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[TR] Dragontail Peak - Serpentine Arête 8/7/2011

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Trip: Dragontail Peak - Serpentine Arête


Date: 8/7/2011


Trip Report:

Short Version:


Brandon, Aaron, John, and I climbed Serpentine Arete for a BOEALPS ICC alpine outing.

The route is fun and has some great pitches low in the route; however, I am not sure it outweighs the amount of risk due to loose rock; especially if you are behind a party. The bulk of our loose rock issues were during the simul-climbing below the 5.7 variation to the right side of the summit block. I think if we stayed left (closer to the arête) less loose rock and route finding would be less of an issue. A very sincere apology to the party below us for any rockfall we sent your way. Some came from above us (without warning) with very near misses for all 4 of us. I’d say most of it was definitely our fault. The worst was a large ledge they blew out from under my feet while simul-climbing just below the last 5.7 variation pitch.



• 04:15 Left Stuart Lake TH

• 06:00 Colchuck Lake

• 08:30 Start Route

• 13:30 Top of main pitches before simul-climbing

• 16:30 Lost below 5.7 variation (around pitch 10)

• 20:30 Summit

• 00:00 Colchuck Lake

• 02:15 Back at Stuart Lake TH


Detailed Version:


We climbed Serpentine Arete car-to-car in 22 hours (see timeline). It's not an impressive time at all (some say EPIC). We planned to finish the route car-to-car in 15 to 17 hours. Our long route time is due some confusion at pitch 1, a sprained ankle around pitch 8, and at pitch 12 we spent a long time figuring out where the route went (we were far right under the 5.7 summit variation).

We were climbing by 08:30 at the base of the rock seen in Alpine Dave’s trip report. We decided against the 5.7 crack in the corner and decided to simul-climb up and left to the ramp between pitch 1 and 2. Bad idea. The leader headed too far left and was on some unprotectable terrain just below the pitch 1 and was uneasy simul-climbing this. Meanwhile, a baseball sized rock from above came whizzing by his head. If I did it again, I’d pitch this out. Pitch 3 went very smoothly aside from my near encounter with a small rock. At the crux (pitch 4) we choose the far right crack. This looked easier and more protectable than the standard middle crack. Pitch 5 went well. I got to the piton and headed left up to a boulderly dihedral (well, with a pack anyway). This led into a nice belay spot nested into large flake rocks. Pitch 6 started just to the right and up the ridge. From here on out (Pitch 7-14) the route follows benches of ledges filled with lots of loose rock and section of low-fifth class pitches. We simul-climbed almost all of this rock. When in doubt here we tended right. I think we eventually ended up too far right to the point we were below the 5.7 variation pitch that Fred Beckey talks about. It was difficult to tell this was the “route” and wasted a lot of time in this area. Rap slings, lots of loose rock, and little good pro was not comforting. We eventually pressed on knowing it was getting late. Just below the last pitch, a very large ledge blew out from under my feet. My heart sank knowing people were below us. I was very fortunate that they were not below us at this time. There are at least 2 more very large boulders that will let loose anytime. The 5.7 variation had great rock just sucked to get to it. We summited at 20:30.

Now for the slog home in the dark…


More Pictures areHERE.






Base of the route for us started on the hight in the snow.



The money pitch.



Pitch 5



Large Flakes on the left after the piton




The start of simul-climbing






The way we took to the 5.7 variation



The Summit!



Gear Notes:

Ice Axe & Crampons

Full Rack, with 14 Slings (10 Singles, 4 Doubles)


Approach Notes:


Alpine Dave's trip report

Summitpost (picture: Overlay 1) for pitch numbering.


Edited by mitch334

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One rule for the Serpentine, NEVER leave the arete!


Nice Job! Looks like a great time to summit.

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We must have been over next to you guys on Backbone that day. Someone definitely watched me grunt up the offwidth! Such a nice day up there. Upon reaching that gorgeous crest later in the day, I was almost tempted to make up some excuse so I could score a sweet night under those stars. :ooo:

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Nice to see the pics. Yep that lose rocks an issue. Did this route years ago with Dane and got popped on the calf from a rock pulled off above me. Lotsa a blood but the sock got it and leg still works!

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Nice write up Matt; I need to get my pictures up.


Yeah, the lose rock was somewhat terrifying. If anyone is going up the 5.7 variation, there is a huge flake buried in the crack about 10 ft. above the big leftward pointing horn/possible belay ledge. This sucker is cantilevered in the crack and the only thing holding it up is its own weight. Breathing on this will cause it to go and take out your belayer and anchor down below. Hopefully it falls out on its own when nobody is up there. Until then, stay safe if you go up that way.

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