Another week, another trip to the mountains, this time heading north with Sam, Whitney, Tim and Andrew, our sights on Eldorado Peak in North Cascade National Park.
In a range of peaks with names like Forbidden and Torment, Eldorado stands out with a friendlier designation. And it just might be too, while many of the surrounding mountains look seemingly unrideable for their craggy aspects, the east southeast side of Eldorado contrasts these with, “the largest contiguous ice-sheet in the lower 48 states not connected to a volcano”. And so we set out from the car at 6am, crossed the road, crossed the river where we quickly ended up off trail, bushwacking through the alder that goes up Eldorado Creek. 45 minuted later we were back on the trail, that while steep, was much more effective than our previous path.
The trail follows the lookers left side of the creek up to about 4k where it hits a boulder field. Another 400 ft and we were finally able to get the boards off of our backs and start splitting. The recent temp cycles have been freeze at night and soften during the day so at 830am ski crampons were very helpful. Around 930am and 5600 ft the snow started to soften as a warm sunny day began to take hold. The east side of the ridge sees a lot of early morning sun, resulting in some sloppy side-hilling and causing Tim to rethink his initial approach up the hill after loosing some serious ground in a battle with one particularly tricky kick turn.
We stopped for lunch around 1030am on top of the ridge, before dropping down the other side onto the Eldorado Glacier. From there it was more or less just an uphill shot to first, the basin southeast of the summit at about 7500 then, the Inspiration Glacier where we switched to boot crampons around 8k and finally the top, where this peaker staggered in last, around 230, nearly 34 years after “the probable first winter ascent made by Donald Goodman and party March 14 1981”.
The knife ridge on the summit was slightly tricky to navigate so we strapped in about 70 ft below, and began our descent. The top skied pretty firm down to about 8k with one major but easily avoidable crevass. From there it softened into some great hot powder turns for the next 1600ft which finally gave way to spring corn right before the traverse back up over the ridge. A ski back to the bolder field and a tired hike down the trail had us returning to the car in just over 12 hrs.
For a season that has been disappointing by all measurements Eldorado certainly stood out as a high point, as it does in an area known for its high points.