Dragontail, The Last Powder Turns of the Season

Installment 7 from Kyle Miller’s 08-09 touring season:

It was yet another brutally cold morning as the early morning sun beat down upon my sleeping bag. My body was still exhausted from the trip to Snoqualmie that I’d done the day before, so I downed a few delicious ibuprofeins with my freshly-boiled instant coffee. Looking up from this delicious schmorgasbord, I considered the peaks nearby.

Icicle creek boasts some of the truly more picturesque peaks within the Cascades, and we were there to tackle one such massive– Dragontail Peak. A large rock spire situated between Mt. Stuart and Cannon Mountain, Dragontail is home to an impressive south-facing chute that will yield 3000′ vert of snow after quick climb. Luckily, a storm from a few days earlier had dumped over a foot of powder, that would be free for the taking– not bad, for a glorious day in May.


The South Face of Dragontail Photo by John Scurlock

Dan and I set out on the trail, whose whereabouts were somewhat obscured by a foot or so of snowpack. The trail was a steeper climb with neverending switchbacks and morale-shatering false peaks. After two hours of climbing I was relieved to make it out to Colchuck lake, nestled below Dragontail, which towers above the lake to its south.


Colchuck Lake with Dragontail on the left

I had intended upon meeting up with Jeff and Scott somewhere near here, and they’d camped at the lake the night before, but they were nowhere to be seen. I skinned across the lake in a fruitless search for traces of recent camp, but found nothing.

Confused by their absence, but also hungry, I decided to make some Top Ramen while I waited for Dan and contemplated my next move. People say that everything tastes better in the woods, and this is incredibly true. As I waited for Dan, I hungrily downed a delicious snack of Top Ramen, which satisfied my hunger. When Dan arrived, he mentioned he saw two people skinning at the base of Dragontail, so I figured I’d run ahead and try to catch up with what could potentially be my lost touring partners.

Once again, the skin track was a series of switchbacks and was marked by significant elevation gain. I finally caught up with Jeff and Scott at Cochuck Pass, a low-lying col that grants access to the southern face and lower part of the main chute on Dragon Tail. We cooked a quick meal and then began our climb up the final 1000 feet between us and the summit.


Skinning up with the col in the background

The first half of the climb, we skinned in the shade, but for the final stretch, the sun beat down on us and sapped our energy as we climbed the slope, which steepened dramatically for the final 300 feet to the summit.


Near the summit

Our arrival at the summit was rewarded with sweeping views of seldom-visited corners of the Cascades, dramatic pilings of colorful granite, and and a dizzying drop off of the northern face.


Mt Stuart Dominating the Skyline from the summit of Dragon Tail

We dropped into perfect fall-line skiing, but the sun had affected the slopes on the Southern side and turned the perfect powder to slush. It was great to tackle such an aesthetic line, but we were most stoked for what was in store for the final 2500 feet of the north face.


Scott drops in first (Photo by Jeff Spicolli)

The first few turns were wind-scoured, but below that yielded exquisitely deep powder turns, as we ripped up the slope. We all met up once again halfway down, each grinning from ear to ear.


Jeff Drops into the North facing section with Colchuck lake below


Scott throwing up some rooster tails (photo by Jeff Spicolli)

Little did we know that these would be our last powder turns of the season as we milked those last 100 feet to the lake. One last goofy-grinning glance at our ski tracks, and we were back off towards our cars.



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