Backbone Ridge on Dragontail Peak

Some days are so epic that your memory quickly turns less than ideal elements into fond memories.  Thus was our experience climbing Dragontail's Backbone Ridge car-to-car in about 18 hours.

We drove to Leavenworth on Friday night, getting to the trailhead around midnight.  A few hours of shuteye and we were on the trail, fueled by Frappuccinos and danish.  Greg had made some comment during our drive in about camping with a fire and everything, then being surprised to find that we were just going to squeeze out a few hours of sleep in the car.  Apparently he was not mentally prepared for the onslaught.

We hiked quickly up to Colchuck Lake, past a party on their way to Serpentine, and got to the base of the route in the early morning before the sun had started to hit the route.  Some route-finding past snow and some dead-ends brought us to a final bit below what we knew was an anchor for the first pitch.  Things were a little sketchy getting up there, but not too bad in approach shoes with packs on our backs.

A quick low-5th class pitch brought us straight to the 5.9 off-width crux.  It was cruxy.  Goran led it in style with our rack including a #4, #5, and old #5 that might as well have been a #6.  Greg and I then simul-followed, tied in about 20 feet from each other.  I also had Goran's backpack tied in on a bite just above me.  I'd make a move and then push it up so he could take in the rope.  Not ideal, but it worked.  I grunted and willed my way up the pitch, getting my knee stuck at one point and scraping up both ankles in only the way off-width can.  Pulling onto the jugs at the top was such a great feeling.

From there, things were pretty mellow and wandering for quite a ways.  We simul-climbed as much as we could and avoided a ton of loose rock wherever we could.  Greg took over for the middle pitches and brought us up to the base of The Fin.  From there, it was my turn.  We'd scoped out our line from a ways away, so I was pretty sure of where to go, but didn't know for sure.  I headed up some slightly dirty face climbing to a ledge, traversed right a bit, and headed up on two parallel cracks.  I had a bit of a scare with a large loose block, but kept it together, finished up the pitch, and brought the boys up.

Our last couple of pitches on The Fin were the best climbing on the route—much cleaner rock and better climbing.  We took them up to a notch, pulled through, and then contended with some loose rock and steep snow to get to the final summit walk.  It had taken us quite a while to finish things up, but we had plenty of daylight to get back to the lake, so we celebrated quickly and then headed down toward Asgard Pass.

The descent was fast and relatively uneventful, but still felt exceptionally long.  We got back to the car around 11pm and promptly passed out after a few beers and some whiskey.