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Mountaineering in RMNP: Dragontail Couloir

We received a little new snow Thursday night (~1″) but with strong winds so there was substantial loading in the alpine on lee and crossloaded aspects. Myself and two guests, Doug and CW, were planning on climbing the Dragontail Couloir (DTC) on the south side of Flattop Mountain. Given the conditions I knew this objective was tentatively out. We went it to check out the objective and consider other alternatives. While while gearing up the DTC sluffed heavily 3-4 times in 10-15 minutes. So we decided on a great looking alternative directly to the right of the DTC. It was more solar, had no new loading, and was a route I’d never climbed before.

We were treated to awesome climbing conditions! Perfect cramponing took us up the first 500′ of pitched climbing on mid-40 degree snow. A mediocre pitch took us to the mouth of a tiny couloir, much narrower than the DTC (3-6′ wide vs. 30′ wide) with a little WI/mixed (WI3, M3) section at the top that gained very steep snow (55-degrees, maybe steeper?) and a final ramp that deposited us on Flattop’s East Face. In total, we did 8 full pitches and a small one at the end.

I’d seen this route but had never done it before. It’s not listed in any guide book or on any of the online resources. I’m sure we weren’t the first to climb it but it’s always fun to check out new terrain. It’s a great DTC alternative. Doug and CW had an awesome day (saying, “This is the best day I’ve ever had in the mountains”), we had awesome, windless weather, great climbing conditions, in the sun, and on a slightly more technical and sustained route. It’s definitely a route I’ll be steering people towards in the future. I took 5 small-to-medium cams, a small rack of random nuts, 3 pins, and one 70-meter rope…and used it all. I had a great time exploring new terrain with these guys and we had an amazing day in RMNP.

I hope to climb with you soon in Rocky Mountain National Park. We’ve got countless options for adventure. Join us this spring!

Andrew Councell
CMS Guide

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