Colchuck Peak

Elevation Gain: 2,080m
Distance: 23.16km
Total Time: 12 hours 39 minutes
Date: July 1st, 2022

Mel, Elise, Silvana, Iliya and myself had just finished an ascent of Dragontail Peak and were now eying up the route to Colchuck Peak. From the west ridge up to Dragontail we had a clear view of most difficult section: Pandora’s Box. We could see a fresh set of tracks running down the steep snow pitch at Pandora’s Box as well as a set of tracks that ran to the rocky ridge at climber’s right of the snow. Everyone agreed this looked like the better option and so we started the short down scramble to the set of tracks on snow.

Once linked up with the snow Iliya lead us up to the ridge with decent snow conditions under foot. At the ridge we scrambled along until we reached the top of a secondary snow chute right of the main route. There appeared to be two options here. We could try to down climb to the first snow slope or over the ridge and on to the other side. I decided to check out the ridge first as the route down to the snow didn’t look super easy. After a short scramble, I landed above a small bluff with some webbing where people had clearly rappelled. We debated doing the short rappel, but Iliya had already made it to Pandora’s Box via the other route and it ended up being a straight forward scramble.

Another look at the traverse towards Pandora’s Box. We aimed for the ridge section just right of the second snow line
Mel and Silvana descending from Dragontail
Elise climbing down an alternate line
Linked up with the old set of tracks to the ridge
On the ridge now. The second snow line from Pandora’s box is visible at left.
Elise scrambling up to the ridge
Fun scrambling to get above the second snow pitch which is beyond the left most rock visible here
Now looking at Pandora’s Box and that steep first snow line at centre left. The first route I tried is the ridge at right
Looking back at Silvana coming over the ridge. We backtracked to where Silvana is here and continued down to the ledge above the snow line
Looking down the ridge. It looks far, but only a 10m rappel at most to the couloir

The rest of us back tracked to the fork on the ridge and then did a short scramble down to ledge. There we traversed across and linked up above the steep snow pitch and beginning of the couloir down to the Colchuck col. Iliya had scrambled up to what appeared to be the top of Pandora’s box at this point and we decided we might as well tag it too since it’s right here. However, there was a secondary, technical pinnacle that looked more like the Pandora’s Box namesake next to where Iliya had topped out. A quick consult of the GPS showed that the other pinnacle was in fact the true summit. Iliya checked it out briefly, but decided to back off as it was not going to be easy to down climb and was at least 5.6 to ascend.

Mel traversing the ledge towards Pandora’s Box. Iliya already on the false summit
Looking down the steep snow slope from the ledge. Some tat left over from someone else’s rappel
Elise and Silvana making the crossing now
The short scramble up to the false summit with Pandora’s Box at left.
The start of the couloir
A close up of Pandora’s Box. Nice handjams to the mid-way platform and a chimney will net you the summit. On the left there’s a layback option to the mid-way platform.
Views of Colchuck from the false summit area

We hiked back to the top of the couloir and just in time for a solo traveler to come up. He reported great snow conditions all the way down to the col, so we skipped the crampons and did big plunge steps all the way to the bottom of the couloir. At the col we ditched all of our gear except a pole and ice axe each (Iliya just went two poles).

Iliya and Mel descending the couloir to the Colchuck col
Some unnamed tower west of Pandora’s Box
Just above the col
Looking back up the couloir as Silvana descends

From the col there was a short scramble up to a snow pitch where we found a nice boot packed patch to ascend. The first pitch tapered into a small rock band and then there was one more steep step with nice bucket steps already in place. From the top of the snow we navigated through a boulder field over a the ridge and then finally to the summit. It took us about 25 minutes from the col, thanks to ditching all the gear.

Colchuck Lake from the top of the glacier
The route from the col
Starting the hike/scramble up
Below the final steep snow step
The rest of the group finishing up the first snow pitch
Typical terrain on the upper summit ridge
The summit in sight
Iliya on the ridge with Dragontail behind
Mount Stuart

We lingered on the summit for awhile as it had some amazing views including a nice close up of Mount Stuart (another one added to “the list”). Once satisfied, we reversed our steps through the boulder covered ridge and to the top of the snow pitches. Descending these was easy with the bucket steps and we only had to face in for the top-most pitch. At the col we grabbed our gear and had a look over the colchuck glacier. Iliya determined we could be down in 20 minutes with a few glissades and it looked prime for doing just that.

Mel down climbing the steepest part from the summit
Almost back to the col

I down climbed the steepest part just below the col and then followed Iliya’s steps by glissading after him. Elise, Mel and Silvana followed suit shortly after. From the first glissade I found too many hazards on the route, so just decided to boot ski and plunge step the rest of the way down. The snow conditions were great and we made fantastic time back to the lake.

Iliya glissading down the glacier
The massive blocks of rock that Dragontail is comprised of
Looking back up the glacier

At the bottom I swapped boots back to approach shoes and put shorts on while we waited for everyone to group up. Once everyone was at the bottom, Elise and I got a head start as I was expecting to deal with some nagging knee pain on the descent and didn’t want to hold the group back. There was a short bushwhack down to the trail around the lake and then it’s an easy retrace back to the lake entrance.

Colchuck Lake looking good

From the lake it was a long slog back to the car. Thankfully the modest decline of the trail meant my knee held together for an okay pace and Iliya and Mel only passed us on the back third of the trail. Silvana followed behind them at her own pace and we all agreed to regroup at the truck. After a very long ~2 hours we finally reached the truck with a very satisfying feeling.

Silvana reached us shortly after and we got driving around 5PM. Elise kindly agreed to drive the leg to Everett and then I took over from there. We had an hour and twenty minute wait at the border and I finally made it home for 12AM. A full 40 hours of no sleep, but it was 100% worth it. I can certainly see why the Enchantment Group is so popular and I don’t doubt that I’ll be back in the area again soon.

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