OverviewDorado Needle is located approximately one mile north of Eldorado Peak on the McAllister Glacier and is the western high point of the McAllister and Inspiration glacier system. Climbing Dorado Needle offers a unique opportunity to explore this vast glacier system at a distance far enough away from Eldorado to enjoy some solitude. Some good climbing on moderate rock provides a fair amount of exposure that adds to the experience.
Getting ThereWith most information from Selected Climbs in the Cascades Volume II: From Interstate 5, take the Cook Road exit (Exit 232) east to where it joins State Highway 20 (North Cascades Highway) in Sedro Woolley. Drive 47 miles from I-5 to Marblemount, Washington, turning onto the Cascade River Road; proceed 19 miles to a large parking lot on the right side of the road (2,160 feet).
To cross the Cascade River, walk downstream along the road until a path leads down to the river. Cross on the log or, when the water level is low, for the river to the north side of the creek. Continue into the woods a short distance until a path leads back upstream for a few hundred feet, then turns left (north) uphill before reaching Eldorado Creek.
The climber’s path, on the west side of Eldorado Creek, climbs steeply through old-growth forest (no water) to a small talus field at 4,000 feet. Climb to the top of the talus field, exiting on a steep path through side alder to a second, and much larger, talus field (snow in early season). Make and ascending traverse up and right (east), locating a climber’s path along the right (east) edge of the talus. The approach is much easier when way trails are followed, so when this path fades near large boulders, look for another path continuing up along the left (west) side of the talus. Traverse right (east) across talus to a stream at the base of small water falls (5,000 feet). From here, the route used to follow a steep, muddy trail up through the last trees to an open basin at 5,400 feet (campsites available here). But the Park Service has made an “improvement” to this section of the Eldorado Creek approach. Above the talus field, the approach was rerouted at 5,100 feet, and marked with a large cairn to get people to cross the creek here, to the east, and proceed on a switchbacking route the rest of the way through heather, etc., to the rocks above that are the first recommended camping.
Continue up the switchbacking trail to the adjoining ridge crest to the left (west) at just above 6,000 feet. Where the ridge steepens (6,150 feet), descend a Class 3 gully 150 feet left (west) into the Roush Creek basin (the correct gully can be identified as the one with a large boulder in it just below the ridge crest).
Once in the Roush Creek drainage, traverse right (north) over talus, then ascend slabs and moraine toward the southeast edge of Eldorado Glacier. Snow slopes (20-30 degrees) lead to the large, flat area of the glacier at 7,500 feet and good bivy sites. A rock island at the base of Eldorado’s east ridge (7,800 feet) us a small bivy site. Additional bivy sites can be found several hundred feet higher.
From the Eldorado Glacier, proceed north onto the Inspiration Glacier. Contour around the inspiration glacier to find the saddle located between the Tepeh Towers to get onto the McAllister Glacier. Once on the McAllister Glacier, you’ll see Dorado Needle to the west. Circum navigate the McAllister Glacier to the Dorado Needle. Be alert for rock and ice fall while in the area.
Red TapeA free Wilderness Permit is required for all overnight stays in the backcountry of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. The best place to obtain these is the Wilderness Information Station in Marblemount. You can also call (360) 873-4500 ext. 39 for additional information.
The flats on Eldorado/Inspiration Glacier offer a great camping option. Rock wall wind breaks have also been constructed on the rock island area on the east side of the flats. If the temperatures are warm enough, running water can be found in the rocks down slope from the wind breaks.
External LinksNorth Cascades National Park home page
North Cascades National Park climbing page
Backcountry permit information
North Cascades National Park weather page
Wilderness Trip Planner