Eldorado Peak, East Ridge

August 27-29, 2007 / Grade II, glacier travel, 35° snow

Sunday, August 26, 2007: We're just back from the Squire Creek basin where we climbed Center Stage, a relatively new route on the Roan Wall. We feel like taking a rest day, but we check the forecast and a new weather window is announced for the next couple of days. No time to loose. We start packing for a trip to Early Morning Spire. Lots of things to do: pack the gear, do the laundry, and get the necessary permits at the Ranger Station in Marblemount. We make a quick stop at Good Food for burgers, and drive the bus to Newhalem. We're hiking in tomorrow (huge day… a bit worried about it, not only the length, but also the technical difficulties… we'll see; we're expecting to suffer).

The next day, we hike into Eldorado basin. The plan is to go up the Edorado Creek trail, then cross the Roush creek basin on slabs below the glacier, climb to the Triad-Eldorado col, descend the Triad Glacier 1,200 ft into the Marble creek basin, then finally traverse to a camp somewhere near the base of the West ridge of Eldorado… ambitious ...too ambitious.

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Hiking up the steep Eldorado Creek trail.
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Taking a rest with Johannesberg in the background.
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Views from the steep approach.
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Lunch time!
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Beautiful Eldorado basin.

The Eldorado trail is unbelievably steep; at least as bad as the trail into Terror basin! Traversing the Roush basin below the glacier is very doable but quite long (over one mile) and not totally straightforward (several small canyons to skirt). It is also slightly exposed to ice fall from the gentle glacier above. Fortunately, the weather is not too hot on our way in so we feel pretty safe (this would not be the case two days later on the way back). The traverse requires a lot of class 2 and 3 up and down various obstacles, and takes a lot out of us.

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Ascending moraines into the Roush Creek Basin.
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The slabs just below the Eldorado Glacier (the Triad in the background).
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Traversing across the Groush basin below the Eldorado Glacier.
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Triad col si reached via 3rd to 5th class rock climbing.
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Views from Triad Col (looking North; Early Morning Spire is in the clouds).

The climb to the Triad Col is straightforward but 5th class for sure. We roped up for the second half. Probably 5.2ish with very heavy packs. We finally get to the col, which is quite exposed. The glacier below does not look too inviting. We can only see the first 100 yards or so before it rolls over into a steep abyss (large crevasses can be seen). The whole basin looks quite daunting: very steep, dark, and generally uninviting. From the col, we also get a good look at the descent from Early Morning Spire. It doesn't look too appealing either: very steep snow and scree… It is already 5PM. Looks like it could easily take us another 3 hours to get anywhere near reasonable camps, and we are both exhausted and a bit spooked... We give up on the whole thing and decide to rap back down to the slabs below the col, in the Roush basin.

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Descending snow slopes just below the Triad Col after changing our plans (E side - Roush basin) to find a spot for the night.
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Beautiful sunset on Forbidden Peak.
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Eric digging a snow platform... with his aluminum ice axe!
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Full moon over Boston Peak, Sahale Mountain, and the Quien Sabe glacier.
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Lazy morning at camp.

We debate what to do at that point: traverse the whole basin back to nice camps at about 5,400ft in the Eldorado basin, find some camp right here, or go up to camp on the glacial flats about 2,000 ft above us on the West edge of the glacier. After hesitating for quite a while, we decide to try and find a camp right here below the Triads. Eric first hikes down 500ft to moraines below, hoping to find level ground. No such luck. Back to the base of the Triad col, we resolve to establishing a camp on a lower angle snow field, at about 6,000ft. Problem is: we need to dig a platform and we don't have a shovel. The "snow" is quite hard and icy. Eric spends about an hour digging with his lightweight aluminum ice axe (great fun...!), while I unpack and sort out the gear. At least we get a nice flat camp, on snow, but right next to rock slabs, and with running water nearby. We have dinner and crash. We are wasted and it is late (11PM).

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The clouds give way to beautiful sunny skies.
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Dinner time.
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Trying to gulp down some oatmeal the next morning.
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Morning view of the Triad and the col from above camp.
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Sunrise over Boston and Sahale.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007: Rest day at camp, just below the East side of the Triad. We're hurting...

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Looking back at the Triad early morning from the Eldorado Glacier.
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Morning views of Glacier Peak (?).
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Going up the west edge of the Eldorado Glacier.
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Looking down the valley.
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Interesting snow surface (Inspiration Glacier).

The next day, we climb the East Ridge of Eldorado as a consolation prize, and hike back out to the road (another long day).

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The bivy sites on small rock islands at the base of the East Ridge of Eldorado.
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Climbers on the Inspiration Glacier.
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Looking up the East ridge.
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Lucie on the snow slopes leading to the ridge proper.
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The Inspiration Glacier from high on Eldo's East ridge.

We get up at 4AM, wolf down some food, then climb up the glacier, near its West edge, to the huge plateau above. We cross that plateau toward the base of the East ridge, and climb it, mostly on snow, staying just right of the crest.

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More views.
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Guided party making their way up the knife edge ridge.
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Eldo's short but sweet knife edge ridge.
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Lucie just below the summit.
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Summit shot.

Near the top, a diagonal traverse to the right leads to the trademark knife-edge snow ridge. This is fun, but very short (the knife-edge section is less than 150ft long). We meet the guided party of three whose van was at the trailhead… the guide knows our website very well, and one of the clients is from Tasmania! We chat for a while before they start going back down. Some time later, after eating lunch, we head down ourselves, this time following rocks closer to the arete (involves some class 4). It's a long slog back to camp, which we reach around 1PM.

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Summit views.
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More summit views.
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Early Morning Spire and Dorado Needle.
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Descending Eldorado's East shoulder (note the huge 'shrund).
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Views of Baker and Shuksan, from the West edge of the Eldorado Glacier

I'm eager to leave; I'd rather spend the night in my bed that on a snow platform eating freeze-dried food... We eat some more food, then hurry to pack our stuff and get ready to go.

The slab traverse seems to take forever this time, and the very hot sunny weather has broken a few menacing pieces of ice from the bottom edge of the glacier, right above our heads. We're a bit tense, and try to hurry across the most exposed sections. We try to follow a lower route this time, which does not work out as easily as our higher route two days ago. We take a long break at the end of the slabs. From here it's a long, steep knee-busting hike back to the car, which we reach some time after sunset, with very painful ankles and knees.

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The lush Eldorado Creek Basin with Mt Torment and Forbidden Pk in the background.
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Water break near small waterfalls along Eldorado Creek (~5,000 ft).
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Back at the car after a long day.
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Topo map (original plan in green).