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[TR] Dragontail - Backbone Ridge 6/25/2012


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Trip: Dragontail - Backbone Ridge


Date: 6/25/2012


Trip Report:

Backbone Ridge- Dragontail Trip Report

June 25-26, 2012; with Seth Bushinsky


Pre-trip planning/events

Seth and I had hoped to climb Slesse but opted not to after consideration of weather and recommendations of cc.com old-timers (concerns regarding pocket glacier); maybe we'll give it a go next month. Backbone ridge was on a list of climbs we could probably do in a day, but since we had two, we envisioned a link up of Dragontail and then Stanley-Burgner Route on Prussik, which would mean carrying full packs up and over on Backbone Ridge.


30 second summary

Drove to Leavenworth Monday night and slept at Stuart Lake TH. Hiked into Apline Lakes Wilderness early Tuesday morning, and got shut down by weather/route condition on Backbone ridge.



Spent most of day sleeping at Colchuck Lake.



Better weather Wednesday allowed us to to climb it, though we may have been off route for as much as the first half of the climb. Totally missed out on Prussik.


Backbone Ridge Pitches

our climb broke down like this:

Started at notch between start of Serpentine and Backbone ridge.

P1 Jesse on lead, up 200 feet easy scrambling, bring up Seth.

P2 Seth on lead, start simul-climbing towards cleaner rock on climbers right side of the crest



P3 Switch over lead, still simul-climbing, some icy slabs (stayed right of crest from here to P6)

P4 Notch forces us onto steeper terrain, sketchy pitch of broken rock, shallow cracks and ice



P5 Climbing between side of crest and slabs, lots of easy terrain with a few fun chimney/offwidth moves

P6 Seth takes lead to bring us on to top of crest



P7 Seth on lead, simul-climb to base of fin

P8 Seth takes first pitch of fin

P8.5 Switch leads, Jesse up to base of 'twin crack' pitch

P9 Jesse leads up twin cracks

P10 Short pitch to flake/block, with some fun moves

P11 Long fun pitch starts with finger crack and tricky feet, then traverses under huge block on big crack for feet, then to vertical offwidth







P12 Last awesome pitch traverses across top of fin to a notch with feet in good crack and hands either in crack or scumming along fin; pitch through notch (to other side of fin)

P13 Seth leads off, short section on cold (shaded) side of fin, before turning through another notch back to sunny side.

P14 A short exposed step, and then a simul-scramble to the summit



Narrative of climb

Ruined this section up by not writing it up before taking off for Wonderland trail.

Neither of us had a good picture of what the route looked like, so we missed the early traverse leftwards and the classic offwidth- this might have been snow-covered still, but maybe that's just wishful thinking. Instead we climbed the seam/slabs at the junction of the slabs and the right side of the crest until we were forced up onto the crest. From there we climbed along the crest to the fin and then got back on route as best we could. The fin pitches were the most fun (relatively clean rock, free of ice, only a few patches of snow), though they ended awkwardly traversing to the shaded side of the fin and back again, ultimately to a steep scramble on mixed terrain to the summit. While I'm pretty sure we were on N&P's route for some of the Fin, I think we may have taken a different crack system at some point. The vertical offwidth we encountered (to make up for the one we missed!) was too notable/enjoyable/long to not be in the pitch by pitch description we were "following".


Descent: walk off South side of Dragontail back to Aasgard Pass, then back down to lake, took less than an hour due to snow in excellent glissade conditions.

Back to car: the return to the TH was surprisingly easy. mellow, fairly rapid.

Back to Seattle: Seth drove, so I only had to try and stay awake. Variably successful.



If you're going to miss the offwidth pitch that needs a #5 for protection there really is no need to go buy a #5 the night before the climb…


Time/Event Summary

time landmark/event


0030 Stuart Lake TH, sleep in parking lot

0545 get up

0630 start hiking, overcast

0700 bridge over creek

0720 Colchuck trail split, light rain

0815 arrive at S end of lake, overcast, light rain

0930 top of morraine, even with base of Serpentine and Backbone routes, lots of snow and wind, leave packs to go check out base of climbs

1030 back at packs and opt to attempt Serpentine

1130 abandon attempts (ice, snow, wind)

1300 campsite by colchuck, set up tent, etc.

1400 down for 'nap'

2030 up from 'nap', dinner

2215 down for bed


0700 up, clear and cold → GO

0800 leave camp

1000 200 ft up route, SB takes off (P2) as leader simul climbing/scrambling

1120 notch between clean rock above and slabby broken rock we had been scrambling. P3 Switch simul lead, some easy slab, but lowest angle bits have ice on them. Crest wall and slabs forces us steeply upwards, time to pitch it out: P4-broken shallow cracks, wet and scary; P5- |B| slabs and sidewall of crest, some interesting offwidth/chimney moves

1330 P6- SB takes lead, 1 pitch brings us to top of crest, P7 simul to base of fin

1400 SB starts up first pitch on fin on lead (P8), JCL leads short section of P8.5

1525 bottom of P9 (fin P3, twin cracks to ledge)

1625 JCL to top of P10 (fin P4, had a couple sporty moves, some insecure rock) which led off from left side of ledge at top of P9

1650 SB to top of P10 (fin-P4); J up P11 (most fun pitch, traverse+offwidth)

1715 JCL at end of traversing P12 (now on shady side of fin); SB takes lead (P13) back to sunny side; P14 is a simul to the summit

1830 summit

1930 top of asgaard pass

2030 back in camp (glissading made descent fast!)

2130 hiking

2215 colchuck TH split

2300 car, quick scare on car battery

0200 back in Seattle


Gear Notes:

50L pack, no avy gear, 60m 8.4mm rope, BD cams .3-5, nuts 4-11, 8 alpine draws, 2 quick draws, 3 double-length runners, whippet, katoonah spikes

Edited by jesselillis
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Nice work! Just did this last weekend, bummer you missed out on the offwidth but at least you got the one on the fin (looked fun but we were in a hurry!). Funny how you can never do justice to the exposure from the fin in a picture...

dave- not sustained, if you can get up the offwidth (physical, but not too technically tough), you can definitely handle some of the 5.8-9 moves on the Fin- I was worried about sandbagging but there's no need to be! Go get it!

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Agreed, the fin (at least our route up it) didn't get into 5.9+++ territory. Since we didn't climb the offwidth and that seems like the crux of the route (or at least I built it up to be the crux in my mind), I can't really speak to the route as a whole.


I definitely don't recommend the route we took on the right side of the lower ridge. Jesse sort of mentions it, but the combination of loose rock, difficult protection, and ice made our fourth pitch fairly unpleasant, and I was only following that one.

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