Note: Our students are to be credited with all the planning for Eldorado; it was their graduation climb from BoeAlps BCC—they did great.
Saturday morning: after a bit of a mix-up by a couple of people on where to meet, we were all geared up and on the trail by 8:30am. The log crossing over North Fork Cascade Creek was as interesting as advertised. Note that you can also cross a marshy overgrown area on a couple more big logs. You’ll then see a TH info sign…a little surprising. The first mile of trail (unmaintained, but relatively easy to follow) gains 2,000’ in a no-nonsense manner—no switchbacks, just straight up the hill. If you get sore knees at all, trekking poles are highly recommended for going back down hill on this part. You come out of the trees into some slide alder (with a climber’s path through them) and then a large boulder field.
When we climbed this, the boulder field extended about 800’ in elevation past the treeline until you get to snow. The cairns were easy to follow. Be careful in the transition between boulders/snow—it would be easy to fall through into a hole and break something.
After the boulder field, the snow was wonderful, and it was a quick hike up to the Eldorado Basin and the notch in the Eldorado Creek Ridge where you cross over. There were large moats on either side of the ridge which had to be carefully navigated. After crossing over the ridge, it was smooth sailing up soft snow on a sunny, gorgeous day. We couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else.
We made camp in the large wind cleft below the snow cliff, maybe 200’ below and across the flat spot in the glacier where the standard campsite and composting toilet is. After probing the entire area for hidden crevasses, we set up our camp and kitchen area and had an early dinner, and then melted drinking water for the next day. Each rope team set up ropes and harnesses for the next morning, and we were all in bed long, long before the sun set.
It was a new moon, and I was lucky enough to wake up before the agreed-upon wake-up time. I spent as long as I could just staring at the milky way, and at all the satellites as they crossed overhead. I really was wishing I’d brought my good camera for some star photography.
Sunday morning: Our only minor complaint as instructors was the plan to get up at 3am, and start walking at 3:30. But hey, our students were gung-ho and planning for success, so we couldn’t argue. We roped up and trekked out of camp, and within a few minutes we were across the glacier, and ascending the east ridge.
By the time the sun rose, we were just below the knife edge.
Note: as it was still early season, we saw no signs of crevasses on the glacier, but were roped up anyway…best glacier travel practices and all that. Other teams we saw up there never roped up at all until the knife edge.
Having all three rope teams traverse the knife edge and back took more time than anything else, as the first team up set up about 6 pickets for a running belay. The snow condition was perfect just after sunrise, but there is a precipitous drop off on both sides, so we thought better safe than sorry. Once everyone summitted and then cleared the knife edge, we had summit treats and then put ropes and harnesses back in our packs for a quick trip back down to camp.
We were back in camp by 9am, and had packed up and were walking out by 10am. With some *ahem* careful and fun glissading, we were back at the cars by 1pm, even with the slight bush-whacking detour through some awesome slide alder. (FOLLOW THE CAIRNS.)
Gear: Standard glacier gear
Weather: As perfect as the North Cascades ever get. Winds were light, skies mostly clear. Avy danger low.
*On skis you could easily do this as a day trip, and be back in town by dinner…we saw several people doing just that.
**(Missing the GPS data for Sunday morning—forgot to turn it on. But the entire track up/down is on there at least once.)
***This is my first SP TR. I'll get the hang of it eventually.