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bedellympian

[TR] Dragontail - Gerber-Sink variation? 3/24/2015

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Trip: Dragontail - Gerber-Sink variation?

 

Date: 3/24/2015

 

Trip Report:

Edward and I both had time off in the middle of this week so we drove up to Leavenworth from Bend to take our turn on Triple Couloirs. We hiked in to Colchuck Lake Monday night and went to sleep dreaming of a cruiser climb up steep snow. That night it started snowing. We woke up at 4am and it was still snowing so we went back to sleep. At 5am it was still snowing, and finally at 6am it stopped. We expected an inch or two but soon found out it had snowed about 6". We got out of bed and looked at the clearing face to see constant, large spindrift avalanches coming down, many dumping into the hidden couloir and blasting snow out the bottom. We sat around for an hour wondering what to do and finally decided to check out the white streaks right of the center buttress. I knew that the Gerber-Sink was in this vicinity and that it had been climbed as an ice route, but did not know where it went.

 

The white streaks had not gotten dumped on by spindrift for maybe 30 minutes so we got to the base and Edward started to try climb a mixed pitch left of the main streak. He tried two separate starting pitches, both had no pro and as soon as he got into the business it started coming down again. At one point I couldn't see my tools in the snow two feet from my face. The sloughs were constant and unrelenting. After backing off from both attempts we presumed the trip was a bust but I wanted to try one more mellow ramp pitch further left where there was less spindrift coming down. I climbed up some stubby trees on top of a ramp and accessed a snow ledge above where I could build an anchor.

 

Edward came up and it was already around 10am. We discussed bailing but a runnel led up and right and Edward said we might as well do another pitch just to see where it went. Up the runnel we traversed right on steep snow and popped out a pitch up the white streaks which were now obviously perfect steep neve. Unable to resist I led the next pitch up perfect sticks with a couple screws and ended up on more steep neve above and no decent anchor. Edward came up and with no anchor and more perfect neve seeming to continue forever we committed to the face.

 

A couple simul pitches later we emerged from beautiful runnels to a steep snow field. We thought we could see the bypass entrance to the third couloir but there was another couloir up and right tucked behind the Fin from the Backbone route. We wallowed up that way thinking it would be an easy top-out, but soon found thin ice and mixed climbing forcing us to break out the rope again. One pitch later Edward worked up the crux of the route, a verglassed slab-layback with gloved hand jams. It was pretty committing but had obviously been climbed before due to the two fixed nuts and faded sling we found on the pitch. One more short mixed step above this deposited us a couple rope lengths from the top of the third couloir. We slogged up through deep snow and tagged the summit around 6pm before heading straight back down Asgard to the Lake.

 

We had both told people that we would be back in Bend that night but it was now almost 8pm. We packed up and hiked out making it to the car just after 11pm. We drove into town to get cell reception and then took the first available forest service pullout and slept for a few hours before being awoken before 6am by the cold damp that comes from sleet falling on the tent.

 

After looking at the Beckey guide, I can say that our route was not the Gerber-Sink because it started on the right side of the buttress and followed the ice runnels and neve streaks which at some point probably shared several pitches with the G-S. Then instead of climbing the rock buttress at the top we climbed the gully behind the fin. I'm sure all of this has been done before by other parties, except maybe a couple of our starting pitches to avoid the spindrift might be slightly different. Regardless of what route it is, it is fantastic and I enjoyed it immensely.

 

Here is our route with the false starts marked in red.

route_topo1.jpg

 

Here is the picture sans route.

photo_422.JPG

 

photo_246.JPG

 

photo_85.JPG

 

photo_73.JPG

 

Gear Notes:

60m rope, 4 screws (1x stub, 3x med), single rack, tools/pons, and a deep water-proof hood for spindrift

 

Approach Notes:

boots of even guide tennies, trekking poles help with the slick trail but its not too bad

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Nice, love the bailure mentality getting pushed out by awesome climbing!! Dragontail is looking super fat...way to get it

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It sounds like you climbed a direct variation of the North Face route. The typical exit to the North Face bowl is climber's left of the pitch you climbed behind the Fin. The fixed gear you found sounds like it might be Alex's who rapped off that pitch to find the easier exit pitches.

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Okay so maybe those pitches haven't been done in winter before? You'd think with a peak like Dtail it would have been climbed at some point. Edward said he felt the pitch was maybe around M5, at first he thought maybe even M6 but I guess he got a glove stuck in a handjam and had to pull it out. I've never really climbed M-graded stuff before so I really have nothing to compare it to. It felt kinda like old-school 5.9 when I followed it, a little committing and awkward but all there once you go for it.

 

DPS- Did Alex make a TR? Can you link it?

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Okay so maybe those pitches haven't been done in winter before? You'd think with a peak like Dtail it would have been climbed at some point. Edward said he felt the pitch was maybe around M5, at first he thought maybe even M6 but I guess he got a glove stuck in a handjam and had to pull it out. I've never really climbed M-graded stuff before so I really have nothing to compare it to. It felt kinda like old-school 5.9 when I followed it, a little committing and awkward but all there once you go for it.

 

DPS- Did Alex make a TR? Can you link it?

 

I don't know if that particular pitch had been climbed before, or if the exact runnels you climbed leading to the North Face Bowl had been climbed or not.

