Dragontail Peak - Backbone Ridge

August 12th, 2006

Micah and I decided to climb Backbone ridge in a long day after some serious cragging and pizza eating on Friday. We woke at the Stuart lake trailhead around 3am to 3 other paties gearing up to go. Busy place on a saturday morning. In our sleeply state we figured that they were all headed for backbone too. We hurried a bit but they all left for the trail before us. We divided a large pizza between us, shoved Big Green (the #5) into my pack and we were off a little before 4am.

Backbone ridge climbs the ridge to the Fin above.

The climb starts up 4th class ledges. No one else in sight...

My trusty mountain boots and crampons.

Micah scrambling up to the start of the first pitch.

Micah leading the first pitch (5.6) back towards the ridge crest.

The offwidth was pretty easy to find, though I would probably break the climbing to there into two shorter pitches (or just scramble up to the ridge crest). That way, the second can see exactly whats in store for them as the leader thrutches:

Getting in deep on the crux offwidth pitch (5.9).

Six inches of goodness. I'm loving that #5 camalot now.

Micah on top of pitch 3, which had a fun 5.8 handcrack.

We were following the description in Nelson's Selected Climbs volume 1, which was quite good except for the section above the offwidth. The offwidth finishes on a big flat ledge. Above are a bunch of fun looking cracks. One, about 20 feet left of the crest leads up and under a small roof (micah is directly below it in the picture above). In the Nelson description, this distance (about 40 meters) is called two pitches. From here, we stepped down and left (the "exposed 5.8 move") to gain a beautiful corner crack system. If you go up and right through the roof, there is a long pitch with more 5.9 offwidth (so I've read). The corner was fun, fairly clean fingers and thin hands, about 5.8 for half a pitch. the crack peters out into a pillar that is laying on the face. I went left of this pillar on face holds, then climbed a clean and stellar 5.7 hand crack on the pillars left side.

Micah following the beautiful fourth pitch (5.8)

The left side of the pillar.

One short pitch up to the ridge crest and we shortened the rope for a running belay. This took us all the way up to the fin.

Scrambling the upper ridge towards the Fin.

The Fin!

The fin is an absolutely magnificant feature. Clean, smooth, exposed, with cracks running all over it. Spot your line from afar as you approach, but in general you just stay near the left side.

Dave leading the second pitch on the Fin (5.9).

Looking down from the belay.

Micah leading our 10th pitch, the traverse across the top of the Fin (5.7).

Micah wading through a little choss on our last pitch.

Micah happy to be on the summit... "ok, now let's go."

A long hike out, with pizza for dinner (and lunch! and breakfast!), brought us back to the cars about 1am. A great day out and we had the mountain all to ourselves. Thanks Micah!

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