Dragontail Peak

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

Only a day after summitting Mamquam, Elise, Mel, Iliya and myself were already bouncing ideas around about tagging another summit in the following weekend. Elise was going to be in Washington on the Wednesday/Thursday already for a summit push on Rainier, so we decided on something in the PNW. Jeffreson, The Three Sisters, Mount Gardner all came up, but when Mel suggested a few different peaks in the famed Enchantment Group, we unanimously said yes. There was some back and forth but we decided on Dragontail Peak as the primary objective with Colchuck Peak or Witches Tower as secondary objectives. Our friend Silvana joined in as well to make a group of 5.

To reach Dragontail there’s a few popular options, excluding the technical rock routes. One route is to travel up Aasgard Pass and then it’s an easy hike/scramble to the summit of Dragontail from the south. The alternative is to hike up Colchuck Glacier, ascend a couloir from the Colchuck-Dragontail col and then downclimb a very exposed, steep snow pitch at an area called Pandora’s Box to gain the summit ridge of Dragontail. We were unsure of the condition of the steep snow pitch at Pandora’s box and we wanted Dragontail as the primary/first objective so the plan was to do Aasgard pass and then make a best effort to get through Pandora’s box afterwards. This loop would also turn that steep downclimb into a steep snow climb instead. We decided to bring a rope and some rap gear as a contingency and Mel kindly volunteered her 30m rope for the task.

Mel coordinated the meet up times and locations and we agreed to leave Vancouver around 10:30PM, pick up Elise in Everett and then reach the trailhead between 4-5am. After a full day of trad climbing in Squamish, I made it back to Vancouver around 7PM without enough time to sleep unfortunately. I packed up, made some dinner and then drove out to Wendy’s to pick up Mel and then made a route around Coquitlam and Surrey to grab Silvana and Iliya. We crossed the border, grabbed Elise around 2AM and reached the trail head about 2.5 hours later.

At the trail head parking, we finished up some breakfast and headed out under pleasantly warm conditions. Mel lead the charge with a blistering pace and I did my best to keep up. The first km of the route was through some lightly flooded trails that made navigation a bit tricky, but after that we hit smooth easy cruising conditions. The pace paid off and we reached Colchuck lake in just under 2 hours. The water was exceptionally calm with awesome mirrored reflections across the lake and a great vantage of Aasgard Pass and the Colchuck glacier.

Another early morning start!
A nice upgrade from our previous creek crossing on Mamquam 😀
Dragontail peak visible from this creek crossing
Nice views from below the lake
Typical terrain up to the lake

After a small break, we continued around the lake across a large boulder field and then ascended the ~680m in elevation from the lake to the pass. We crossed a group that warned us to avoid the tempting snow chute at climber’s right due to a notorious hole mid-route and rock fall hazard from above. Other than that, the route up to Aasgard, was very straightforward with a well-worn foot path and frequent cairns marking the entire way at climber’s left. On the way up, I was reaching a low point on energy, but finally caught a second wind when we reached the sunny flats at the top of the pass.

Dragontail and Colchuck Peak above Colchuck Lake. Aasgard pass visible at left and Colchuck glacier is to the right

At the top we took another break and I swapped approach shoes and shorts for boots and pants. Ready for the rest of the route now, we started the traverse across the snow covered southern aspect of Dragontail. We found the snow to be well consolidated and a nice set of boot tracks made for an easy ascent up to the western ridge.

Looking up towards Colchuck Glacier
A view of Aasgard pass from the south end of Colchuck Lake
Typical terrain
Nice perspective of Dragontail
Elise in front of Colchuck Lake
Mel heading up a short scramble section
Almost to the top of the pass
This mountain goat came exceptionally close to us! Seems they’re quite habituated to humans
Looking at the snow traverse up to the summit ridge. Dragon tail on the right.
A cool tarn in the pass. I believe that’s Little Annapurna at centre
Another view towards Witches Tower and Dragontail

From the ridge, we had a dry ridge hike/scramble all the way to the summit. In fact, there wasn’t much of a scramble to speak of at all and the route was a bit lacking for excitement. Despite that, the views compensated for it and we were greeted with a full panorama of The Enchantments.

Starting the traverse
Iliya, Mel and Elise ahead. Aiming for the obvious weakness in the cliff band
Nearly there
Looking back down at the pass
Mount Rainier and Pandora’s Box
The route up to the summit
Looking back towards Witches Tower
Another view of the route to Colchuck via Pandora’s Box. The left most snow pitch is the famed down climb when climbing from Colchuck col.
Colchuck Lake from the summit. Cashmere Mountain in the background
Looking at Argonaut Peak, Mount Stuart and Colchuck Peak

With everyone in great shape, we decided to give Colchuck Peak a chance next.

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