Sometimes climbing a peak is just meant to be. This week, it seemed that every time I got close to climbing the Triple Couloirs on Dragontail Peak something would derail my plans, and yet it all worked out in the end. Funny how that happens sometimes.
I’ll spare you the happenstance that led up to the climb but the night before while I was talking it over with the two partners I came with, I decided that I was going to climb Colchuck Peak instead of the Triple Couloirs on Dragontail with them. The three of us had been bouncing around the state all week trying to get some climbing in and we had been thwarted everywhere we went.
I won’t speak for Charlotte and David but I was kind of bummed that we hadn’t summited anything and I figured that with a committing climb like the Triple Couloirs it made the most sense to have a faster two person team instead of three. I needed a win, they needed a win and while I was bummed about giving up Dragontail, at least I would summit something.
They next morning I brewed some water and prepped to climb Colchuck Peak. I had watched David and Charlotte leave about an hour earlier for their far more committing climb and now they were just dots at the base of the first couloir. As I sorted out the little gear I would need, a fellow who would soon be my climbing partner wandered over. I had briefly talked to Aaron on the hike in to Colchuck Lake and he knew of my plans to head up the Triple Couloirs. After explaining about his partner’s footwear malfunction he asked if I wanted to rope up for a go at Dragontail. It was a no thought needed decision and an hour later we were at the base of the first couloir.
Now for the actual trip report. The snow on Dragontail was purported to be phenomenal. I can attest that on March 27th it was just about as perfect as perfect comes. Unfortunately we weren’t the only people that knew about the amazing conditions and the route was overrun by four parties and a soloist.
The first couloir was a conga line with everyone following the kicked steps of the leader. The snow was sinker and it was like climbing a ladder all the way to the runnels.
The runnels were dry but Charlotte and David wanted to take a looksey just in case there was some fun dry tooling to be had. The rest of the train continued up to the “5.8 variation” with a short rappel into the second couloir. I put quotes on “5.8 variation” because it was covered in the same amazing snow that the first couloir was and was no more difficult.
The hardest part of the variation was not that the anchor was creaky or that the tat had seen better days but rather the fact that the rappel was a bottleneck and all forward progress halted. I was the last in line and by the time I got down the short rappel my toes were half frozen, though my hands were toasty warm in my new BD Guides that I got a wicked awesome deal on.
After the rappel there was a short ice step that was pretty beaten up from the thwunks of countless tools. There wasn’t much rock pro to be had and the ice was on the thin side but Aaron found a bomber #1 camalot. He easily dispatched the ice step and we began swinging leads up the second couloir, though I should say swinging leads is kind of misleading because we weren’t placing pro and were following amazing kicked steps.
As we reached the top of the second couloir Aaron moved out of sight and slowed down. He had been cruising up the kicked steps so I really didn’t think much of it. When I rounded the corner on the second couloir I saw that he had built an anchor and I was being belayed properly.
The reason he built the belay was because between us was a tricky traverse which called for a bit of dry tooling and ginger steps in the snow. It wasn’t hard but it wasn’t easy either. When I got to the belay he told me to continue on. Since I had almost no pro on my harness I asked what I was going to need for the second crux at the top of the second couloir. He laughed and told me that that attention grabbing part was the second crux.
There is not much more to tell about the route. I feel a little cheated in how simply it went. There was nothing epic about it because the conditions were perfect. Don’t take the Triple Couloirs lightly but if it is in good shape it is a great climb.
Round trip from Colchuck Lake it took about 7 hours. Aaron brought a light rack which was a set of camalots, a set of nuts, a few blades and two pickets. David brought a brand new ice piton which is now fixed somewhere in the second couloir. Those ice pitons are scary looking but apparently they work really well.