd had a rappel accident on the bolted slab rap in the middle of the Asgard descent...

 

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WOW. Bet that sucker took a few to stich up. I had practically the same injury and that thing took a long time to heal up.

 

I would have been out of there the first night, but I am weak :)

 

Isn'there some time limit on getting stiches? 36hrs?

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Most of us have had ugly one or no lamp descents. Glad it wasn't worse. Maybe if you'd had a rappel accident on the bolted slab rap in the middle of the Asgard descent...

 

HAHA! Rapping Asgard.... it never gets old! :lmao:

I was waiting for you guys to do it, and was relieved when it did not enter the story.

 

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I had practically the same injury and that thing took a long time to heal up.

 

Yeah, right. Sport climbers don't get those kind of badges... :P

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P1010532.jpg

 

Where does the route start in this pic? I've heard some people have a hard time finding it.

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P1010532.jpg

 

Where does the route start in this pic? I've heard some people have a hard time finding it.

the idea is to get into that whitish bowl in the middle of the picture, then work right onto that incipient ridge that looks more like a series of little peaks

 

btw, the view from the arete of what happens to that bowl in the midst of a violent rain-storm is truly impressive - make sure yer will is writ if you ever plan on bivy'n there :)

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