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Author Topic: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs  (Read 46073 times)
alecapone
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #25 on: 01/08/13, 10:23 AM »

this is the best I could do with my phone.

some people have a problem with commitment, some people should be committed. your choice here. John trusting my snowbollard building skills.


skiing the crux of the second

bollard number 1 with a boot ax backup..



bollard number 2 at the alcove.

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scott
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #26 on: 01/08/13, 10:28 AM »

ps..

Those are the boots Marcus gave me a couple years ago..  could use some new liners, but still kickin! Thanks.
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scott
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #27 on: 01/08/13, 11:59 AM »

I was wondering about that!  Glad they're hanging in for you...  Got your money's worth out of them Wink
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cumulus
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #28 on: 01/08/13, 12:05 PM »


those runnel rappels sound a hair bit nerve racking... commited/ment ambiguity indeed... y'all deserve some bluebird powder cruising!

glad you're both still around for another round



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Stefan
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #29 on: 01/08/13, 02:45 PM »

Wow, well done.  The TR is sort of like a preview for the cinema...  Gnarball
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #30 on: 01/08/13, 10:54 PM »

We thought we would be taking the rope and small rack of my booty cams and stoppers, plus an assortment of pitons, mostly smaller lost arrows, for a hike and they would never see a crack.  But oh were we wrong...

Just trying to understand what you wrote here...

When you started down the couloir, did you expect the route to be snow-filled, so you wouldn't need your climbing gear? And then you were surprised when you did need it?

Or did you think you probably wouldn't attempt the descent, but then you decided to go for it anyway?

Maybe there is another possible meaning that I missed.

Glad it turned out okay!
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jwplotz
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #31 on: 01/09/13, 07:34 AM »

Scott and I certainly knew we'd need my pro to rap the runnels and possibly the transition from the 3rd couloir to the 2nd couloir. We just kept it in the back of our minds from the outset that we may not even get to ski the TC's at all, and not even touch the rope and rack.

That being said, I was surprised to find a lot fewer fixed anchors in the runnels.
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danpeck
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #32 on: 01/09/13, 09:51 AM »

Looking forward to a full write up as well

This is definitely legendary!

I'm interested in the psychology of saying the day before that you would never ski that line, and then suddenly doing it and in very adventurous conditions  Wink

I can feel the adrenaline rise like a tide that brings you into circumstances you wouldn't have dreamed of--it must have felt other worldly at times, at least in the sense that you were doing something spectacular and urgent, yet surrounded by the giant and foreboding presence of dragontail, giant rock side walls, and the blanket of night/clouds  lending to that sense of permanence and almost peace and calm.  Definitely good to have a happy ending  Smiley

This will make a good story.
« Last Edit: 01/09/13, 09:57 AM by danpeck » Logged
ryanl
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #33 on: 01/09/13, 10:23 AM »

I want to post again just because. So glad to live in an area where stuff like this happens. Thanks you two.
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #34 on: 01/09/13, 05:45 PM »

That being said, I was surprised to find a lot fewer fixed anchors in the runnels.

Thanks for the clarification.

I think most climbers look for well-iced conditions to climb the Triple Couloirs. And most of them probably either turn back below the narrows or they are successful at climbing through. So there aren't going to be many bailout anchors. Only crazy skiers leave them there....  Wink

I'd also guess that avalanches make short work of anchors placed in the narrows. I wonder how long your anchors will last....
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jwplotz
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #35 on: 01/09/13, 06:39 PM »

The rest of the story...

This is Scott's first summit of Dragontail. He's been close, but never touched the top. We left the car at Bridge Creek CG at the late hour of 6am.  It's nearly 4pm and the light is waning in the gloomy overcast.

We snap a couple shots and click into the planks to make the first couple exposed turns just below the summit to the exit notch of the Triple Couloirs. However, for us it will be our entrance notch. I look down the 3rd couloir and can't see beyond a couple hundred feet. I tell Scott it's not too late to bail on the plan and ski our line of ascent. He says he's fine with TC's, so I guess we're committed.

The 3rd couloir is in fantastic shape. All the rocks are covered, and the snow consists of stable soft powder. We make methodical turns down to the transition point of the 2nd and 3rd couloirs where there's a flat bench. Here, we talk.

It's now almost completely dark. We weigh the merits of continuing vs. booting back out and descending the safe side. There are no cracks for pro here, so we'll have to chop a snow bollard to make the rap.  I ask Scott what he wants to do.  He says he's good for continuing, but sounds a little more ambivalent this time. So am I. Scott mentions that he's fine with skiing in the dark. Me too, I guess.  We decide to set up the rap to see if our single 60m rope will reach the snow below.  We thread the rope around the bollard and I toss the ends into the misty void.  I weight the bollard and descend to see the ends are just barely visible, sitting on snow of the 2nd couloir. I tell Scott that once we make this rap, we are locked in to finishing the route, since I dont have the tools to reclimb this step. Scott gives me the green light and I continue down out of sight.

