Dragontail Peak + Little Annapurna / 龍尾峯+小安娜普納

Dragontail Peak (left) and Colchuck Peak
Dragontail Peak (left) and Colchuck Peak

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The Lowdown on Dragontail Peak and Little Annapurna

Access: Stuart Lake Trailhead
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 3440′-8840′
Gear: helmet, ice ax, microspikes
GPS Track: not available

Day 1 – Dragontail Peak

At the beginning of the week, I posted on nwhikers.net looking for a permit. Then I was lucky to get a Colchuck Zone permit at the last minute. So this weekend, right away, I set off to The Enchantments for the first time. It was my final backpacking trip of this season.

Despite the gloomy weather forecast, I enjoyed a dry approach to Colchuck Lake. It took me two hours to get there. Then I spent another half hour looking for a spot by the lake. As soon as I set up camp, I set out to climb Dragonball Peak via Colchuck Glacier.

Colchuck Glacier ahead
Colchuck Glacier ahead

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Colchuck Col Bound

It took a while to get from my campsite up to Colchuck Col, mainly due to the ice. Either I had misread the reports or snow conditions had changed overnight. But by then, I wish I had packed crampons. It was only an hour and a half to sunset time when I finally made it up to the col.

Since I barely had enough daylight to climb one peak, I settled on Dragontail Peak. I was after the views into the upper basin of The Enchantments. With maps in hand, I started heading up the west slopes. The technical scramble turned out to be straightforward. Before long, I was going up the south face toward the summit.

Scrambling up toward the summit
Scrambling up toward the summit

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Dragontail Peak Summit

Once I got up to the summit, I immediately surveyed the area. Then I shifted my attention to the broad terrain to the east adorned with water piddles. It took a minute to realize what I was looking at the upper basin. Wow, wow, and wow! Now I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to see it up and close. Colchuck Lake looked gorgeous from up here!

Darkness fell just as I got back down to the col. But I still needed to go down on the glacier. Holding my ice ax with a firm grip, I slowly moved down sideways. I lay mostly on my right while staying close to the west end of the slope. I didn’t have any trouble seeing with the headlamp. But the sound of rockfalls from Dragontail Peak was nerve-racking.

Upper Enchantments panoramic view
Upper Enchantments panoramic view

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Outro to Camp

It took an hour to get to the bottom of the glacier. Then another hour to scramble back to camp. While sliding down the glacier, I felt a burning sensation on my right calf. It ended up being ice burn, something I’d experience for the first time. According to the doctor later, it’s the exact opposite of sunburn. It sure was a night full of excitement.

Day 2 – Little Annapurna

I was full of excitement to see the upper basin. But then the rain came at dawn, and so I waited patiently inside the tent for it to stop. Eventually, it stopped raining midmorning. So I quickly left camp and headed toward Aasgard Pass. The terrain was steep but not as horrible as some reports had mentioned. It made for a great workout nonetheless.

I didn’t have plans to check out the Snow Lakes Basin. But I figured I had just enough time to explore the upper terrain and walk up to Little Annapurna. I was in awe with the lakes and the Middle-Earth like terrain as I approached the base of the peak.

Upper basin lakes and tarns to the east
Upper basin lakes and tarns to the east

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Little Annapurna Summit

It was only cloudy when I began the scramble. But then it started to pour when I became closer to the summit. Without views, I stayed on top just long enough to take a selfie before heading back down. The weather got progressively better after I left the top. Even the sun decided to make a cameo at one point.

I continued to walk east almost to the edge of the upper basin before turning around toward Aasgard Pass. There were no signs of mountain goats, and I only ran into one party the whole time. It was eerily quiet on the way back to the top of the pass.

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Outro

I got back down to camp and then packed up to head out. The two-mile hike out felt like forever, especially now that the daylight was getting shorter. Later I found out the Green Trails map had misprinted the mileage. It was, in fact, five miles from the Stuart Lake trailhead to Colchuck Lake.

This trip was memorable, not to mention that I had left my GPS device by the trailhead. Until we meet again, Enchantments!

See more trip photos here.

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