Winter Mountaineering? Triple Couloirs on Dragontail Peak

The Pacific Northwest’s mild winter has created early spring conditions in the mountains–a more stable snowpack up high and little snow at lower elevations making access to the high country easier. This weekend Cam Alford and I trekked into the edge of the Enchantment range in Washington’s North Cascades to take a crack at the classic alpine mountaineering route Triple Couloirs. The route is one of several that ascends the northwest face of Dragontail Peak.

IMG_2107 Dragon tail Peak in the moonlight. The Triple Couloirs route starts in the obvious snow gully around the center of the face. Note the headlamps on the right side of the face. From our camp on the lake we watched a party retreat off of the face via multiple rappels in the dark.
IMG_2078 Cam Alford making his bed for our brief evening at Colchuck Lake, using our climbing rope as part of his mattress.
IMG_2114 Inspecting equipment for our early morning start.
IMG_2120 In the moonlight, Cam makes coffee for our pre-dawn start.
IMG_2145 After we left camp at 5 am, unfortunately, my camera stayed tucked in my pack until high up on the route as we navigated three pitches of ice and the first two couloirs. After safely navigating into the third couloir, with all of the significant technical obstacles behind us I snapped a few shots. Here Cam ascends steep snow towards the bottom of the third couloir.


IMG_2181 Close to the summit of the Triple Couloirs on Dragontail Peak, Cam Alford looks out over the snow covered North Cascades.

A strait forward descent around the backside of the mountain brought us back to our camp and several grueling hours of hiking on a very icy trail and gated road got us back to our car and the end of 14 hours of almost continuous movement. Beers and burgers in Leavenworth shortly there after–sorry no photos of that either.



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