As im waiting for Scott to rappel, the cycle of spindrift starts. The sound reaches us first, then a small waterfall of sugar snow that exploits every weakness in one's layering system as it flows over us.   This pattern continues for the next 7 1/2 hours that we're in the dark bowels of this mountain.

Scott touches down beside me.  I very slowly and carefully pull our rap rope.  I give Scott a bite of it as i pull to ensure it doesn't go flying down the mountain without us. I say that I will be slowing down from here on out to make sure no mistakes are made in worried haste. Scott says he's cool with this, stating, "It's not like it's going to get any darker at this point."  I could hug this guy!

Apart from a small rock constriction partway down that requires some careful side stepping, the skiing in the 2nd couloir mirrors that of the 3rd couloir. Joyous, steep powder by the small orb of a headlamp. But I know the dry runnels, steep exposed slabs of granite, loom in the blackness somewhere below us. It's impossible to tell with the misty fog that fills the air around us. Scott follows on his homemade board behind me, wielding his ice tool in front of him with both hands, like he's holding an assault weapon. 

I pull up next to the rock and dig out the snow and find a good crack for a cam and lost arrow piton. I pound in the pin, and the ringing of iron tells me the placement is most likely solid. The cam is good too, though I never fully trust cam lobes against snowy rock. I equalize the gear placing more emphasis on the pin, with the cam more as a backup.

We place boards on packs and rap to a small alcove out of the way of the constant spindrift.  Bad news is that there aren't any cracks worth a damn for an anchor.  We decide to chop another bollard and this works swimmingly. Being 30 lbs heavier than Scott, I rappel first. I also have the all the gear with me to build each additional anchor. I slowly descend on rappel  below the alcove, out of sight of Scott.  The walls above the small cave are aglow in LED light from Scotts headlamp.

I am able to dig out a nice crack for a .5 first generation camalot and a large stopper, which I weld into place with my single BD Viper ice tool that I have holstered on my harness. Solid! This is going easier than expected. I call up to Scott that I'm off rappel and he's good to come on down.

Rappel #4 starts. In the dark it's impossible to estimate how many more raps will be necessary to reach the snow of the Hidden couloir. But so far, it's fine smooth and I'm confident in my ability to coax anchors in crappy rock. I can't wait to get to the bottom safe and sound.  I suppress my imagination that is trying to distract me with visions of triumphantly exiting the final couloir out onto the slopes of Asgaard Pass.

I'm near the end of the rap line, knots tied into the ends of the strands, and there are no cracks available for gear. I scrape the sugar snow from the rock for what feels like hours.  I'm a little nervous, but not rushed. There's boot top snow to stand on, and I have a sling brake on the rap strands so that I can remain hands free looking for pro. I move from margin to margin of the narrow snow runnel but still can't find a crack.  Meanwhile, more spindrift comes streaming down over my head, one slough with enough volume to threaten my stance. I lower more and continue scraping snow off rock, and notice I'm leaving small streaks of blood on the pink granite. An inspection of my right glove reveals an exposed middle fingertip where the glove material used to be. Ive worn a hole in my glove already. The tip is red and oozing blood. It's so cold and the circumstances such that I can't feel the pain anyways. I think to myself, wow. That should hurt right now, but it doesn't. Weird.  I take out my viper and continue excavating.

I concede on finding cracks and announce to Scott that we will have to build another bollard. United again, we chop a hasty bollard and thread the rope. Oh well, I tell Scott that at least we save our gear with this bollard. I'm about 40' below the snow anchor, half rapping, half downclimbing towards the steeper rock slabs when I get a feeling of sudden weightlessness. It tips me upright where I catch myself. Scott yells down that the rope had cut through the bollard, which is painfully obvious with the entire rope coiled at my feet.  I tell Scott he'll have to downclimb the snow to my stance and we'll continue looking for pro.

More begging ensues as we clean snow off rock.  Time ticks slowly by. It feels like this one rap is running up on the 3rd hour, and we're no closer to finding a safe solution.  Maybe a bigger bollard this time.  Another cycle of spindrift pounds us as we dig. I look up to see stars in the black sky. 

We dig out a bollard twice the size of our previous one and again thread the rope.  The snow is on a 60 degree slope, and it's only about 2' deep and mostly sugar. There is no way in helll im going to commit to it without some healthy body weight testing.  I lean on the rope, and the thin 6mm line easily starts cutting through the snow. Im still jittery from the last close call, and this rap will take us over steep rock slabs, so full commitment will be required for this anchor.  No go, I tell Scott. We need to scour the rock more.  And I want to do it anchored with crampons, so decide to climb back up to our last gear anchor which is still accessible by steep snow climbing.

