Type: Trad, Mixed, Snow, Alpine, 800 ft, 6 pitches, Grade IV
FA: as a summer rock route: William Buckingham and Bob Boucher, 1954. First winter ascent unknown.
Page Views: 5,871 total · 49/month
Shared By: Chris Sheridan on Apr 6, 2009
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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Enter The Dragon roughly follows the line of a rarely done summer rock route known as Old Route (5.7). As a mixed climb, the route offers six quality pitches of moderate but strenuous climbing to a great summit.

The route has likely been climbed as a mixed route before, so maybe this is just a rediscovery of an old route for a new generation. With that in mind, it's not too much of a stretch to give the mixed route a new name, like the route Left Chimney, which was often overlooked until someone renamed it Dreamweaver.

Enter The Dragon climbs the center of the south face of the Dragon Tail. Start by climbing up the Dead Elk Couloir and traversing into the top of a large snow ledge.

P1: Climb an iced up, right-facing corner system for a forty feet. Run the rope up easier terrain and belay on the left (150 feet, M4).

P2: Climb blocky, mixed terrain on the left side of the gully system past a pair of crux bulges. Again, belay on the left about 30 feet down from a steep chimney (150 feet, M4).

P3: Kick steps up and right, and climb the steep chimney past a fragile snow mushroom (unless you're lucky) then up easier terrain to a belay on the right (150 feet, M4).

P4: Climb up the left side of the gully past a short squeeze chimney with great featured rock then through a small overhang. Once past the overhang, angle up and right towards a notch in the southeast ridge of the Dragon Tail (150 feet, M4-).

P5: Climb up to the notch the work your way up the south west ridge until its possible to break right on a ledge system leading to the base of the east face of the summit block (100 feet, 5.6).

P6: We didn't climb pitch 6 due to the usual assortment of excuses: cold hands, bad weather, approaching darkness, etc. From the view from our highpoint and by looking at pictures later on, there looked to be about one pitch of 5.7 terrain remaining through steep but featured terrain.


From the summit or the route, descend north then down the Dragon Tail Couloir. It looks like it is possible to descend east from the notch in the south east ridge but having fallen for this trap, I don't recommend it. A huge overhang is directly below, with the lip of the overhang about 180 feet above couloir. You may find yourself hanging in the middle of space wondering what to do next. If you have to bail, rappelling the line of ascent will greatly reduce your chances of having a really bad day.


Cams to a #3, stoppers, one specter, one thin knife blade an maybe a few other pins.
Chris Sheridan
Boulder, CO
  5.7 M4 Steep Snow
Chris Sheridan   Boulder, CO
  5.7 M4 Steep Snow
We descended east, from the notch in the south east ridge in two long rappels, one about 200ft, the second about 230ft. The anchor we used for the second and last rappel was about 50ft above the lip of the large roof. When I got to the lip of roof it looked like the ropes were about ten feet above snow, so I went for it. It turned out that the ends of the rope were about about 30ft above the snow. Getting down to the snow required letting one side of the rope (the side without the knot at the anchor) slip out of the belay device and using the friction of the rope sliding through the anchor above somewhat slow our falls. When I went, my partner, Andy saw the rope sliding through the anchor and grabbed it. That slowed me down some and I hit the deep powder snow with a nice soft landing. When Andy came down, there was no one above to return the favor. When the rope slipped through his belay device, he came down fast and landed feet up hill, then toppled over backwards. With the rush of relief, we sat there and laughed for five minutes straight. Apr 6, 2009
J. Fox
Black Hawk, CO
J. Fox   Black Hawk, CO
Another nice addition! Thanks! Apr 8, 2009
Eran Viimeinen
Eran Viimeinen   Colorado
Chris: 1st, this routes look fun - Thanks for posting!

