The plan was to climb Saturday, 9/8/2012, to the Eldorado high camp at 7500 ft. The high camp is at the base of the East Ridge of Eldorado. We were to camp there that night. We were to summit early Sunday morning, 9/9/2012, and then return to the car that afternoon. The weather was deteriorating. On Thursday, the forecast for Sunday was cloudy and raining. Thankfully NCMG
was accommodating and we were able to push the climb up by a day.
Heading up Friday Morning
Larry and I left the parking lot (~2200ft) around 8:45AM and headed up, up, and up. We went up the climbers trail through the old growth forest and broke out into the lower boulder field (~4500 ft) around 11:00AM. We had some water and a snack, then filled some water bottles and continued up. We made the camps at the cross over (~6100ft) at about 1:15PM. It must have been about 75 degrees. Not to hot and not to cool. It was just right. We made our way down to the moraine and onward and upward through more boulders to the base of the glacier (~6300ft). We roped up and continued up the glacier. It was about 2:00PM when we headed up the glacier. The glacier was steep. Maybe about 45 degrees for 3/4th of a mile. We then gained the upper Eldorado Glacier (~7300ft), at about 3:45PM, which was relatively flat. We made our way across to the camps at the base of the East Ridge (~7600ft). We made it to the camps right around 4:00PM.
Hanging out at the High Camp on the East Ridge of Eldorado
We had the high camps to ourselves. Not a soul around. Later, after it got dark, we did notice some climbers over on the Forbidden Glacier and up by Cache Col (we could see flashlights) We prepared some food, took some pictures (amazing alpenglow over on Forbidden Peak), had some shots of Tequila, and generally just hung around camp.
The crux of the entire trip was using the composting toilet. There was a 6 inch ledge that you stand on, and in front of that, there is a 2 foot drop to a 45 degree boulder slope. The whole thing was tilted forward a bit. As you are standing there on your heals, trying not to fall forward, doing your business, you're just thinking to yourself, "Man, if my heals slip off the step, I'm going to tumble down that boulder field with my pant around my ankles, that's going to hurt"! Not to mention, it's going to be messy. I almost felt like I should have been belayed... Despite the negative aspect, it was the most amazing view ever from a john.
When darkness finally fell, the sky was even more amazing. The Milky Way was stretching across the sky. I've never seen the stars so brilliant.
Saturday Summit Day
The alarms were set to 5:00AM, I woke up at 4:15AM. I tossed and turned. I was finally drifting off again just as the alarm went off. We had a quick breakfast and geared up and were making our way up the Inspiration Glacier by 6:00AM. The skies were clear. It was cool and crisp. The snow had froze over through the night. There was a good solid crust to walk on. It was a fabulous morning.
Larry led and we made some end runs around some crevasses. Around 7:30AM we were treated to a Spectacular Sunrise. Truly beautiful. It really doesn't get any better than this. Pictures were taken. We climbed on to the rocky ridge (~7900ft), made our way back out on to the ice (~8400ft).
Continuing upward, we finally gained the base of the summit knife edge ridge (~8600ft). Larry continued to lead and put in a couple of pickets and we made the summit.
The knife edge ridge and the summit are quite exhilarating. 75/80 degree slopes for hundreds of feet on either side of you... The views are truly amazing. Baker, Shuksan, and the Pickets to the North. Glacier and the Ptarmigan Traverse to the South. Forbidden, Logan and many many more to the East. I can see why this is a popular climb.
Hanging out on the summit, taking the obligatory pictures, having a snack and some water... 10 minutes later we were retracing our steps back down the knife edge ridge.
Will have to make this trek again for sure...
Back to the High Camp and then out to the Car
Retracing our steps back to camp. We made it back by 9:15AM. We had everything packed and headed out across the Eldorado Glacier by 10:00AM. At about 11:30AM we made it back to the cross over and into the Eldorado Creek drainage. Down into the Boulder field, and then into the forest climbers trail at about 2:00PM. We finally strolled into the parking lot at about 3:30PM. Did I just get my butt kicked or what?
Had a quick dip in the Cascade River, changed into some clean clothes and headed out to Marblemount. Had a cold beer and and a Caesar Salad at a place called Buffalo Run Restaurant. It was OK. Sure wish I could have had another brew... Overall, it was really an amazing experience! Thanks NCMG