Colchuck and Dragontail Peaks

Our initial plan for the weekend involved a three-day assault on Rainier's Liberty Ridge, but with lots of new, wet snow and poor weather in the forecast, it was clear that we didn't want to be on that kind of route, so Goran and I called the audible to head to the Leavenworth area for hopefully clearer skies.  We had our sights set on Colchuck and Dragontail Peaks via relatively technical routes.

After sleeping in the car at the trailhead on Friday night and slogging our way to Colchuck Lake in the morning, we dropped our camping gear near the lake and headed for the North Buttress Couloir on Colchuck.  We passed debris from some wet slides on our way to the base of the couloir and quickly decided that it would be a bad idea to be in a steep snow gully in those conditions, so we traversed to the standard Colchuck Glacier Route (wading through waist-deep snow in places) until we found a boot-pack and started moving quickly again despite having way more gear than we needed for the moderate route.

The summit was in and out of the clouds and we were able to catch a little bit of a view before busting back down the deep snow to the lake.  Our descent was super quick and afforded one of my favorite things in the mountains: an afternoon nap.  The nap extended a bit due to a bit of a debt from the previous night and we roused briefly around 8pm to make dinner, drink some whiskey, and get back in the tent.

We rustled around 7am and heard rain pattering on the tent, which didn't sound like the conditions we'd hoped for, so we went back to bed for quite a while, finally getting up around 9am with the intention of packing up camp and heading down.  After melting some snow, doming a "Sin Dawg" and packing up, the rain stopped and we looked at each other for a moment.  We were on the same page.  Dragontail Peak needed climbing.

We put our non-essential gear back in the tent and started charging the boulder field underneath Aasgard Pass.  We passed a huge group of Russians in the boulders and on the lower slopes of the pass as we moved quickly with our much lighter setups than the previous day.  It felt like taking the bar off after doing squats.  Near the pass, we ran into a group of three guys who had been trying to find a way up Dragontail for two hours and had given up.  We decided to give it a shot regardless.

I've experienced whiteouts before, but this was the most intense one I'd ever seen.  We came up with a strategy based on compass headings and our topo map, then headed off into the white abyss.  We had to pick up snow periodically and throw it in front of us to make sure we weren't about to hit dicey terrain.  After heading a little too far South, we turned due West and across the side-slope to get to the saddle near Dragontail's summit.  It wasn't until the last steep section that we could see rock outcroppings on either side.From the saddle, it was pretty quick and easy to the summit, though we could never see very far ahead.  With no view, our celebration was short-lived.

We followed our breadcrumb footprints back to Aasgard and then plunge-stepped and glissad
ed down, reaching our tent within an hour of being on the summit.  It almost felt like we'd teleported.  After finishing the whiskey and packing up our gear, we hit the trail and floated our way down the 5 miles back out to a rainy and wet Leavenworth, knowing that we'd made the most of the weekend.