2nd, in your description you mention the "Dead Elk Couloir". Is this the same as the "Dragon's Tooth Couloir"? There appears to be about 4 different names for the couloir that ascends between the Dragon's Tail Rock Buttress and the Dragon's Tooth Rock Buttress. Other names I've heard are "Dragon's Egg Couloir" and "Tower Gully". There must be some kind of magical curse in this area that has warped out minds... But my question is, do you know what the "oldest/original name" for this couloir is? Seems that you have access to some older information that seems less available. Cheers! May 22, 2009
Chris Sheridan
Boulder, CO
  5.7 M4 Steep Snow
Chris Sheridan   Boulder, CO
  5.7 M4 Steep Snow
Hey Aaron,

I picked up the name Dead Elk Couloir from Eli's ClimbingLife.com website though Dragon's Tooth Couloir may be the older name.

The Dragon's Egg is a feature on the south face of Meeker. The Dragon's Egg Couloir leads up past it. I have no idea where Tower Gully is. May 29, 2009
J. Fox
Black Hawk, CO
J. Fox   Black Hawk, CO
I think Dragon's Tooth, a.k.a. Dead Elk couloir is called Tower Gully in the Bernard Gillett book for RMNP the High Peaks. Jun 2, 2009
As of 3/31, we only found one rap station on route. We ended up establishing a nice easy descent from the top of the gully system: head over the shoulder on the left of the gully and scramble down the obvious ramp to a nut and hex anchor. A double rope rap takes you to a snowy gully which you can downclimb until it cliffs out. On the skier's right, there is a ledge with a slung horn anchor. One more double rope rap deposits you in the snow of the Dead Elk Couloir. Fun route. Apr 1, 2013
Chris Gibbs
Denver, CO
Chris Gibbs   Denver, CO
Nice, Ben, I was about to write that same thing.

Only additions would be the shoulder over to the rap is at the top of the 4th pitch. Also, I'd recommend leaving packs at the snow bowl on the approach where you break left to head up the Dead Elk Couloir. This saves you the pain of hiking back up to the base of the route even if you descend the Dragon Tail Couloir. Apr 1, 2013
erik rieger
Sheridan, WY
erik rieger   Sheridan, WY
I've done this route twice now. If you're good at scouting for melt-freeze conditions, you'll enjoy this route. Also, there can be significant avy danger on the route. Dec 7, 2013
Gordon Laurens
Longmont, CO
Gordon Laurens   Longmont, CO
Climbed this route in early March 2014 and put together a video of the day. Gives you a fair idea of what the climbing is like.
youtu.be/AOdGFCzs6ao Apr 8, 2014
Martin le Roux
Superior, CO
Martin le Roux   Superior, CO
Added a photo showing pitch 6. This is a lot steeper and more sustained than the pitches lower down. When we climbed this in April 2014 there was no sign of anyone having done this pitch in a long time. It ends at a large, rubble-strewn ledge. We rappelled the pitch and downclimbed to get back to the rap point at the top of pitch 4 (see above comments from 2013). According to Gillett's book, it's possible to continue along the SE ridge, but that looked like it would be a long way and would involve more roped climbing. Apr 21, 2014
erik rieger
Sheridan, WY
erik rieger   Sheridan, WY
I added an overview photo of the upper part of this route after reading Martin's comment. Might help put into perspective how much more climbing is required to "walk off" from Flattop. Apr 29, 2014
Jonathan Awerbuch
Boulder, Colorado
Jonathan Awerbuch   Boulder, Colorado
Did the route last weekend and had a blast.

The rap route established by Ben Collett (described in his above post from 2013) seems to be the best way down. There is still only one fixed anchor on the route. We didn't find any rap slings to the Northeast (Dragontail Couloir), even though the 30-foot fall off the rope ends sounded fun. Mar 4, 2016
Colorado Springs, CO
  5.6 M3-4 Mod. Snow
LawHous   Colorado Springs, CO
  5.6 M3-4 Mod. Snow
Climbed this on 3/13/16. The snow was kind of sugary in some areas but in awesome shape for the most part. Minimal ice on the route. I believe we did not start on the true first pitch of the route. We started in a gully system to climber's right of what I believed to be ETD's first pitch. Was very chossy and had little to no good pro. Had to do a small traverse higher up to get into ETD'd second or maybe third pitch. Mar 13, 2016