Eldorado - North Ridge

The North ridge on Eldorado

What's the North ridge on Eldorado, you say? I would be asking the same thing if we hadn't found this cool route this past weekend! Phil and I were on our yearly pilgramidge up to Eldorado with ice gear, intent on trying the NW couloir. Recent snowfall and cold temperatures seemed to indicate that it might be in shape, but Sunday forecast was for warm temperatures. Undaunted, we packed up the rock and ice gear for the route and headed up Rouch Creek early Saturday morning.

The weather Saturday was unsettled and we hiked up under cloudy and sprinkling skies. We knew the approach a little better after last here, so we made pretty good time across the boulder field section. For you information, here are some detailed observations of this difficult part of the approach. Enter the first boulder field and follow obvious cairns and path up to trail through brush. This trail veers right at the base of the upper, larger boulder field. It soon ends, and you begin boulder hopping, but staying close to the right edge, looking for intermittent trails. At about 4400 feet the trail becomes rather continous on the right side of the boulder field. A little ways further up valley there is a huge white scar-streak on the left hand cliffs. Under this feature the trail crosses the boulder field and then continues up the left side of the boulders. (This is a trail we've missed almost every time) The trail is well defines and easy going until it peters out neat the top of the boulder field. At this point, nearing the waterfall, you cross back to the right side (with cairns) of the boulders and pick up a trail leading to the base of the waterfall. This takes about two hours to get to from the car, so it is sufficient to carry only one quart of water up the approach. From here the trail is obvious.

We arrived at camp on the base of the East ridge in the early afternoon and quickly set to putting up the tent. Quickly because the big rainstorms we had seen all day in the distance had finally reached us. The wind was pretty bad as well, so we set up Phil's lovely single wall tent and crawled inside.

Phil stylin' in the tent.

We ate food, looked and the ceiling, and Phil throughly schooled me on our on-the-hour rock paper scisor games (3 out of 5 no less!). After a couple hours we were dozing in our bags when a someone shook the tent and yelled into it! Ah, our good friend Dan Alwayrd and pals, so good to see you! They had come to climb the West Ridge on the now snowy and cold Northwest face. We continued trying to entertain ourselves with bad humor until the sun went down.

The sun rising over Klwatti ridge.

The night was very cold, freezing an ice crust onto our packs and tent. It also froze my watch to some degree that it failed to ring out any of the three alarms I had set. Luckily Phil wasn't sleeping that night, so he noticed when it began to get light outside. This put us a little behind schedule seeing as we wanted to finish with the nearly 2 miles of trickly glacier travel and get on the route before things got warmed up. None the less, we pack up and were headed out by 7 am. We followed Dan's party's tracks around the NE Face and into a big crevasse field.

The crevasse field with Dean's spire and the Tempeh towers in the backround.

We had thought that instead of climbing all the way around Dean's spire and to Dorado Needle, we could descend to the glacier below the NW couloir from a notch in the North ridge. After getting into the thick of it in the crevasses, we noticed a route out left to reach our notch. After a couple of tricky bridges and some maneuvers, we arrived at our notch. The Northwest face looked bad ass. period. We could see into the NW gully and it looked hard. Thin ice, or no ice (especially down low), and snow on steep rock. Getting into the couloir looked difficult, including a vertical looking snow patch.

The Northwest Couloir's upper sections with lots of 1 inch ice!

We decided that with the warm weather and the poor condition of the route we would climb the North ridge instead (seeing as we were at its base!). The north ridge is a rock rib which seperates the Inspiration glacier from the Northwest face and resembles the West ridge on Forbidden. Excited to climb, Phil and I ate some food, racked up the rock gear and headed off! We climbed a short steep snow slope left of the crest, and then crossed over a crevasse onto another short steep slope. Here we were able to cross over the moat and get onto the rock. I lead across some snowy rock ledges and up to the base of a short steep chimney. It looked rather imposing, and and after placing a piece and cleaning out a hand crack I groveled and scratched my way up it. Without snow and in rock shoes this step would be about 5.6/7. Above this the terrain mellowed back to blocky 5th class and we continued to running belay until I set in an achor to belay Phil up the step.

Dave climbing the crux chimney. Photo by Phil Fortier.

We were roasting in the sun by now with our jackets on and all our ice climbing acoutriments hanging off our harnesses. After stowing away the ice tools, but keeping the crampons on, Phil lead off on more blocky low-5th rock. We continued a running belay up to the base of an obvious steep section of rock on the crest.

Phil approaching where the ridge steepens.

The rock above was pretty snow free, so we took the crampons off and I lead up right on the crest. The rock was pure solid granite with good pro and lots of mountain-boot friendly edges. The exposure was awesome, often falling 2,000 feet strait down to the glacier on the West side of the ridge. After a full pitch of 5.5 rock, I topped out onto lower angled crest climbing. At 50 meters there was a perfect ledge and horn to sling for a belay.

Looking down at Phil on the rock pitch.

Phil came up and then we running belayed another two or so pitches of 3 and 4th class rock to the bench where the North Ridge bisects the summit pyramid.

Phil climbs the last section of ridge before the ice.

We had noticed the steep ice on the North Face of the summit last year, and wanted to climb a direct route right to the summit's peak. Thus, being in position to climb this direct route, we reracked the screws and put on our crampons. Phil lead off and climbed about 35 meters of somewhat soft 60 degree ice (the temperature was in the mid-60's).

Phil leading a classic ice face.

I followed, and soon we were sharing the infamous pinpoint summit of Eldorado.

Phil on the summit.

After a snack in the sun on the summit we headed down the mushy East ridge. During the descent, I tried several times to kill Phil with big wet loose snow avalanches, but each time he escaped! We scrambled down the snowy scree and then had some good foot glissades back down to camp.

Feeling rather jovial, we played a gag with our friend Dan by sliding a big rock down to the base of his left-at-camp pack. Phil said afterward, "I do declare this to be the wittiest gag of the season!" I hope you enjoy your new paper weight Dan! :) We packed up and lugged our heavy gear back down the blistering hot glacier, through the boulder field, and down the steep trail back to the car. It took only 4 hours and 15 minutes to descend from the summit to the car, but our knees are now feeling the price.

The North Ridge isn't listed in Beckey's CAG, but is definetly worth the time and effort to go up and do. The route could easily be done with one ice axe, but boots are preferred due to the mixed rock and snow nature of the route. If you know of any history on this route, please email me at dbb@u.washington.edu.

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