Eldorado, Elevation 8,868ft
Northeast Face: Grade III, 40 degree snow
September 8, 2001
Jens Klubberud, Ben
Eldorado Peak seen from the summit of Glacier Peak. Part of our ascent is in green and our descent of the East Ridge is in red. Forbidden Peak is in purple and Johannesburg is in green and Buckindy is in red.
My phone rang late Friday night. It was Jens and he was looking for a partner. I was planning on kayaking the Tieton River both days that weekend but the weather was perfect and I hadn't climbed in awhile so I decided to join Jens.
The good thing about climbing with Jens is that he usually does all the planning. However, it's usually a pretty sick plan so you're guaranteed to loose some sleep regardless of what you save. The plan was to climb Eldorado Peak in a day. Jens was thinking of doing either the East Ridge or the Northeast Face. Two people would have been fine but there was room for a third. I decided to give my brother a call. He just got off work and wasn't feeling up to skipping a good night's sleep so I called Jens back and let him know that it would just be the two of us. I also had a chance to check out the guidebook. The climb was of no concern but the approach called for 2-3 days. I was reminded of Dome Peak, which also calls for 2-3 days. There was no way that I would consider the later as a day trip. Calm of the unknown led me to consider the prior.
Jens wanted an early start. He said we should leave Seattle around 11pm Friday night. Neither of us knew the approach so we needed plenty of time to get lost. We agreed to carry a technical axe, ice screw and heavy crampons in addition to the standard glacier gear in case we chose to climb the more challenging Northeast Face. I finished packing around 9pm and managed to get a short nap before leaving.
We met at the familiar exit and continued north. Jens drove hoping for some coffee along the way. We had a heck of a time finding an open convenience store and settled for a soda. The drive up HW20 was fast. We made it to the trailhead just before 3am. I was expecting a lot of people (part of my reason for having never visited this area) but there was only one other car. The trailhead is a short ways down the road.
We were hiking by 3am. The first few miles involved a steep climb through forest. The trail was surprisingly easy to follow until we reached the boulder field where we switched our sights from footprints to cairns. The cairns were relatively easy to spot thanks to a generous moonlight. We went a too high below the meadows and ended up backtracking a little. The trail through the meadows was easy to follow until we reached the rocky slabs. We went too high below the ridge and ended up backtracking a lot. There is a big difference between 300 foot 5th class gullies and 150 foot 3rd class ledges. We wasted at least 30 minutes downclimbing where the ridge "steepens" and found the 3rd class descent that we were looking for.
We stopped to fill up with water on the slabs below the glacier. We switched from tennis shoes to boots and ended up putting on our crampons because the snow was quite firm. The route was obvious and the summit was close. We didn't bother roping up.
Jens where the glacier begins to flatten out. Johannesburg is behind him and Glacier Peak can be seen in the distance.
The sky began to brighten as did my spirits. The terrain was spectacular and I began to feel cheated. The closet that I had come to this area was Dome Peak to the south and Washington Pass to the north. This area is quite filling.
Me with the summit of Eldorado.
Photograher: Jens Klubberud
We passed a few crevasses on our way to the East Ridge. They began to open up as we made our way to the Inspiration Glacier. The summit seemed too close and it was early so we decided to run up a small peak between Inspiration and McAllister Glacier. The way to the base was mostly flat. There was a 4th class scramble to reach the summit and I managed to convince Jens to do some 5th class further east so I could take a photo.
Jens next to a deep crevasse.
Jens on his way to the East Ridge.
Jens doing some 5th class on the Southeast Face of the peak we climbed. Forbidden Peak dominates the background.
Jens and I met up on the peak we climbed. I'm not sure what it is called but there were some rap slings near the summit so we assumed that it gets climbed once in awhile. We had a bite to eat and got a good look at all the surrounding peaks. Jens seemed to know most of them. I was a bit confused. Forgive me if my directions are mistaken.
Jens descending the peak we climbed with the McAllister Glacier and Dorado Needle in the background.
I was a little worried about the downclimb but Jens inspired some confidence by going first. It wasn't long before we were back on track to climb the Northeast Face of Eldorado.