Escaping the heat on Dragontail

Escaping the heat on Dragontail

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 47.47890°N / 120.8322°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 2, 2007
Activities Activities: Scrambling
Seasons Season: Spring
View from Dragontail
(More pics will be added in the next few days)

The previous year (2006) I made several trips into the vicinity of the Enchantments area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Washington State. The views of Dragontail had never failed to intrigue me.
Dragontail and larches morning
Dragontail Peak

Therefore, one hot early June Saturday I managed to get up at about 4:30 am and start packing for an attempt on the peak. Actually, my first goal was to simply make it to the top of Aasguard Pass, about a mile and 2200 vertical feet beyond Colchuck Lake. It had been hot and sunny in Wenatchee the previous week, and the forecast called for more of the same, with temperatures nearing 100 (F) predicted.

Stuart comes into view

Fortunately, I was on the trail shortly after 6:00 am, avoiding several hours of heat. Unfortunately, the trail to Stuart and Colchuck Lakes had yet to be cleared of blowdowns, which were numerous but nothing to difficult. In several places the heavy traffic was obvious with new footpaths around the blow-downs. However, the sound of the creek swollen with fresh snow-melt and intermitent views of the surronding jagged peaks made for very enjoyable hiking. Shortly after 8:00 I arrived at Colchuck Lake, where I took a break and enjoyed the reflections of Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks in the still waters of Colchuck Lake. Having been up to Colchuck a few weeks before, I was surprised that almost all of the snow was gone, but the recent warm weather had made a noticeable impact on the snowpack. Some new cones were developing on subalpine fir trees along the lake, which I stopped to admire before plodding onward around the lake.
New fir cones

Going around the lake is always rather slow for me, but eventually I made it, putting on my gaiters as I entered the intermittent snow on the far side. The warm weather had made the snow rather slushy, and it was undermined in many places, making for several deep half body post-hole experiences. The path to Aasguard Pass was about equal parts snow and melted out, so I made my way slowly up using both (taking numerous breaks because of my lack of conditioning). It was still cool during this portion of the hike as I was out of the sun for about half of the ascent time. I would often glance behind me and down to see how I was progressing up from Colchuck Lake,and what new mountains I may be able to see. On the other side Dragontail provided great scenery.

Upon reaching the top of the pass I stopped to look down at Colchuck Lake and over at the surrounding mountains while I filtered some water in an ice-cold fresh snowmelt stream. It was incredible bright, with the sun reflecting off the snow, and it felt much warmer here as I bore the brunt of the sun, which was now high overhead.

I began walking toward Dragontail passing a small tarn that was just melting out. The Enchantment Basin was a mix of snow on North facing slopes, little snow on South facing slopes and lakes that were just beginning to thaw in between. The snowslope up to the east ridge of Dragontail looked steep, but wasn’t bad when actually on it. Upon reaching the ridge there was little snow and the rest of the way up was mostly a walk with a little scrambling. I sat on the top for a while admiring the view over 3000 feet down to Colchuck, and over at Stuart Mountain. Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount Daniel and Mt Cashmere as well as a host of other mountains were also visible, although the more distant ones were hazy with the heat.

I relaxed on the top for nearly an hour, during which the cloud cover increased to scattered clouds (it had been almost totally clear when I reached the top of Aasguard. Eventually I had to bid the fantastic summit views goodbye and retraced my steps back to the car, with some glissading to speed the process where possible. All in all it was a great day to be in the mountains when it was almost unbearable hot in the lowlands.


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