Introduction: The Bulger Drought
Back in series between 2008 to mid-2010 I was on a real role with mountaineering. Volcanoes used to go now like nothing and big two day trip used to come to me with ease. Nothing was perfect but it had seemed that I finally found my groove in the mountaineering field. The biggest thing was that weight which was always a struggle was down to the lowest it had been since the age of 12 and the body fat ratio was at 5%. Once I got to these goals I started to Washington’s top one hundred, i.e. the Bulger List. Then life got the better of me.
A loss of car, loss of a job then a grueling two- job 85 hour a week schedule severely cut into those at one time limitless plans. Starting mid 2010 all the way until this last Thursday I went into a Bulger List Drought. Though I climbed well over 100 mountains of varying difficulties not one of them were on the Washington State Bulger List. Dragontail was on many hiking plans over these past two years but due to partner concerns condition concern, timing and a number of other issues it did not happen. The two-job schedule did not produce much in the financial results. Gas and fast food ate half of the money and in two years despite being heavily active in hiking and climbing much of my old weight came back.
Well finally everything finally opened it door for me on this past Thursday and it was time for me to break this miserable, horrible drought. I finally was able to combine with Jimbopo and tag this beautiful mountain. We woke up early in the pre-dawn hours and then got to the trailhead for morning start. The first round of hiking to Colchuck Lake was not very hard and luckily the heat of the day had not hit this section yet. The weather looked good and we were making good time up the trail. Both Jimbopo and I were feeling quiet confident about our chances of making the summit.
First Good View!
But once we got across Colchuck Lake reality came crashing in. The backside of Colchuck Lake was more of a cairn boulder scramble than a nice trail. Then came the real gut check Aasgard Pass. This 2300 feet in .75 mile cairned scramble was torture to my now heavier body. I was really feeling it from the hot sun and my energy tank was ringing on empty. At one point I was thinking about turning around due to a number of issues. Thankful Jimbopo talked me out of such crazy talk and after lunch up at Aasgard Pass we decided to head up to Dragontail via the Snow Creek Glacier Route.
Mountain Goat In the Pass!
Route Up to Dragontail!
Other Peaks for the Future!
The 35-40 degree snow-climb was even more effort. But if there is one thing most people know about me is the fact that I love a good snow-climb. This particular snow climb required crampons which I remember to bring for the trip. Both Jimbopo and I took this climb up slowly to the top of the ridge. Once on the top of ridge we saw the obvious climbers trail up to the summit. This was basically was a walkup with a little Class 2 at the very, very top. The last little bit was actually easier than the heading up to Aasgard Pass. Once we got to final summit area we scrambled up to the very true summit where an incredible view awaited us.
Mellow finally to the exposed summit!
Colchuck Lake (shot by Jimbopo using my camera)
It might have been a mellow last little bit to the true summit of Dragontail but the true summit is highly exposed, with Colchuck Lake literally 3400 feet straight below. I was able to manage a couple of shots on the true summit and I gave the camera to Jimbopo to finish the rest. The view was amazing but I was getting very dizzy and feeling a little unstable on the true summit so after 30 seconds I headed over to the next rock. Jimbopo spent some more time on the true summit while I got some of my energy left. After being on the summit rocks for a while we scrambled back to a small resting area to refuel before heading down the mountain.
Rainier (shot by Jimbopo with my camera) The rocky peaks of Dragontail(shot by Jimbopo with my camera) Isolation Lake and other Enchantments Colchuck Lake!
Last look at the route to Dragontail as we are heading down.
On the way down we decided to take a slow glissade down the mountain. Any speed here might have gotten us in a lot of trouble due to the hardness of the snow. Despite the slow and controlled glissade we made it back to Aasgard Pass in twenty minutes. There we refueled for what was going to be a long descend down the steep and very rock Aasgard Pass. This path down was brutal not because it was steep but because there was no footing all the way down it to Colchuck Lake. It took us an hour and a half just to get down this brutal path-scramble. At this point we noticed the sun beginning to go down and knew we were running out of sunlight.
Last look at the route to Resting on Aasgard
Dragontail in the evening sun
The scramble around the back of Colchuck Lake took whatever energy we had and ate it out alive. All I could think at this time was ouch. We took another small break at Colchuck Lake and then headed back. At this point we were continuing to race time despite our tired bodies demanding rest; we pushed past Colchuck Lake and then continued down to the Stewart Lake trail.
Last shot of the beast!!
Just before the Stewart Lake Trail, the darkness of night finally caught us. We had about 3 miles left now all in headlamps. This seems easy but is the furthest thing from it. We both now were extremely tired and only I had an extra set of batteries. The only thing I could think about was the relief of sitting in my car when we got back and the blanket I packed in there. My dirty sweaty body was in pain for every up and down we went through, but we stayed calm and rode the trail all the way to the parking lot.
Once we got back to the car we realized it was past 11 pm and there was nothing open in Leavenworth. Both of us were too tired to drive home and so we made a decision to sleep at the trailhead. Once there we were approached by a couple who did the Enchantments loop only to realize that they left one of their keys somewhere in the Enchantments. They were set to sleep for the night so we told them we would take them down in the early morning. We managed a couple hours of sleep and a good amount of body rest and at sunrise we were ready to head back. We dropped the couple back at the car and then headed on back home, tired but happy because for me THE BULGER DROUGHT IS OVER!!!!
I really need to thank Jimbopo on this one. He helped with the driving and the motivation on the trail. On the times when it was hurting the most he was there. I know that I had the right partner on this trip. As for me this trip was a wake-up call for me to challenge myself to more Bulgers and get myself back into the shape that led me to the success I had in 2009 and 2010. Hopefully this is the beginning of another round of great climbs for me. And moreover hopefully I will continue to tackle the Bulger List in the upcoming two months. Let this be the beginning of something.