Mid-winter Alpine Climbing on Dragontail Peak
Below is basically a re-posting of a trip report I posted on the northwest climbing forum Cascadeclimbers.com. I’ll add more details shortly.
Given that the mid-winter’s high pressure had settled in and I heard that snow conditions in the Stuart Range were great, my friend Rodney and I climbed the elusive Cotter-Bebie route on the NW Face of Dragontail Peak on January 26 . I’ve been wanting to climb this route for many years, having peered down into it from Backbone and Serpentine a number of times. We found the route to be in fantastic shape overall, except for half of one pitch to the right of the Fin (requiring scary aid moves off ice tools). Gear was a challenge to find at times and we had to simulclimb on some serious terrain in order to find decent protection and anchors.
The route is excellent and I highly recommend it. We counted 20 roped pitches (though we simuled about 8 of them), and would rate the route (as we did it) in its current condition grade IV, WI4, 5.7, A2. The route took us about 12 hours on the face, about three of which were spent on the aforementioned aid pitch and cornice chopping.
We were a bit confused as to where the route finishes. According to Beckey (CAG, v1, p 285), we followed the Northwest Face route. Washington Ice says to finish in the corner to the right of the Fin, but that wasn’t reasonable given the snow conditions. The gully we took proved to be the technical crux of the climb. I would consider finishing the route via the Third Couloir (by turning left at the Fin, and dropping onto the Gerber-Sink, then up into the Third Couloir) for a faster and more reasonable adventure.
Gear: 8 screws, set of stoppers, 2 bugaboos, .5-3″ camalots, 4″ hex, 10 slings. 2 tools. I would recommend two ropes in case of retreat, although we only took one.
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