Solo Trip up Dragontail
A trip meant to kick my butt
August 9, 2003
The route summary:
- Esmeralda trailhead (gateway to Ingalls and Stuart)
- over Longs Pass
- east along the trail paralleling Ingalls Creek
- ascend north off trail, parallel to Porcupine Creek
(stay right/east to minimize bushwhacking!)
- meander around basin below Colchuck and Dragontail Peaks.
(bring climbing gear and play more next time!)
- go up Dragontail
- return along same route (minus some bushwhacking)
I woke up in my car before 4am at the Esmeralda Trailhead, commonly used to
access Ingalls Peak. I'd meant to wake up at 4am and be hiking by 4:30am, but
a half dozen fellows getting ready to go up Stuart woke me early. So I was on
the trail by 4am. The stars were gorgeous, but I was in a hurry and couldn't
look at them much with my headlamp on.
I ascended and descended the 2200ft Longs Pass; and 3 hours into the hike
waved a greeting to the last people I would see until my return. The trail
along Ingalls Creek is almost flat and easy.
The pain started after I'd turned to follow Porcupine Creek, off-trail.
The ascent from the trail to the subalpine meadows above involved something
near a mile of heinous bushwhacking. By "heinous" I mean standing on branches
a foot or two above the ground, faced with a uniform wall of branches and
choosing how to squeeze between them. Occassionally I'd step into a patch of
ferns taller than myself and think "how nice" -- because they were soft and
easy to part. Next time: stay right (east) of Porcupine Creek and avoid
nearing the creek itself. That's more or less what I did on the way down and
vastly reduced the amount of bushwhacking.
In avoidance of lush vegetation, I ended up on a dry ridge that leads
towards Colchuck. There, I saw a buck. Cute.
I also saw some random stakes in the ground.
Why? This area was criss-crossed by deer trails, but it was quite rare to see
something that might have been human footprint. Why put stakes here? And
two of 'em -- one was clearly more weathered than the other.
I headed up the ridge towards Colchuck 'cuz it was fun. The rock was
solid, the climbing pleasant.
The turnaround point came for me when I reached a 5.7-ish crack. I was in
my hiking boots. The 5.7 move was high enough up the body-sized crack that
had I fallen, I would have gotten banged up on the way down, and the landing
wasn't great. So I bailed and descended
(slightly) into the basin between Colchuck and Dragontail.
It looks like there's a lot of nice climbing on the east face of Colchuck.
I found a cool rock between Colchuck and Dragontail. I think I'd like
to climb it. I took more
photos of the rock and the specific cracks that
looked most appealing.
I crossed the basin and scrambled up Dragontail. Now, it turns out
Dragontail has about 4 peaks. I knew the tallest one was also the furthest
from the direction I was approaching, so when I gained the ridge I climbed the
one north of me.
There was one little 5-ish section crossing to the other side of this peak.
It wasn't very hard, but sure was exposed.
From the first peak I ascended, I could look out towards the main peak. In
the foreground, you can see part of the peak I was on.
I could also see the 2nd tallest peak (not even 80ft shorter than the real
summit). It looked
like better climbing and more solid rock -- more fun. So in a moment of
climbing heresy, I chose to climb the 2nd tallest peak instead of the true
People have complained I don't have enough pictures of me among my trip
photos. So I shot one. (No climbing partner -- I went solo.)
The descent down the subalpine meadows was just grand. Here, I was
thinking to myself how surprising it was that a trip this long could feel
The ascent up Longs Pass at the end of the day. Here, I was thinking that
thanks to the pass, the trip was fulfilling its purpose of kicking my butt. I
was tired. A 2200ft pass at the end of what-would-be a 15 hour day feels hard.
Coming down, I realized that if I jogged, I'd get to sit sooner. So I jogged
most of the last 3 miles.
The following were shot from Longs Pass. The left-most mountain is Stuart,
and to the right stretch a bunch of other peaks rising above Ingalls Creek.
East is right; west is left. I had descended from where the photo was taken and
walked right along the trail on the valley floor.
total gained/lost: 2100 + 4700 + 2200 = 9000 ft
ingalls cr @ longs
ingalls cr @ porcupine
parking to longs pass
| 3.0 miles
longs pass to ingalls cr
along ingalls cr
ingalls cr to dragontail
| 2.0 (as the crow flies)
Total (one way)
Total (round trip)
| 17.6 miles
Time: 4am - 6:45pm, 14:45 total
- 5 elk
- 1 boy deer (buck)
- 1 girl deer (doe)
- 3 grouse (or whatever those chicken-like birds are)
- 1 marmot
- lots of little birds
- oodles of ground squirrels and chipmunks, some squeaking at me
- humans, but only in the first 3 hours and last 3 hours.
© Anna Mitros
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