Dragon's Tail Couloir

Jennifer and I have been wanting to climb and ski Dragon’s Tail for years, but somehow never managed to time it correctly. We only attempted the route one other time, four years ago. On that outing, we turned around due to one of our partners having a malfunctioning crampon.

This time around we also managed to choose a beautiful, bluebird spring day. There was very minimal wind, and skinning conditions were excellent in the morning. The skin to Emerald Lake is a nice warmup for the day to come, and offered an inspiring view of Glacier Gorge.

Glacier Gorge between Nymph and Dream Lakes

Once you make it to Dream Lake, the full route comes into view. It is hard not to stop for a few minutes and look at what you are hoping to be skiing down in an hour or two.

Dragon's Tail with Climbers

The skin from Dream to Emerald was uneventful, and we put on our ski crampons to begin our ascent up the apron. The next time I do this route, I may fully transition after crossing the lake rather than two transitions for ski crampons, then boot packing. Transitioning and futzing with gear twice can easily add 10-15 minutes of time that could be spent climbing.

After skinning up the apron we donned our ice axes and crampons and started up the Couloir around 8:30am. The snow was still fairly hard at this point, but starting to soften from the sun. This was also about the time the party that we could see climbing earlier in the day skied down above us. Even if we had been up there earlier I would have waited for conditions to soften up a bit longer.

After an hour of climbing the couloir we made it to the split between the Incisor and classic variations. At this point the snow was getting quite soft, and even if we had wanted to start skiing higher in the couloir it would have been slow going and dangerous. Not to mention, Jennifer had lost a crampon at some point during the ascent! We swapped to ski mode and after a quick snack started our descent.

When we got back to the apron I was amazed at how many skiers were just starting up the couloir. We asked some of the parties on the way up if they had seen a crampon, and miraculously managed to get Jenn’s crampon back! Having completed our goal we enjoyed a leisurely lunch watching skiers coming down behind us, before finishing our day with the typical luge to the car.

Overall Dragon’s Tail was a great day out, and it is hard to beat a route with such a short drive and approach. I am sure we will be back during future springs.

Senior Software Engineer

Skiing, hiking, Prometheus, and all things observability