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|Weather||Hot and sunny!|
|Mailed to WacList|| |
Dragontail Peak 8,840' June 30/July 01, 2001|
The trail to Colchuck Lake begins at the Stuart Lake Trailhead, at 3,400'. The trail is in great condition, and is about 4.5 miles to Colchuck Lake 5,570', crossing raging Mountaineer Creek twice on beautiful log bridges. It was our third trip this season, but this is a really nice area so we didn't mind come back.
Doerte and I hiked in on Saturday and set up camp and rested. Dan Cervelli joined us about 5 pm, we had a leisurely evening enjoying the beautiful weather and watching the high clouds dissipate as the sun moved west. Dragontail looms high above the lake, with Colchuck Col on it's right and Aasgard Pass on it's left. Dragontail was first climbed in 1937 by William Long and Dudley Kelly. We had fun listening to the remaining Colchuck Glacier calf off, rock and ice making great roaring sounds that resembled thunder! We didn't see anything though. (Interestingly, we didn't hear even one on Sunday)
We were on the trail at 5:30 am and soon were around the lake heading for Aasgard Pass and the "easy way to the Enchantments". Although cairn marked, this is definitely a route, actually many routes running parallel and interlacing, heading up the loose talus to the pass. Ira and Harvey call this a climber's route and they are 100% right. It is hard, up or down, and not recommended for everyone.
We saw a couple we had met the day before start up the snow tail of Colchuck Col heading for the Serpentine's Arete, an amazing route from midway up the Colchuck Col described by Beckey. We also looked at the hidden Couloir and the North Face Route, first climbed by Jim Wickwire and Fred Stanley in June, 1971. I would love to watch someone on one of these fantastic routes! We have no illusions of our ability, the East Route for this team.
Back to reality and the relentless climb to Aasgard Pass, 7,750'. As we approached the pass we saw a couple Mountain Goats, and broke from the cool shade to the blazing 7:30 am sunshine. We already had majestic views of Cashmere Mountain and beyond to the west. From our resting place we had a clear view of our route up a remnant of the Snow Creek Glacier to a saddle above. It looked to be 80-85 degrees! "We're going up that?" We used ice axe and crampons to slowly make our way up. As we ascended, the glacier became much less steep than our view earlier had indicated.
The saddle revealed the summit of Dragontail some 300 feet above us. We took our pack and gear with us up to the summit blocks, not wanting anything to fall prey to mischievous Marmots lurking nearby. Recently there have been "reports" of renegade Marmots chewing through new tents, and eating pack straps for salt. We quickly covered the last of the 300 feet, and peered off the sheer North side to the bluest greenest Colchuck Lake 2,280' straight below. Wow! What a view!
This is was the airiest summit I have ever been on. The small clump of bedrock has only room for a couple of climbers, and drops away steeply in all directions. Dragontail is well named, and very descriptive. Most of the upper Enchantment Lakes that we could see were still frozen. The sky was clear and almost every mountain in the Washington Cascades was visable. As usual, Stuart dominated the skyline, but Glacier looked larger than ever. "Name that peak" went on for a long time! We lingered in the warm sun on the summit, emulating the marmots we feared!
Colchuck and Little Annapurna are nearby, but would be very difficult to do on the same trip for most people. The snow was softer heading down, and made for a extremely fast glissade with the ultimate runout above frozen Brynhild Lake. Descending Aasgard Pass we finally saw other people, 3-4 parties all dayhikers heading for the Pass. We wished we had come earlier when it was still snow covered. It was hot and we drank lots of water. Back at Colchuck Lake we rested, cooled down, packed up and hiked back to the Stuart Lake Trailhead. A 12 hour day from camp to summit to trailhead.