 

I do believe that gear was left by Alex when he did the Hidden Couloir to the North Face Bowl, and then attempted to exit via the pitch behind the Fin, but lowered/rapped off to climb the easier exit pitches climber's left.

 

I remember this very well because in February 2000 I attempted TC, but the crux runnels were completely bare, dry rock, so we exited via 3 60 meter pitches (5.7 in summer ~ M4 in winter) to the NF Bowl, which was 1/4" of snice over compact rock slabs. We climbed the entire bowl with no pro, only finding a crack in a boulder into which I welded a #2 angle piton at the very top. The pin is probably still there.

 

The exit pitch behind the Fin was clearly visible, but Alex had warned me to not to take this, so we climbed the lower (left) option which was about M4.

 

Alex did have a trip report on his web site, but it looks like he took it down. Or maybe that was here on CC.COM

Edited by DPS

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Crazy. Well maybe Alex could comment and let us know if that was what he bailed off of. The two nuts and sling were all spread out, the lower nut had a bail biner on it, the second nut did not, the sling was tied off and hard to tell how old in that environment but still slightly green colored.

 

If anyone knows anything about this behind-the-fin variation let's hear about it. It's a cool section and I think could actually be straight forward ice runnels in the right conditions. Definitely worth investigating if you want to avoid some more snow slogging.

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This was a long time ago, but I vaguely recall Alex mentioning something about some in-situ gear he found in addition to the gear he left. One thing I have learned in the Cascades is that fixed gear often does not indicate the correct route, but rather that someone has bailed from there.

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Dan has a good memory!

 

So, long story short, judging by what you wrote here but more by the pic you posted of your route, you basically climbed the Gerber-Sink. The Gerber-Sink isn't a *precise* route, just like Triple Couloirs isn't actually a precise route, but it is basically the N F Dragontail to the right of the Triple Couloirs, taking the North Face from the toe of the face, through the North Face "bowl" all the way into the Third Couloir, usually. The "gully behind the Fin" is the Third Couloir of Triple Couloirs.

 

What Dan remembers is when I first climbed Triple Couloirs, we did the N F variation (per Nelson) but made the mistake of traversing far to the right and we ended up literally on Backbone Ridge, from which we bailed (off a single nut we left), traversed back left, and climbed 3 mixed pitches and gained entrance to the Third Couloir, which is standard. I did have a trip report up on the Interwebs long ago but I've since nuked all that stuff. I climbed this in ... 1999? 1997? It is hard to remember.

 

You guys had a great outing, way to stick with it, proud send!

Edited by Alex

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Thanks Alex!

 

Yeah I looked at a bunch of TRs for G-S and was noticing that most people actually start it almost the same way we did, instead of how Beckey shows it in CAG. I have a hard time believing there are reasonable variations that haven't been done given the number of ascents and caliber of climbers who have taken their turn on the route.

 

To clarify though, the gully I'm talking about is NOT the final couloir in Triple Coulis. The gully was tucked right next to the side of the fin and popped us out into the couloir about half way up. After looking at pictures in other TRs, it looks like people usually go further left and enter the couloir earlier.

 

This TR shows it better.

 

Here is a picture from that TR that I put some arrows on...

 

G-S_exit_pitches.png

 

red = fin

yellow = rock feature Beckey shows the route going up in CAG

purple = the "gully" we climbed

green = the pitch most winter TRs show people using to access the last couloir in the Triple

 

Anyway, now I've sprayed beta all over the dam place. Hopefully I didn't ruin anyone elses adventures :grin:

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I wish the camera angle were a bit wider on the pic, and then I could say with more certainty, but the gully I climbed back in the day that topped out on Backbone ridge was either 1 or 2 to the right of the purple arrow. It wasn't terrible climbing but was the hardest pitch I led that day. When we realized we were actually on Backbone, and that we didn't want to tackle the Fin directly, we then bailed and went back to finish up the route exiting the NF exactly as the Gerber SinkTR shows. The red route line overlays how the North Face exit works, and dumps into the Third Couloir. It enters the Third Couloir probably about a pitch above where the transition from the Second Couloir is, next to a small platform where one can rest.

 

If you did Purple arrow, then you climbed that gully beside the Fin but eventually -> into the Third Couloir (as the Third Couloir is the only thing behind the Fin, and leads to the summit plateau straight away) but the Purple arrow gully there is not the normal "easiest" route to exit the face. I think probably in most years it is not in climbable shape, as it is this year.

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Yeah that makes sense. We were definitely in the third couloir once we got out of the gully.

 

Gotta love Dragontail... there are just so many possibilities up there.

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That route is one of my favorites anywhere! I've climbed it as a mixed route in late April, and soloed it when it was 98% perfect neve in January. That was in 2011 I think, and I did climb that pitch behind the fin. It was the only insecure climbing on the route that day. It looked like a runnel from below but I found myself scraping rock underneath the snow and pulling on unseen edges with my tools as I tried to keep my weight distributed well enough to not have the snow I was standing on give way. The more common way is somewhere around your green arrow; a short pitch of 5.7 that I've also climbed in the summer.

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We climbed the route on Sunday with the variation left of the fin as you described. The ice near the bottom was getting a bit slushy after a couple very warm days last week but I expect the colder temps this week should return it to prime condition. The pitch around the fin was engaging with some small edges and a little chimney action. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. A fantastic climb. Go get it! Start early and you could run up Acid Baby or The Valkyrie on your way down :) They looked more or less dry on Sunday.

 

 

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