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Serpentine Arete 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c

Type:  Trad, 13 pitches, 2000', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.8+ French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c [details]
Page Views: 13,109
Submitted By: peachy spohn on Aug 27, 2007  with updates from Nick Sweeney

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Dragontail Peak in the evening. Serpentine Ridge ...


A very exciting and aesthetic line, which climbs the ridgeline on the right side of Dragontail Peak. Climb up an obvious dihedral system, past two trees with webbing on them until you reach a large terrace (done with a 70 meter rope). Next, continue up to a stance about 60 meters away where a rock is slung with webbing. Move up to the large pillar and go around right to set up your belay. The next two pitches are the crux 5.8 pitches and can be linked with a 70 meter rope. Move right from the pillar, across the face and into a large crack. Climb this until you can traverse left across a small, nobby slab and up another crack system that turns into a small dihedral. Belay up over a small hump right next to a piton. Continue the next pitch (past the two 5.8s) up left. For the rest of the route stay on the ridge line. There is a small down-climb and then after it move up right towards the summit. At the last part go around left of the summit block and follow a well traveled path to the top. Beware of loose rock through much of the low 5th class climbing. All of the technical climbing is solid.


Located on Dragontail Peak, about 200 feet right of the Backbone route, on top of a bulging pile of rocks. It is the ridgeline that is right of the ridge that contains the obvious face near the top.


Standard rack up to 3 inches. Doubles up to 1.5 inches is optimal, excluding the very small sizes (like metolious purple and silver). Some long runners, about 12 draws (including runners). Crampons and ice axe are important for the decent. Helmet!

Photos of Serpentine Arete Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Following the crux pitch on Serpentine Ridge
Following the crux pitch on Serpentine Ridge
Rock Climbing Photo: Shirley midway up Serpentine Ridge with Colchuck G...
Shirley midway up Serpentine Ridge with Colchuck G...
Rock Climbing Photo: Summit block with our alternate 5.8 direct finish ...
BETA PHOTO: Summit block with our alternate 5.8 direct finish ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Michael leading a 5.8 flake direct variation on th...
BETA PHOTO: Michael leading a 5.8 flake direct variation on th...
Rock Climbing Photo: Michael leading the first 5.8 pitch.
BETA PHOTO: Michael leading the first 5.8 pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: The crux cracks on Serpentine Ridge
The crux cracks on Serpentine Ridge

Comments on Serpentine Arete Add Comment
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By rpc
Mar 21, 2008

Did this one a year before doing Backbone (2005). Climbing was OK but much more loose stuff than on Backbone (I thought) & the best pitches here did not compare to best ones on its neighbor.
By Mike McL
From: South Lake Tahoe, CA
Jul 1, 2009

As far as snow gear, we did it in late June without crampons. That time of year there is very little actual snow climbing on the approach. Most of it is on rocks with short stretches of snow. We were able to get by in the morning without crampons, but the snow was very hard. If you descend in the afternoon (which most will do) the snow is soft and we didn't need crampons. An ice axe was nice to have. We brought boots but it could be done in approach shoes with an axe.

As far as a rack, I suggest doubles of purple, green, red, and maybe yellow camalots in addition to the usual stuff if climbing near your limit. Nothing bigger than a single #3 was necessary.

For the route, aim for the golden granite blocks at the base of the ridge near the rock island in the glacier. You'll start in a blocky left-leaning ramp that joins up in about 1 pitch with an easy right-trending ramp. Follow this right-trending ramp to the base of a large left-facing corner. 1-2 pitches up to 5.7 puts you on the large ledge with the large pinnacle. This pinnacle is very recognizable and is a good landmark when locating and scouting this climb. Traverse to the right side of the pinnacle and climb some cracks that lie about 15' right of the pinnacle for a short pitch. This is the crux and felt a little tough for 5.8 to me, but I'm a weakling so it's hard to tell. A shallow right facing corner with a hand crack in the back lies above this crux pitch. Ascend this corner (fun!), traverse left on some knobs, and set up a belay to the left. These two 5.8 pitches could be linked with a 70, maybe a 60. After these crux pitches, the next pitch climbs a short (10-15ft) straight-in corner and then follows a right facing dihedral to some blocks. It's a bit nebulous from here. Stay near the ridge crest and follow the path of least resistance. Just about every pitch seems to have a short stretch of low/mid 5th class separated by 4th class. The steep stuff just below the summit can be avoided by going left around the corner and walking to the top.

Descent is down the easy back side trending south and east towards snow slopes. Descend these snow slopes and walk east to Asgard pass. Descend Asgard Pass to Colchuck Lake.

Enjoy and be careful of the loose stuff.
By Andrew Carson
From: Wilson, WY
Aug 7, 2011
rating: 5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c

With a camp at the south end of Colchuck Lake, we thought a descent of Colchuck Glacier was the way to go. What we forgot to do was look at the map and see that there is a sub-ridge that makes a straightforward descent and traverse to the col at the top of the glacier less than obvious. We learned a harsh the dark... again. Figure it out beforehand.
We didn't find crampons necessary but this was a big snow year and the snow was soft and pliable. I could easily envision crampons being mandatory in the right (wrong?) conditions.
By Aawait
Jul 21, 2015
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Thought the crux was the third pitch after traversing the ledge to the right side of the ridge-line (~p5, pitch immediately following the two 5.8 pitches). That little corner got kind of funky.

Above that there are maybe 2 spots I encountered harder than 5.0-/4th class, by that I mean 5.4. We essentially did a quick hip belay.

After the small downclimb we put our approach shoes on, which was a good call as it was 3rd class to the summit.

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