After a day of 100 degree temps and swimming in the Wenatchee River "World Class" and I headed up to the Stuart Lake trailhead to make final preparations for the Backbone Route. This route summits Dragontail at 8,840' and is within the Alpine Lakes wilderness. Also Dragontail is the second tallest peak with in the Stuart Range and the Enchantments. The trailhead starts at about 3,400' and asecnds to 6,400' the remaining 2,000' is technical rock climbing up to 5.9. In addition this route is grade IV with a total of 11 miles round trip. Our objective, to complete the route in one day.
Looking out through the car window, up towards the sky, stars shown brightly as we settled in for "a big day" in the mountains. Our eyes slowly shuttered close, the galaxy flickered away and just when we had fallen asleep the alarm started to buzz. In short order we ate a little food, brewed some joe, and we were off through the darkness on headlamp lit trails. Up the Stuart Lake trail following Mountaineers Creek to the junction with the Colchuck Lake Trail, along the dawn lit shoreline of Colchuck Lake and past scattered campsites. Eventually we chose a route up talus and scree then with crampons we crossed a small snowfield.
|World Class approaching the Ledges Start|
|Pitch 1 & 2 Including the Offwidth|
|World Class Following Pitch 2; Yes That is a #6|
After a pleasant break soaking in the views from Mount Baker to Mount Rainier, World Class started up leading the 5.5 ridge and into easy ledges for a full rope length. After 200' of leading we finished the remaining 75' of 5.6 by simul-climbing creating what became known as "the longest pitch of the summer." Eventually we exited left up face moves to a comfortable ledge in the middle of the Fin Wall. This was our choice for pitch 10 instead of the chimney corner to our left. This corner is often used as the lead in pitch to the comfortable ledge in the middle of the Fin Wall.
From this ledge I lead pitch 11 out left from the belay, into 5.7+ face moves, up to short parallel cracks that topped out on a smaller ledge. World Class followed then lead out left again for pitch 12. Thin 5.9 face moves lead into an open book with a crack in the back, climbing out left onto an arete, and up into a right facing dihedral with a combination of jamming and face moves for what we thought was the "short pitch" referred to in the route descriptions.
Two options exist from this belay. One is directly up into what apeared to be a 5.8 hand crack or traverse right across a ledge and into "twin cracks." I led the 13th pitch across the ledge, into the "twin cracks" (5.6) reaching a dihedral where I built an uncomfortable hanging belay. In hindshight continuing up through the dihedral onto a broad ledge would have been a better option. World Class continued for the 14th pitch up the left facing dihedral with hand and foot jamming, across a broad ledge, then up and left through varied crack jamming and face moves to another "mid pitch" belay directly right and below the Fin. Next are nice 5.7 cracks that meander up, ending at a headwall, then climbing left into a variety of unprotected but short 5.9- face moves into the notch of the Fin for pitch 15.
From here a 16th pitch 4th class ledge leads to a notch on the right. The 17th pitch leads right across a class 3 ledge to join the top of the Serpetine Arete. These last two pitches could be soloed, simuled or short pitched. After coiling our rope and bagging the rack we scambled in approach shoes the last 100' to the summit of Dragontail.
|Sunset on Dragontail|