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[TR] Dragontail Peak / Mount Stuart - Backbone Ridge & Complete North Ridge w/ Gendarme 7/30/2016

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Trip: Dragontail Peak / Mount Stuart - Backbone Ridge & Complete North Ridge w/ Gendarme


Date: 7/30/2016


Trip Report:

With a combined age of 108, JP and I climbed these two classic routes "old man style" - avoiding all that knee crushing bullshit the youngsters are inclined to do. This was JP's first ascent of Backbone and my first of the CNR - a nice trade that was.


Dragontail: Backbone Ridge -Jul 30-31 Walking from Stuart Lake trailhead at 3:07am. At 6:15 we reached the snow crossing atop the moraine, which we donned aluminum 'pons for and dispatched easily. By 7am we had scrambled the ledges and were roping up for p1.



JP sending OW crux



Such great position!


We simuled the 100m 4th-class section and by 10:40am we were at the base of the Fin where we took a nice lunch break. Began climbing the Fin around 11:30. Even though we climbed the left side of the Fin as described in our guidebooks, we still had some route finding issues and lost time.



JP starting a wild traversing 5.9 pitch on the Fin


Summit 4:30pm.



Summit glory


We bivied overnight below the summit, just outside the Enchantment Zone area - old man style.


Woke up the next morning after a windy night. Didn't sleep too well. Beautiful sunrise though. Used 'pons and trekking poles to descend the snowfield to Aasgard Pass.






Obligatory goat shot


Left bivy at 7:30am, at the trailhead at 12:38pm. We went in to town and bought a fresh made pie at Dan's Market and some ice cream. Then we headed to my secret recovery cabin and fed our faces.



JP fills his pie hole


Slept real well that night. Relaxed most of the following morning at the cabin, drinking coffee. That afternoon we ran into Leavenworth for some supplies. Visited Der Sportsman, Dan's Market, Safeway and the Mtn House. Spent money. Then we had lunch at the Munchen Haus. Of course I couldn't pass up a delicious pint of Dark Persuasion German Chocolate Cake Ale...



JP hoggin' down a Helga's Giant Kelbassi


Then we went back to the cabin for more R&R.



Old man climber secret weapon: the recovery cabin


Complete North Ridge of Mount Stuart - Aug 2-4 Left Stuart trailhead at 12:10pm. At 1:45 we turned left on the climbers trail and began following Mountaineers Creek. It was easy at times and challenging at others - lots of blow down and some boulder hopping. Pretty hike through the woods along a stream though.



Log crossing



Mountaineers Creek


At 4pm we made camp in the basin below the final scree field approach. From below we saw the bivy boulder at the toe was already occupied. It was now cloudy, breezy and sprinkling off and on.



Ominous clouds over Stuart


We found some boulders that offered varying levels of shelter. One was quite overhung and suitable for cooking under.



Looks rather cozy for a rock


However when it began raining harder it began to drip in a way that made us wonder about it as a sleeping area. JP found a drier location and I managed to wiggle into a semi-upright position and stay dry. About 9pm the party who was camped under the bivy boulder at the toe of the ridge came tromping by in the dark - they were bailing.


The next morning we awoke to sunshine.



Bluebird skies on the CNR


Left camp 6:20am. 7:15am we were at the toe of the CNR. At 7:55 we began climbing p1. By 9:45am we'd dispatched p3 and began simul-climbing. At 12:40pm we'd reached the upper ridge notch.



Ice Cliff Glacier



JP negotiates easy ground on the lower N. Ridge



The upper N. Ridge from the notch


After seemingly endless amounts of exhilarating simul-climbing, we arrived at the base of the Great Gendarme around 3pm.



Stellar position on the upper N. Ridge



The striking Crack-on-Slab pitch



JP leading the 5.8 layback on the Great Gendarme



JP finishing the 5.9 OW pitch



Approaching the summit


5:35pm on top.



Summit selfie


We descended awhile, using the trekking poles and 'pons for a short bit on some steep snow above the Cascadian Couloir. Just above the Couloir we found a sweet bivy and settled in for the night.


The next morning we awoke to another splitter day.



Sunrise on Sherpa Peak


We were traveling at 7:15am. Using Abegg's advice we descended the 3rd & 4th-class ridge past Sherpa Peak towards Sherpa Pass. It went without a hitch. Just stick close to the ridge and don't drop too far down to the south.



JP descending the ridge


Arrived at Sherpa Pass at 10:55am after 3 hrs, 40 min. Negotiated steep snow from the pass, then boulder-hopped to Mountaineers Creek. Regained the Stuart trail at 1:45pm; trailhead at 3:05. Another stop at the Munchen Haus came soon after.


More Photos: Dragontail/Stuart Jul 30-Aug 4, 2016 photo set on Flickr


Gear Notes:

Brought an old #5 on Backbone, used it. Brought a #3 on CNR, used it.


Approach Notes:

The usual. Used 'pons and trekking poles on both routes, no axe.

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Great TR. As a fellow "old man" I appreciate your efforts at achieving great climbing using old school planning and age appropriate logistics. Also, your TR gives some good hints on doing such a trip without the buzz kill of the permit system or going gonzo with one day efforts.

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Nice work for some "older" guys. Appreciate your style, staying away from the permits and taking a couple of nights to sleep in beds in between climbs, pretty smart.

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The basin just below (south and west) of Dragontail is a good bivy spot with running water. It's out of the zone and less than 20 minutes from the summit.

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The basin just below (south and west) of Dragontail is a good bivy spot with running water. It's out of the zone and less than 20 minutes from the summit.


Is this before or after you hit the Dragontail summit?

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As mentioned, south and west of the summit. If climbing the north face routes, after the summit. If climbing via the walkup route/descent, then before.

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