Now im getting tired. It's 9pm or thereabouts and the day's labor is catching up with me. I'm struck, however, by how unemotional Scott and I are about the present situation. We go about our tasks with a businesslike indifference. When one solution doesn't pan out, we let go and move on to the next possible option without any attention to ego.  We are here, right now in the guts of Dragontail peak in the pitch black watching spindrift avalanches flow by.  It's actually quite fascinating, and  I think to myself that this will all be very memorable in retrospect. But for now I have to find a crack for pro. I choke down some salty food and prepare to rap again.

With Scott's crampons attached I have better purchase to dig around in the rock. I choose a semi solid slab area and start digging at a weakness with my ice tool until I've scraped a thin canal that accepts a ringing lost arrow and stopper that I again pound into the crack like a head. I weight the anchor still tied into the rap rope and bounce test it a few times.  Solid! Thank God! Off rappel! C'mon down Scott.

On rappel yet again, I come across a fixed anchor 80' below. Finally!  I whoop up to Scott our good fortune. I adjust the faded cordage so the stopper and solid pin are  equalized better and tie in, relieved we don't have to burn more of our own gear. I still can't see how much further down the hidden couloir is. I look up. The stars are gone and it's starting to snow.

Roughly 40' down the next rap I find another fixed anchor of two inspiring pins in solid rock and newish webbing. I tell Scott we should use this anchor too, to maximize the extra length. Finally, I think,  this is coming together. Though there's still a black void below us, I reason that the Hidden couloir and glory skiing can't be that much further down.

Except the next rap produces no more fixed anchors and the rope ends dangle against near vertical slabs still. Near the end of the rope I start the clearing and scraping process all over again. The rock quality seems to have worsened if that's possible.  Again, I carve out a tiny seam and coax my final pieces of pro-a stopper and small lost arrow- into this horror story that is passing as granite.  The piton gives no audio feedback that it is solid as I hammer it in place.  It bottoms out with a useless thud. I weld the stopper in an adjacent crack with the tool's pick. On rappel still, I bounce test the anchor and it seems to hold. It's a mostly hanging belay, so I hold my breath, tie into the pieces, and call off rappel.

Scott comes down and perches on a small stance about 3' above the anchor at my request, since I don't trust the gear to tolerate the weight of both of us. I thread and toss the ends. They land on snow, and I'm reasonably assured that this is the final rap to the hidden couloir.  I prepare to descend and find my ATC has disappeared. What ensues is a comical attempt by two fatigued minds trying to recall how to rap on a munter hitch.  After 10 minutes of trial and much error, I say F' it and rap with the dulfersitz method. I touch down and recognize I'm indeed in the hidden couloir. No more rappels!!! I yell up to Scott, and tell him to come on down.

I've been climbing for 12 years. I learned to climb on gear first, and learned quickly how to build reliable, safe anchors. I've developed a lot of confidence in my anchors and rapped countless times without incident on cams, stoppers, pitons and V-threads. Anchor failures do occur, but not to me. Not on my watch. But you read that sometimes it happens, and that personal trust between you and the rock-a relationship you've developed over years-can be broken in an instant. It did when my anchor failed as Scott started to rappel.

I remember hearing a short yell from Scott. More out of surprise than outright panic. I remember watching his headlamp go flying past me. Out of instinct I grab the rap rope that is zipping down the 60 degree snow and see him tumble further down the couloir in strange silence. There's another 800 feet of steep, rock lined gully left to the hidden, with a small cliff at the bottom. In short, Scott is screwed.

Then the headlamp comes to a stop 60' or so below me. He's fallen easily 70' from the rock slabs to the powder snow.  Scott has somehow arrested his tumbling fall and confirms that he is ok. When asked later, he says he doesn't remember how he stopped his death slide. His injury? A scratched elbow.

Without any emotional response to what just occurred, we kick steps over to a small alcove and gear up for the rest of the ski down.  We're not done yet.

I make the final few turns out onto low angled Asgaard Pass, and yelp as loud as I can out of immense relief. I have my baklava over my mouth and ears, and my yell causes my ears to ring. I yank down the mask and yell again, and again, and again. Just because it feels so good.

We sit down on the snow and I sincerely apologize for the anchor failure, and feel responsible for his NDE.  Scott understands, and is gracious. We just want to savor this victory. It's snowing hard now and it's closing in on midnight.  We're both cold and wet, but have to just sit and wind down and just enjoy what it feels like to be on low angled terrain again and not have to worry about another rappel.

We stagger to the cars by 5am. I go to the CWH ER in Wenatchee to get my finger cleaned up, then rush off to a court hearing by 9am. My colleagues declare me a zombie and send me home where I sleep for the next 6 hours.

