Doerte, Mike, and Dan on the summit of Culchuck Peak, 8,705'!Doerte, Mike, and Dan on the summit of Culchuck Peak, 8,705'. Mount Stuart is behind Dan!
 

Colchuck Peak, 8,705'!


May 19/20, 2001 Trip Report in the Stuart Range

 

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All photos by Dan Cervelli!

 

After our dayhike the week before up to Colchuck Lake, Doerte and I just had to return and try for the peak. Dan Cervelli was hiking in later in the day to join us, which made for an ideal strong party of three. This time, with overnight packs, it took 2 hours, 25 minutes to go the 4.5 miles to the lake. We were amazed that most of the snow had melted off the trail in just one week. We camped on dry ground where the week before there had been three feet of snow.

A strong front was blowing through, and although it remained mostly sunny, the clouds moved extremely fast by the summits of Colchuck and Dragontail high above. Around the corner, to Mt. Stuart, the valley was socked in with clouds.

Dragontail 8,840' from Colchcuk Lake camp.  

Dragontail 8,840' from our Colchcuk Lake camp. Our ascent route is in the Col on the right. Aasgard Pass is to the left.

 

I climbed up to the moraine, below the remains of the Colchuck Glacier, to check out the conditions. I found lots of wind, and extremely soft afternoon snow, postholing to my waist sometimes. Two skiers ascended with me and had a wild run down. I was amazed at their skill.

Dan arrived later in the day and we made plans to start at first light, 5 a.m., to ensure we had firm snow up the Col. The fast moving clouds became less as the day came to a close. We were hopeful that Sunday would be clear and calm. I couldn’t imagine being on the summit ridge in the wind! We woke in the middle of the night to hear only the silence of the sound of running water! The wind had stopped.

Mike and Doerte on the Moraine of Culchuck Glacier! Mike and Doerte on the Moraine of Colchuck Glacier at 6 am.

It’s about a mile around the lake on the trail to where the route begins to go up to the Colchuck Glacier. The snow was firm and perfect for steps. Two parties of two ascended with us. We were actually a loosely connected party of seven. Beyond the moraine, we stopped and put on crampons for the steepest section. To our right was Colchuck Peak and to the left was Dragontail. Doerte and Dan soon left me behind heading for the saddle at the top of the Col. We stayed in the middle to avoid any falling rock.

Doerte coming up the step section below the summit! Doerte coming up the steep section below the summit. This section was icey and hard packed.

At the saddle, we found some sun for the first time, and enjoyed a nice break, before continuing up the sometimes-steep rock, snow, and ice to the rock summit at 8,705’. Total time up was 3 hours, 45 minutes from camp. We had a wonderful view of Dragontail next door at 8,840’ as well as Mount Stuart, Argonaut Peak, Sherpa Peak, Mount Cashmere and Mt. Daniel. Glacier Peak, and other big volcanoes were sharp, clear, and close! We all spent a long time on the summit, talking, having lunch, and were reluctant to head down.

Looking down on the Culchuck Plateau with Dragontail in the back. From just below Colchuck's summit looking down on the Colchuck Plateau with Dragontail in the back. A climber is barely visable.

The descent down to the Col was slow and careful with self-belays. A lot scarier down than up! We had a nice series of long glissades back down to the still frozen Colchuck Lake. We were surprised all the skiers were just starting up, but I guess they waited for the softest snow.

A nice early season climb, with mixed snow and rock. The Col gets icy late in the season. Strong climbers can also do Dragontail from same saddle. We saw one party going that way. Dragontail can also be climbed via Aasgard Pass.

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