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|Weather||Blue skies to thick clouds|
|Mailed to WacList||08/08/2007|
This past August 1st through August 3rd Aaron Haran and myself spent some time on the Eldorado, Inspiration Glacier, and McAlister Glacier. We ascended the NW ridge of Dorado Needle and the standard route (East Ridge) of Eldorado, both under blue-bird skies. |
Some pictures can be had here: http://picasaweb.google.com/dr.tobster/DoradoNeedleAndEldorado
The original plan was for a 5-day trip. We would nap Eldorado, Dorado Needle, Klawatti, Austera, and Primus peaks in the process. Weather on the third day cut those plans short. At least we grabbed the one peak we both wanted to get the most, Dorado Needle. Eldorado was on Aaron's "most wanted" list too. I had done it some years ago but only remember laying in a bivy sack during a hail storm. That sucked.
One other aspect I had forgotten about was the steepness of the approach. The gain is about 5,700 feet from the TH to the camps on the Eldorado east ridge. While the park service does not maintain any trail up through Eldorado basin, there is a heck of a good - but steep - trail most the way. The first boulder field (aka. The Boulder Field From Hades) is mostly boulder hopping with smatterings of trail on the right-hand side. The next boulder field actually has a trail beaten-in on the left-side. When that trail crosses a stream at about 5,200 feet the trail becomes quite good up into the Eldorado Basin. At a tad over 6,100 feet one heads left (follow charins) to the ridge separating Eldorado and Roush Creek basins. From there descend the mostly obvious gully with the boulder at the head and a trail in it to the moraine of the Eldorado Glacier.
To reach the fry-pan flat upper portion of the Eldorado and Inspiration Glaciers stay far right and simply walk up. Staying right seems to avoid most of the glacier proper and any crevasses present.
An Alpine Ascent's International group had claimed the first set of tend and bivy sites. A guide with the group recommended heading about 150 feet higher to a few choice sites and running water. We did and were well rewarded with a very comfortable and wind protected site with amazing views and running water not far away. This was at about 7,750 feet.
We drank lots of water, ate dinner, and went to sleep. The approach with a pack at least 40 lbs left us both quite wasted.
The alarm rang at 6 AM. The day's plan was the northwest ridge of Dorado Needle, return to camp for a break, and then ascend Eldorado. With clear skies the route to the col that would drop us onto the McAlister Glacier was obvious. Crossing this portion of the Inspiration Glacier varies from flat to a slight incline. Many crevasses were out and well open (and thus easily avoided). We took a look into a few. Impressive!
From the col the route to Dorado Needle was also plainly obvious. The glacier leading to the route was peppered with a few crevasses but a little zigzagging would avoid them. On a bummer note one does have to drop a few hundred feet from the col and then regain the elevation. That sucked. Also, unless doing this in winder or spring I recommend descending the col by heading right (east) first and then turning back towards the route after dropping a 100 feet or so. We headed straight down and the slow rolling of the slope meant I did not see the crevasse below me until we were nearly upon it. Not a big deal but we did have to side-hill a bit to get around the thing. Coming back from Dorado Needle the width of the crevasses is plainly obvious.
The beta we obtained on the NW ridge route showed one needed to climb a snow ramp that lead to the ridge proper. This time of year, however, the snow ramp contained one very large break that was impassable and another smaller break a tad higher. A set of rap slings on a horn was visible above the second break.
Luckily enough the snow had also melted away from the rock on the right side quite a bit. This allowed us to scramble along the side of the snow ramp and position ourselves directly under that first big snow break. A 30m pitch of 4th class and a couple low 5th moves put me at the rap slings. Aaron covered the remaining 15m to put us on the ridge proper.
We both had no idea how far it was from our position on the ridge proper to the summit. Prior beta told us "..a few pitches." But of what length? We brought a 30m rope and figured we'd either have more pitches or simul climb the ridge. The route is rated at something like 5.3 and I'd call that accurate, though far more 4th class than 5th is present. There is a great airy section! Solid hand holds abound and your feet stick well with boots. It is quite easy climbing, thus freeing you to enjoy the upward movement and not be worried about where your next holds are.
I took the first pitch from our position and ran it the full 30m to a nice alcove just past a short slab you traverse. Aaron came up and ran the second pitch the full 30m to the summit. I think we started to simul-climb a short bit before he made the summit but it was not much. If after acquiring the ridge proper you moved the belay up some 15 feet to a small ledge, you can likely make the summit with a 60m rope and no simul-climbing. That small ledge has a purple sling hanging on a chock stone.
From the summit one gets nice views of Early Morning Spire and the north side of Eldorado. Eastward we could see Austera and Primus (100% snow fee and looks like a rubble pile). The full 360 view had more peaks than one can count.
The ridge was down climbed with a belay. We rapped back into the area between the rock and the snow. That distance was exactly 15m. Getting back to camp was uneventful other than the searing mid-day sun. That sucked. One pleasant aspect of this route is that you feel very remote once you drop onto the McAlister Glacier. Seriously, you feel like you are WAY out there.
We hydrated, ate, and rested in the sun before wandering up Eldorado sans rope. One can take the rocky ridge nearly to the top. We took the snow mostly and scrambled a short section to avoid some schrunds. The trip to the top took 1 hour and think we were on-top about 6:45pm. . The trip down was less than 30 minutes.
Dinner and coffee finished the night before sleep. Clouds started screaming over Eldorado as we climbed into the tent.
At 5:15 Am we awoke to Eldorado 100% covered and Klawatti Col (our initial destination) getting to that point. At 6 AM Klawatti and the associated Col were no where to be seen. Our position was at 7,750 feet. The bottom of the clouds were a tad higher. The route to the col is a lower than 7800 feet for most of the way, meaning we could get to the col most likely w/o wandering across a crevasse field in the blind. From time to time the clouds would part to give a peek-a-boo view of the col. The north ridge of Klawatti - the next spot in the journey to Austera - was fully hidden. What lay beyond that point? More clouds I have to imagine. Clouds were also coming up over Eldorado Glacier. To the east Forbidden Peak was no where to be seen.
We waffled back and forth about waiting the weather out. We had 5-days available (this was day 3) and enough food and fuel. But, the weather forecast from Wednesday morning indicated likely worsening weather as the week went on. Plus, and perhaps most importantly, the battery in my iPod would not last up to two days of continuous play while being tent bound. The decision was made! We would descend to the car and head to Leavenworth for cragging in the sun the following day.
And the cragging was good. We followed that up with cragging at Index on the drive home. The outing made for a good combination of road tripping, alpine climbing, and cragging in the sun. And beer in between most of those. Always include beer.
Basic glacier gear, 30m-9mm rope, 5 cams up to 2" and a couple pieces of passive gear, aluminum ice axe and crampons (useful the first couple hours in the morning), 1 picket each (never used). Double-length slings