Scott emails me later in the day to say he tweaked his knee taking out the garbage.




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powhound
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #36 on: 01/09/13, 07:20 PM »

Holy shit! You guys are fukn nuts. Glad you both made it out in one piece. Remind me never to attempt that line...especially in the dark
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Saign
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #37 on: 01/09/13, 08:01 PM »

The rest of the story...

Thanks for that.

About bollards ... I wonder if something like this would have worked better:



I made a few of these anchors for times when you need to rappel over a cornice or something and no other anchors are available. I haven't actually used these wooden ones, but I've made deadmen using buried rocks on several occasions.

I'd have no problem using something like this in spring snow, but I'm not so sure about dry winter snow. It would be best to do some testing.

The deadman in the picture is made using an 18-inch length of 1x4-inch lumber. The webbing extends about four feet from the deadman. The idea is to bury it in a trench (in the orientation shown) with a trench for the anchor sling, cover it with snow, pack it down, and let the snow sinter for a bit. The anchor is very light.

If anybody knows of better ways to make anchors in soft snow, I'd be eager to hear them.

I don't want to oversell this wooden deadman concept, but I'm pretty sure it would be better than the bollards you described in your story.

=======
p.s. I like to think that Hope and Kathy were watching over you during your descent. It's good to have you back.

« Last Edit: 01/10/13, 09:06 AM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
JasonGriffith
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #38 on: 01/09/13, 08:26 PM »

These days I seem to hear of hardmen/women using nylon stuff sacks filled with snow, girth hitched, and deadmanned.  Light, pack down small, but leave a bit more litter on the mountain.  That said, I like the 1X4 prototype Lowell!

Nice work on the descent!   I love how something I consider a good tick on my climbing resume is "just" a ski to some other folks. 
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jwplotz
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #39 on: 01/09/13, 09:06 PM »

Thanks for the useful info Lowell regarding the improvised picket.  I don't think I would have trusted a deadman or pickett in that snow.

And yes, I like to think there were guardian angels working overtime that night. Thanks for the good sentiment. 
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kevino
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #40 on: 01/10/13, 08:01 PM »

Quite the experience John. Glad you and Scott made it out safely.
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samthaman
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #41 on: 01/10/13, 08:32 PM »

wow, glad everyone is ok.
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banosser
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #42 on: 01/10/13, 10:07 PM »

gulp... thank God
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snoholic
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #43 on: 01/11/13, 08:32 AM »

Incredible adventure! I'm glad all turned out well.
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shred
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #44 on: 01/11/13, 09:18 AM »

Enthralling read! It's hard to build bomber rap anchors, when you have to carry the loads of your guys BIG Kahuns!!!
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danhelmstadter
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #45 on: 01/11/13, 07:39 PM »

Wow, awesome read John! intense!  glad you guys are ok.  nice job getting after steeps in crappy weather.
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Plinko
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #46 on: 01/11/13, 09:06 PM »

Excellent write up!  It could have ended very different.  Glad you made it out safe.  In armchair mode,  I don't think I would have dropped in at/after 4pm.  Bodies make an erie thud when they hit.  Hope everyone's in the habit of tying a stopper knot at the end of the rope before rapping into the abyss!
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alecapone
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #47 on: 01/12/13, 10:13 AM »

Thanks everyone for your thoughts, concerns, and kind words both here and in private.

We all have accidents now and then. I don't like to offer myself up as a case study, but I also didn't want to inspire to do something without acknowledging the dangers involved. i think most everyone is aware. just a reminder.


Lowell,

thanks. honored and humbled to think your angles would take the time to watch over me. But I'm sure they have their own to take care of. In yet another ironic twist, and parallel lines...

an angles eye view?

http://vimeo.com/57167626



« Last Edit: 01/12/13, 10:32 AM by alecapone » Logged

scott
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #48 on: 01/12/13, 10:49 AM »

Accidents happen, yup -- glad y'all came out well.

That video looks like a much better way to get down Aasgard than walking -- very cool.  Does he look back as he passes over the TC area, or not?  I'm not real familiar with the lines on Dragontail.
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bfree32
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Re: January 6th, 2013, Dragontail, Triple Couloirs
« Reply #49 on: 01/12/13, 09:40 PM »

Accidents happen, yup -- glad y'all came out well.

That video looks like a much better way to get down Aasgard than walking -- very cool.  Does he look back as he passes over the TC area, or not?  I'm not real familiar with the lines on Dragontail.

Not really, just a glimpse of the first (hidden) couloir at 1:01. The majority of the route is visible from the lake, see the first picture from the original post.

The guys in the video were also not even very close to the summit. Looked like maybe 8000', just above Aasgard.
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