The heavily-featured, gorgeous north face of Dragontail Peak is home to a route that crept onto my radar over the past year since my first time on the peak in spring conditions with Goran via Triple Couloirs last April. The Gerber-Sink line was originally done in summer as a rock route with a different start, but has gained popularity as a snow, ice, and mixed climb in recent years. A bunch of ascents were logged so far this spring and, with Dale coming to town, it seemed like a worthy objective for a beautiful spring weekend.
We started things off on Saturday with a late start from Seattle, approach to Colchuck Lake, and ascent of the North Buttress Couloir on Colchuck Peak in the late afternoon. During that climb and on our descent down the Colchuck Glacier, we checked out the Gerber-Sink. The entry pitch options looked pretty sun-baked and delaminated from the rock behind them and we were a bit worried that there wouldn't be enough ice to protect the climbing. Nevertheless, we went to bed with a plan to give it a shot on Sunday and had a backup plan of hitting Triple Couloirs if conditions were sketchy.
We snoozed a bit at 4am, ate a leisurely breakfast, and watched a party of two head for the route as we packed up. We were at the base of the route by about 5:45am after a quick extra jog by Dale back to camp to snag our screws. A bit of shrapnel was falling from the party ahead of us, but it wasn't enough to be too worried. I quickly headed up the first pitch, past a steeper section and up to a belay off a sapling and cam, out of the line of fire. Dale took it from there through an ice pitch, through a snowfield, and up some rambling ice, getting good screws every so often. Each of our pitches were well beyond the 70m rope we'd brought and we simul-climbed any terrain between the belays we used to re-rack and switch up the lead.
The fun, low-angle ice continued from there up a constriction and then through a more narrow section between rock bands where I was able to get some rock protection in. The conditions varied between well-protected blue ice and neve the entire way, with lower-angle sections being deeper snow. One-hit wonders were plentiful, as were smiles. After leading a long block and running low on gear, I brought Dale up on a pair of cams below the next ice step. He took it from there, enjoying some rambling ice, a steep snow slope, and a really fun ice chimney before hitting the large snow bowl above.
Thankfully, the party ahead of us had put in a good boot pack in the deeper snow of the bowl and Dale followed their tracks up to the final pitches. There was a clear bailout option to the left, but the pitches straight above us, just left of The Fin, looked like a fun way to top off the route. From a rock belay, I went up thin ice over rock slabs and got good rock protection until the end of our rope, just below the crux mixed section. From a 2-pin belay, Dale gunned for the top of the route, cruising the thin, rock-protected M4 crux and finding a belay above the difficulties in the third couloir finish from Triple Couloirs. Apparently he found some awesome hand jams at the crux—I only scratched my tools on the verglas of the slab. Typical.
We unroped from this belay and enjoyed a solid boot pack in the couloir, which brought us up into the sun and to the summit right at noon. After a little time to relax in the sun and eat lunch, we headed down the soft snow without crampons on, glissaded most of Asgard Pass, and were back at our tent next to the lake by 1:30pm for a nap. This was one of the best routes I've done in Washington State—lots of ice and some really fun mixed climbing on an exposed, awesome face of a beautiful peak.