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|Weather||Poor then great|
|TrailConditions||Steep, steep, steep|
|Mailed to WacList||07/11/2011|
Katja, one of our 2011 climbing class students, took on the task of organizing a WAC trip to Eldorado but then left for Germany leaving the rest of the task to her faithful husband, Chris. By the time the finishing touches were on the trip there were 11 of us heading up to camp and two more doing it as a day hike. Knowing that permits are an issue, three of us, Laurel, Chris Erickson and myself planned on heading up a day early to get permits for the group and also climb Dorado Needle. Laurel went up early on Thursday to get the permit and then Chris and I followed Thursday evening meeting laurel at the TH. We were the only ones there. |
I set my tent up as Chris and laurel each slept in their vehicles. Sometime during the night it started raining. Around 6am I awoke to the sound of rain and wondered, ďwhy am I out here in this weather. Iím retired; I should only be going climbing when the weather is nice.Ē However, all my climbing friends are much younger and work so Iím still relegated to climbing on the weekends usually. Well, it stopped raining at 6:45 so I got up and woke the others. We eventually got going about 9 am.
The river crossing was made very easy by the gargantuan logs spanning it. The trail then becomes relentless but we kept up a steady pace and it didnít seem to take too long before we were at the first boulder field. Crossing the boulder field and heading up the right side brought us to the top of that first boulder field and into the second, much larger boulder field. We hit snow at about 4400 ft and started punching through a little so I headed left to stay on snow only and then on rock only. Reaching the waterfall, 5000 ft, we moved above it and headed straight up on snow. It had been misting on us steadily up to this point but at 5400 ft that changed to snow. By the time we got to about 5800 ft it was snowing pretty hard and we couldnít see where we were going. We continued heading up but route finding was difficult. We did finally make the ridge, 6100 ft, even though we werenít sure we were at the right location, again, because we couldnít see much. We took a route down to the snowfield that involved some class 3 down climbing and crossing a moat. We thought we had taken the right route down but after we got on the snowfield and started heading up towards the Eldorado Glacier we realized we had gone down the wrong route. No big deal.
So now weíre on the snowfield with no visibility so we just start heading up along the right hand side near the rock ridge. We finally get to 7500 ft and itís a total whiteout, snowing, windy and cold. Since we couldnít see more than 2 ft we wandered around awhile and then finally stopped and set up camp; no reason wandering around any further since we didnít know where we were.
Awaking the next morning to bright, sunny skies brought a smile to our faces. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and the views were amazing. We found ourselves camped about a 10min walk from the east ridge where we had intended on camping but clearly were not going to move at this point.
We roped up to head off to Dorado Needle crossing over eldoís east ridge and continuing on the Inspiration Glacier to the col/pass just beyond Deanís Spire, 8200 ft. Passed one crevasse along the way so roping up was definitely the right thing to do. Got to the col in one hour from our camp and stopped to take in the northern views and our first look at the route to Dorado Needle. We did a westerly, downward traverse losing 400 ft to the base of the McAllister Glacier and then began a steep ascent upward passing a couple of crevasses easily until we got to the bergshrund at the base of the needle. This was a large shrund which we could have walked around to the right but there was a 3 ft wide snow bridge across it right where we wanted to go so we elected to take that route. It wonít be there much longer I suspect but worked well for us.
The first pitch of the route right now is totally under snow so it involves easy front pointing to get up it to a small flat spot where we dropped our packs, ice axes and glacier gear. Laurel and I were indifferent about leading and Chris wanted to lead so he got the sharp end. We had a 60m 7.8mm rope with us so Chris tied into the middle and laurel and I each tied into one end. We used a picket as an anchor and off Chris went using the first rappel sling as his first pro and then around a corner where he found the rock to be icy. He did a nice job getting up the icy rock and then moved onto cleaner rock to set our first anchor. Laurel and I climbed up together, met Chris and off he went on the 2nd pitch. This involved some snow and rock climbing as there is still a fair amount of snow on the north side along the ridge. It probably made the climbing even easier as there were places we had one foot on rock and another on snow. There is an au cheval section along the ridge which is very narrow with big drop-offs on both sides. Chris scooted his butt along this section and then moved on to set up an anchor at the summit. Laurel and I climbed up and rather than butt scoot the au cheval we were able to find small footholds on the right hand side and did a hand over hand on the narrow top of the rock. We joined Chris at the summit, had some food and water, took in the views, waved to the people on eldo, which I think were Suzanne and Barry, and planned our descent.
We decided the safest way down would be to lead down the route placing gear. So laurel and I went first placing lots of slings and Chris followed. We did this for two pitches and then rappelled back to our packs. We did one more rappel down the snow as far as the rope would take us and then down climbed the rest of the route. This time we elected to walk around the shrund which was very easy and down we went, and then up we went, back to the col where we took a break.
I was the only one of the three of us who hadnít climbed Eldorado yet so they were gracious enough to be willing to do it again. So on the way back we angled up to the east ridge rather than drop down to the lower rocks and met up with the ridge trail at about 8000 ft. Here we dropped packs, glacier gear, and the rope (at least Laurel and I did), Chris kept his pack on for some reason. By this time of the day quite a few people had already been up so there were some nice steps heading up which we jumped into. This got us to the knife edged ridge where we waited for Chris to catch up since he was slowed down by wearing his pack. The ridge really is knife-edged with the middle section having a very steep drop-off on the north side. However, there were excellent steps going up which made it easy. We hung on the top a few minutes taking summit photos but then it was time to head down. Going down was harder but we took our time and were careful with each step. Once down the knife-edge it was an easy trip back to the bottom of the ridge where we met up with the 8 other WACers who were camped there. I thought maybe they had already summitted but they were waiting for a sunset hike up so hadnít been up there yet. We went back to camp while they got ready to do the climb. We watched them from our tents as they moved high up on Eldo and then we fell asleep.
The next morning we all headed out together for what turned out to be a relatively easy hike out I thought.