This is the shortest route up Eagles Nest, at least from the east side, but it is harder and more tedious than the South Ridge Route
. The East Ridge is the route we took on August 11 2001, before learning that the south ridge was the standard route. It's still a good route to the peak.
Eagles Nest from the north. The entire east ridge is clearly visible to the left.
From Highway 9 about 16 miles north of Silverthorne (16.7 miles from exit 205 on I-70) turn west on County Road 30 (at the south end of Green Mountain Reservoir) posted for Heeney. Follow the road 5.4 miles to County Road 1725 (Cataract Creek Road) and turn left following the road 2.3 miles to the Surprise Trailhead. Or from Kremmling, follow Highway 9 south for about 12.4 miles to the Green Mountain Reservoir. Follow County Road 30 passing along Green Mountain Reservoir and through Heeney for 5.1 miles to County Road 1725 (Cataract Creek Road) and turn right following the road 2.3 miles to the Surprise Trailhead at Lower Cataract Lake. There is a small fee ($5) for parking at the trailhead. The road is gravel, but any car should be able to make it to the trailhead. The trailhead is at 8590 feet elevation.
From the trailhead follow the Surprise Trail south for 2.6 miles to a junction with the Gore Range Trail. Turn right and follow the trail a short distance to Surprise Lake. Continue west along the Gore Range Trail reaching another junction after 0.6 miles from Surprise Lake. Turn left here and follow the trail towards Upper Cataract Lake. There are many variations to gain the ridge from here on.
You can leave the trail anywhere from here or almost to Cataract Lake and climb the broad ridge to the south. We went nearly to Cataract Lake before gaining the ridge. From the trail head south and climb a section of tedious rocks and boulders to the broad ridge.
Stay on the broad hump keeping the steep slope and cliffs to your right (west). Circle around the cirque and head west to Peak 13099 on the topo map. The route to this point is fairly easy and class 2 in difficulty.
The route gets more serious from here on. Make sure the weather forecast is favorable before continuing as getting off the ridge quickly becomes more difficult the farther west you go.
Follow the ridge west. There are several gendarmes which form obstacles (class 3-4), one of which is fairly tricky. When you can’t follow the ridge directly, bypass the tough sections to the south (left). The ridge curves south. The highest summit is the central point. Enjoy the nice views from the summit.
The round trip distance is nearly 15 miles and is a very long day climb. Two days would be nice since you could camp near Cataract Lake or possibly Dora Lake, which isn’t too far out of the way.
The East Ridge is almost completely visible from this vantage point not too far from the trailhead turnoff. The true summit is not seen but it just beyond the pointed peak prominent in the photo.
Take an ice axe before early or mid July. A good pair of boots is needed.