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Dragon's Tail

 
Dragon\'s Tail

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Montana, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 48.65692°N / 113.74087°W

Object Title: Dragon's Tail

Activities: Mountaineering

Season: Summer, Fall

Elevation: 8580 ft / 2615 m

 

Page By: jimegan

Created/Edited: Jul 29, 2009 / Feb 18, 2012

Object ID: 534518

Hits: 10030 

Page Score: 89.3%  - 29 Votes 

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Overview

At 8,580’ elevation, the High Point of the Dragon’s Tail is considerably lower than most of its nearby neighbors. However, it is an interesting and challenging climb as you will find if you fail to hit the correct route your first attempt. It can be climbed in 4 – 5 hours from the Logan Pass visitor center and provides some unusual perspectives of many more well known peaks surrounding it. Viewed from above (Mt Reynolds) it is easy to see where it got it’s name as it is an undulating ridgeline that makes up part of the Continental Divide.  
Hidden Lake from Dragon s Tail
Hidden Lake
Views to the west below the Dragon’s Tail are of beautiful Hidden Lake and for the adventurous mountaineer, a trip to the summit can be continued and linked with ridges that encircle the lake until dropping down near its shores beneath Bearhat Mountain and hiking out to the outlet where a good trail heads back up the lower flanks of Mount Clements for 3 miles back to the Visitor Center. The elevation gain from Logan Pass is about 1,950'. Distance to the summit is about 3.5. miles.

Getting There

Glacier National Park is located in the NW part of the state and extends up to the Canadian border which it shares with Waterton National Park of Canada. The nearest airport is Kalispell. Amtrac stations are in Whitefish, W Glacier and E Glacier. Depending on your travel plans, it may be worthwhile to fly to Spokane, WA and pick up a rental vehicle. Some rentals there may be more user friendly on multiple state use and mileage allowances as well as price.

Dragon’s Tail is located in the Logan Pass area of the park which sits near the middle of the Going to the Sun Road atop the Continental Divide. You can access the Going to the Sun Road at the park entrances at West Glacier or at St Mary and from either location you head toward the opposite end of the road until reaching the Logan Pass.

Red Tape

Registration for day climbs in Glacier National Park is recommended, but not mandatory.

National Park entrance fees apply in Glacier National Park. See Entrance Fees

Camping

There are many camping sites available at Glacier Park; backcountry, as well as car camping. Due to the large number of grizzly and even larger number of black bears who inhabit the area, there are strict guidelines for storage of food. Most of the backcountry campgrounds have facilities for hanging your food from cables or bear proof poles, but you need adequate lines to hoist your packs, etc 15 or 20 feet off the ground. If you are seeking an “undesignated area” camping permit, the rangers may require you to use a bear barrel to protect your food. When we backpacked in to Buffalo Woman Lake, they loaned us a bear barrel since they did not think we could find adequate tree limbs for hanging our food, etc. Hanging your packs is a good idea, since I have seen damaged packs from chewing by rodents. The GNP rangers require you to view an informational video annually before you can purchase your first backcountry permit.


GNP Campground Status and Info


Backcountry Camping Info


Backcountry Camping Sites

External Links

Guidebook: A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park

Trail guide: Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks

Glacier Mountaineers Society

Route

Standard Route

Start at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and hike up the trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook for more than a mile to where the trail hits a grassy  
Leaving the trail
Leaving the trail
plateau beneath the east slopes of Mt Clements beyond the east face. This area is very fragile and be careful to find the path that is used to cross it on the way to the standard climbs of Mt Reynolds and Heavy Runner. Leave the Hidden Lake trail and head on a perpendicular bearing toward Mt Reynolds.
Saddle NW of Reynolds
Saddle NW of Reynolds
This path gradually ascends on a long traverse to the saddle northwest of Mt Reynolds (approx 7,900' elev) and then continues south around the west side of  
Path along S side of Reynolds
Route to saddle between Reynolds and Dragon's Tail
Reynolds to the saddle between Reynolds and Dragon’s Tail (DT). This is where it is easy to get snookered into a climb to the first summit of DT which at 8,492’ is nearly 100’ less than the true summit. The cliffs guarding both sides of a huge gap  
Gap in the ridgeline
Gap in ridge
in the ridge between the two will force your retreat back to the saddle where you started unless you want to turn this into a technical climb on rotten rock!

