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Ascent of Dragontail Peak on 2018-09-18

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Dragontail Peak
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:8840 ft / 2694 m

Ascent Trip Report

Colchuck Peak (8,705ft) and Dragontail Peak (8,804ft)

September 18, 2018 – 6:30am – 3:30pm

Eric Gilbertson

I think Colchuck is the peak that has turned me around the most out of any of the Bulgers. In November 2015 Katie and I made it to the col above Colchuck Glacier but turned around in nasty weather. We tried again in December 2016, but deep snow thwarted our progress. I finally made the summit in February 2016 in a big 16-hour day trip.

I wanted to reclimb Colchuck, though, to tighten my Bulgers finishing clock. On September 8, 2018 I climbed Cashmere Peak in the morning, then tried to solo climb Colchuck that afternoon via the Colchuck Glacier route. But the glacier was too sketchy in late-season conditions for me to solo with just a whippet and no technical tools, so I was thwarted again. Then on September 16 after a big 42.5 mile day hike in the Sawtooths I drove back to try Colchuck again. However, when I made it to the Beverley Creek trailhead it was pouring rain and 40 degrees. It seemed too miserable to proceed, plus I was worn out from the previous day, so I bailed on Colchuck again. That was a total of four failed attempts on Colchuck.

This last time would be different, though. I waited until the weather was clear, and decided to climb the south side route, which involved a lot of bushwhacking but no glacier travel. I would bring my mountain bike to speed progress on the sections of trail outside the wilderness.

On September 17 I drove to the Beverley Creek trailhead and slept in my car in the evening. In the morning I left the car around 6:30am and mountain biked all the way to the wilderness boundary at the Fourth Creek trail. From there I hiked down to Ingalls Creek, then hiked right down the Ingalls Creek trail until I reached Porcupine Creek.

At the creek I bushwhacked straight up the slope. The terrain was very open, and I followed elk trails for much of the way. I even saw quite a few elk in the woods. Eventually I broke out above treeline and scrambled up to the notch above the Colchuck Glacier. The glacier had a bit a fresh snow on it, but there was still an enormous bergschrund at the top that would have been difficult to cross from the other side. I think I had made the correct call bailing on the Colchuck Glacier route a week earlier, since even if I had made it up the glacier I may not have been able to cross the bergschrund solo.

At the col I scrambled left up third class terrain and made it to the summit of Colchuck. The only other time I’d been there was in the middle of winter, when the summit was just 10ft above cloud line. This time the views were much more clear, and it looked a lot different not covered in snow.

It was only about 11am, and it seemed a shame to turn around so early. Dragontail Peak was nearby, so I decided to tag that one as well. I scrambled back to the col, then scrambled up the first major gully on the east side of the col leading up to Dragontail. It was steep in places, but I would say still class 3. At the top I crossed through a narrow notch below Pandora’s Box, then traversed scree slopes and scrambled up Dragontail.

This was actually the fourth time I’d climbed Dragontail, but it’s hard to get tired of the views there looking out over the Enchantments. I retraced my route back down to the col, then bushwacked back to Ingalls Creek and hiked back up to my bike. It was a fun and fast bike ride back down to the car, and I made it back to the trailhead around 3:30pm.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
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