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[TR] Dragontail - Backbone Ridge 9/1/2013


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Trip: Dragontail - Backbone Ridge


Date: 9/1/2013


Trip Report:

I've known Oleg for years but have never climbed with him. It turned out to be a treat. We met at Colchuck lake for dinner and whiskey around 5pm on Saturday. Woke up a little after 530am and were hiking by 630. We both were feeling the whiskey and no joke brought 8 liters of water! We brought our gear and planned on a bivy around the summit or back at the lake.


The climbing was very straightforward for the most part and on very clean secure rock. He had already led the offwidth on a prior trip and let me have that lead. I was surprised that it wasn't that hard. It was strenuous, but very straightforward and secure. We brought two number 5 cams and a number 6 so I didn't have to move the cams up very much and could climb past them as the pitch isn't that long. I didn't feel run out.


The pack was very heavy with all the water so we tried to drink as much as possible. It felt weird not to ration and actually have too much water and food. We kept eating and drinking and it almost felt like cragging over alpine. The climbing is relaxing and enjoyable with no really hard moves. We did notice several bivy spots along the way, with some awesome ones on top of backbone ridge.


Getting to the fin, it looked mostly blank from below. I didn't really have any beta on the climb and Oleg left the pictures and descriptions in the car. We kind of guessed where to start climbing and it was so good. I really can't describe how enjoyable the pitches were with such great exposure and afternoon sun. The last pitch to the top of the fin felt run out as we used the #5 cams for the belay. So it was a runnout foot traverse with great exposure.


We did have one very sketchy rappel off the mountain. We went down to the East on the descent since we only had tennis shoes and wanted to avoid the steep snow. The first single rappel was straightforward, but the second was sketchy. It barely covered a tiny horn (if you could call it that). I am a lot bigger so I went first with Oleg keeping an eye on it. We backed it up with two cams in case it popped. Unfortunately it went on an overhang and ended up being 12 feet too short to a big ledge. I placed a cam and did the crazy bounce testing to see if the rappel would fail for oleg. It held and I let the ends go through the rope and was able to reach a place to downclimb. We then made another rappel to the snow and descended to a good bivy site.


Great climb and great partner. Here are some photos.


This is me towards the top of the offwidth



Oleg on the pitch above it.



The great bivy spots on top of the BB



Me on the fin somewhere low



Oleg on the second to last pitch



Oleg at his belay



Looking down on Oleg from the top of the fin




Gear Notes:

You don't need two #5's but what the hell right? And #6

8 Liters of water :)

double cams to .4 to #3 with some small stuff too

10 alpine draws and 3 doubles

2 hangovers

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Aaron ended up being a great partner! Canadian whiskey, a buddy and solid granit, what else do you need in Alps?


I think the second rappel anchor needs rebuilding - maybe by extending the slings? I was a bit shaken going down the slot, thinking I will never have a beer again :)


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Aaron. Fuck.

Oleg promised me boys and whiskey at the lake and on route, but then I was supposed to lead the whole thing afterwards. He likes to rough it :grin:.

I thought at the time the Serpentine arete with a friend would be a much more civilized idea.


Why did you guys get sucked into those sketchy raps? We left pretty decent tracks for you to follow, next to the goat path.

With a sharp self-arrest rock and in clown shoes, it worked pretty well, although I still need to train hard to do it as fast as those goats.






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Yeah, having never been on Dragontail before, I was aimlessly looking for those cairns/rap slings at first too but failed. Then the goats came into view and begun descending the icy slope towards the Enchantments which we reproduced as well, albeit way less efficiently.


I like my Neanderthal tool too - big props to Katie Dills for the introduction! I bet the outdoor industry will patent this invention very shortly :).

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It's been a few years, but I've been to the main summit on Dragontail at least 3 times and I've never done anything but walk off, including once in the dark. Rapped off from where the NE Butt tops out, sure, but the main summit I thought was a walk off. Sheesh, I hate, like really hate, sketchy rappels.


I figure Backbone will be my next trip to the top, thanks for the TR and pictures.

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