So, the correct route drops down on the southeast side of the saddle
Route along Ledges
Route
gradually to skirt below the cliffs on that side of DT for about ½ mile until you reach the ledge that leads to a broad couloir that can be climbed to the ridgetop before you reach the true summit. I dropped about 100’ on the traverse from the saddle (7,900') before reaching the ledges. Once you find the correct ledge which is well marked with cairns initially, follow it for about ½ mile until you round a bend and see the broad couloir which will get you through the tough cliff band that follow DT for most of its length. (You will gain about 500’ gradually as you climb along the ledge)

From the base of the couloir be careful to mark your start so you can find the correct ledge upon return!  
Couloir
Couloir
The climb here is the crux of the route and can be very difficult if route finding skills are not carefully exercised. In general, I found that staying to the right side of the couloir offered the easiest moves and none were harder than Class 3. After carefully picking your way up about 400’ you will top out on the ridge and should again carefully note where you want to start back down upon return.
Ridgetop view of summit
Ridgetop view of summit
From this point, you can see the summit further down the ridge to your left and it is a nice hike up to it along the ridgetop.

Additions and Corrections

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Viewing: 1-6 of 6    
Fred SpickerDon't make our mistake!

Fred Spicker

Voted 10/10

Note that the route shown on this page IS the route to the top.



More than one ledge will probably get you to the large couloir.



I had always assumed that it was at this large couloir where you would start climbing up.



HOWEVER:



The Edwards guide states: "That trail eventually ends abruptly at a sheer-walled couloir which cannot be crossed. (It continues, on the far side of the couloir, but even the goats reach that continuation by climbing up over the head of the couloir and descending on the far side.)"



Where we reached the large couloir we literally walked across it with our hands in our pockets. So, we continued. We also easily crossed the next couloir - and the next. It wasn't until we were almost around the mountain that we found one we couldn't cross. The climbing above this last couloir was extremely exposed rotten Edwards Class 4 and 5. We eventually gave up and headed back to Logan Pass unsuccessful, but sure that we should have gone up next to the first large couloir.
Posted Aug 8, 2009 8:18 am
FlatheadNativeRe: Don't make our mistake!

FlatheadNative

Voted 9/10

I agree Fred. This is the correct couloir. Although Edwards' route is somewhat confusing as he wrote it a photo helps illuminate the answer (please see the attached photo (Edwards' DT Route photo). The "twenty-foot-high grey stratum" as well as the "grassy area above some small clumps of trees" and the "great upper cliffs" are easy to identify.



Which couloir is he describing as the proper one to climb?



Here is my take on it after successfully climbing to the summit as well as visiting with Vantana who climbed it a week earlier. I am assuming that the "sheer wall that cannot be crossed" is below the 8,000 foot countour level where the couloir is reached. It seems that there is a significant wall on the far side of the couloir where the couloir rises out of the scree field.



Edwards does not say to continue along the goat trail on the other side so the first couloir must be the correct one. The scrambling to the summit is certainly Class 3. It is possible to climb up the second couloir as well.
Posted Aug 14, 2009 3:22 pm
jimeganRe: Don't make our mistake!

jimegan

Hasn't voted

If you look at my two pictures..."gap in the ridge" + "route" at the same time, I think the correct couloir is easily identified from a distance and as you reach it. Having just been there, do you agree?
Posted Aug 14, 2009 6:00 pm
FlatheadNativeRe: Don't make our mistake!

FlatheadNative

Voted 9/10

Yes I do agree.



Although reading Edwards' description I initially thought that his route had to begin closer to the Reynolds saddle near the big gap. We explored the area near that gap looking for an alternate route down and there might be a way through there but we did not want to risk the exposure to find out.
Posted Aug 14, 2009 6:05 pm
Fred SpickerRe: Don't make our mistake!

Fred Spicker

Voted 10/10

Vernon and I just climbed this a couple of days ago and used the same ledge that Moni and I did last year.



We crossed the face one ledge lower than the one shown on THIS PHOTO on this page - the wider, grassier ledge with dead trees at the beginning. This ledge is also marked by cairns and was marked with flagging. The trail on this ledge leads to a spot on the first large couloir that can be easily crossed and does not match the description in Edwards.



Just rechecked - we used the ledge marked in this photo by FlatheadNative: Route Photo
Posted Sep 7, 2009 9:26 am
jimeganbest ledge to follow

jimegan

Hasn't voted

Thanks for you input. I placed a pink surveyor's tape on a tree branch on the best ledge to augment the various cairns. I'll take your word on which ledge that is in my route photo since I can't be sure from my computer screen. I think it should be fairly obvious to climbers when they reach that section of the route.
Posted Sep 7, 2009 2:30 pm

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