Eldorado Peak via Inspiration Glacier (Intermediate Glacier Overnight)

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  • Distance: ~8 miles
  • Elevation change: ~7,000′ up
  • Weather: Saturday was one of those days that rained, misted, rained, white out, clear blue skys, rain, hail, snow, more rain. Sunday was blue skys and warm!
  • What did I eat: Skratch (strawberry), Gio, Cheese cake, Mountain House. I FORGOT MY PIZZA AGAIN
  • Suffer Factor (out of 10): 6 for Saturday, 2 for Sunday. The weather was pretty miserable Saturday. Sunday was just awesome.
  • Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2438934191

Apologies for getting this out over a month late. Life has gotten in the way.

Eldorado has been one of those peaks that has eluded me for the last 3 years. I’ve made plans to climb this 7 times; 5 of those times we got weathered out and changed plans before we even made it to the trailhead. I attempted it once two years ago, climbing in a white out until the Inspiration Glacier, and then called it and turn around. The white out ended when we got back on top of the ridge to the Eldorado Basin; go figure. This year the summit eluded me again as our team decided the cornice on the knife edge and avalanche debris on the south face was enough for us to turn our group around 200 feet below the summit.

Funnily enough, this trip was not originally planned for Eldorado. The original weekend plans was for Mt Baker with the Intermediate Glacier Travel group I’ve been mentoring since February. The students planned the climb, with camp at Crag View, and we would practice a number of glacier travel skills. Sunday we would have attempted to summit via the Squak Glacier. The weather was predicting up to 2 feet of new snow before Saturday, and we didn’t want to risk avalanches, so we pivoted and made plans to practice and climb on Eldorado.

Saturday morning started off as a gray, wet approach. The large log that spanned the river had been removed by road crews working on replacing the culvert, so we had to ford the river. Honestly, this part was a little refreshing. There’s nothing quite like freezing cold water running over your ankles at 8 am.

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The approach in the trees is strenuous. Numerous veggie belays, basically vertical hiking akin to the Old Mailbox Trail. 2000 feet vertical and about a mile later you pop out into a boulder field, where you must ascend another 2000 feet before you get to Eldorado Basin. There’s a faint trail climbers right, but it is quite easy to lose.

The descent from Eldorado Basin to Rouche Basin via the gully was an exercise in patience and care. With heavy overnight packs, snow covered slabs, and general fatigue, we carefully picked our way down. Camp was set up a few hundred feet up the Basin. By this time it was 5 PM and we had run out of time to do practice; the weather was a mix of clouds and sleet. We agreed that we would check the weather at 3 am, and if it was still terrible we would start lessons at 7 am.

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Turns out the weather forecast was actually correct and we woke up at 3 am to clear skies. We roped up and made our general way towards the summit; instructors were roped into the center of each rope with students on the ends. The students practiced snow and glacier travel skills all the way up, including switchbacks, route finding, and pacing.

Around 8 am some teams decided to turn around. Their group decided that fitness and the steepness of the climb was not in their favor and went back down to practice belaying and setting pickets. The other group of 2 teams continued on to try and summit, but turned around just before the East Ridge; it was obvious that the summit was heavily corniced and the weather was heating up rapidly, turning the new 20″ of snow into mush. We descended and also practiced setting pickets and belaying. We then returned to camp around noon and were off the mountain by 6.

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