Klawatti Klawatti Klawatti. What's a klawatti? Answer: klawatti is a misspelling of the Chinook word for swan*. The first ascent party (Lloyd Anderson, Karl Boyer, and Tom Gorton on July 7, 1940) wanted to call it "Sloppy Mountain." I don't think that would have been appropriate. I'm glad that didn't take.
What's Klawatti Peak, then? Klawatti Peak is an outstanding, glacially-avulsed block of Eldorado orthogneiss situated in the converging angle of three prominent glaciated cirques: the McAllister Glacier on the west, the Klawatti Glacier on the northeast, and the Inspiration Glacier on the south. Beckey and others call Klawatti a nunatak. I'm not quite ready to embrace this description. To me, a true nunatak must have no connecting rocky ridges to other peaks so that glacier ice envelops it completely (360 degrees around). True, there is ice everywhere you look and the peak only barely (by about 800 feet on average) pokes above it, but there are two connecting ridges to other peaks that suitably divide the basins: the north ridge to Austera Peak and the west ridge (Tepeh Towers) to Dorado Needle and Eldorado Peak. Furthermore, Klawatti's Southeast Ridge plunges all the way to timberline. Klawatti is not a nunatak.
Surely, though, the peak is a precipitous looking block. Plus, it provides a nonesuch view for the surrounding area. From this summit vantage you are treated to a mesmerizing meld of rock and ice and you quickly realize just why this enchanted land was designated as a national park. The views from nearby Austera Peak are also beyond belief.
* Information thanks to John Roper.
There is only really one approach to this peak and that is up from the Cascade River past Eldorado Peak. Any other approaches are up to you and your sense of adventure. Surely they will be much longer. This is a multi-day outing. Two days is possible (even one-day if you feel like leaving really early and torturing yourself), but if you're going to be in the area you might as well stay an extra day to enjoy the other peaks there (Tricouni, Austera, and Klawatti peaks, also Eldorado Peak, Dorado Needle, and innumerable technical crags).
Approach (Eldorado Ice Cap)
This is the same as the standard approach to Eldorado Peak. From Marblemount on the North Cascades Highway (SR-20), drive 19 miles east on the Cascade River Road. A parking lot on the right with a toilet is your trailhead (~2,150 ft). The first order of business is getting across the river to its north side. There used to be a big log a few hundred yards downstream of the parking lot but it has since been washed away (probably by the rainstorm of 10/20/03). Our early-April 2004 trip to Primus used a crossing about 100 yards downstream of the parking lot. This crossing used three logs and three gravel bars. I'm not going to present detailed info for the crossing as it seems to change all the time. Suffice it to say, once you get across, the second order of business is to locate the climber's trail on the other side. This is not an official trail, hence the park service doesn't maintain it at all, which is too bad (they should given the amount of traffic it sees). The trail is maybe 140 feet into the forest on the other side and sort of parallels the river for a stretch (40 yards maybe) before turning uphill. The trail is west of Eldorado Creek but not too far west. It seems a lot of people can't find the trail on the other side of the river and crash brush upwards too far west of the creek. The best thing to do is take the extra time to locate the trail down in the flat before commencing uphill. The trail is actually quite good considering it's not maintained. However, it is steep and rooted (and windfallen--especially down low), so care must be taken.
For 1,800 feet, the trail steadily climbs up through verdant forest and ends at ~4,000 ft on the left side of "the boulderfield from Hades." In early season (on or before April), this boulderfield is snowcovered. Backcountry skiers can float right over the top of them. However, as melting goes on, more and more boulders and their associated interstitial pocket pitfalls lurk to ensnare the unwary skier. Not that it would be any easier for those booting it through. If the snow is unconsolidated or if it is warm, this can be hell on earth.
The boulderfield relents eventually. In summer, a trail forms on its eastern fringe (but still west of the creek). The trail turns into a path and finally opens up to the alpine terrain of Eldorado Basin at 5,600 ft. A lot of parties elect to camp in this basin. Others continue on for a camp closer to Eldorado Peak. This requires one to climb left over a rib into the next basin west (Roush Basin). I have always thought the geographical naming strange in that Eldorado creek and basin don't actually drain Eldorado Glacier, where as Roush Basin (and Roush Creek) is the one that drains the glacier. Seems like the names are backward. Anyway, there is a flat section on the rib at ~6,100 feet that allows access to Roush Basin. The west side of this rib can be tricky in summer--especially for beginners. Slabby rock and heather with some exposure if you fall make for an interesting downward traverse for a few hundred feet. In winter this is all snowcovered and much easier (ice axe might be handy--especially if icy/hard snow in the wee morning hours). Once into Roush Basin, simply climb up the eastern fringe of the Eldorado Glacier for about 1,300 ft to the large snow and ice dome (c. 7,500 ft) immediately SSE of Eldorado Peak. Gawk at the beauty before and behind you. Klawatti Peak will be visible across the way to the NNE. At this point you're still a good 2+ miles away from it.
To get to Klawatti, cross north from the snow and ice dome to the small notch/saddle at ~7,500 ft on the lower East Ridge of Eldorado. Continue beyond this for 1.5 miles to Klawatti Col (7,800 ft) on the peak's west side. Depending on season, crevasse routefinding will be more or less. There are a few ways up to the top from the col.
In early season, the South Face can be skiied and boarded (if you're capable). It is 45 degrees through a constriction increasing to 50 degrees over a pseudo-cornice on the peak's upper SW side. It will be necessary to boot it up once past the constriction (maybe even below the constriction too). I booted it up and down (not a good enough backcountry skier to be so foolish as to try). Kicked steps up and reversed my route (face-in) with ice axe. Crampons were not used. From Klawatti Col, time = 1.5 hours up, 1 hour down.
Later in the season there is no snow left on the South Face and it gets slabby. There is also a problem with a moat near the constriction. A rap sling was seen on the right (east) side of the constriction. Class 3-4.
It looks like it would be an easy Class 4/low Class 5 climb from Klawatti Col up the SW Buttress. Maybe a pitch of low Class 5 near the base of the buttress, then easier Class 4 terrain for a lead, then Class 3 and 2 to the summit. Time = 1-2 hours depending on amount of belayed climbing undertaken.
Class 4 near the bottom, Class 3 scrambling higher up.
From the 7,900-ft Klawatti-Austera Col, which is easy to get to from Klawatti Col, mount the lower part of the ridge (probably easiest on the east side from the col). Class 3 scrambling leads to The Smokestack (est. 8,400 ft), which is circumnavigated on its west side to a short gully to regain the crest. Follow the crest to the summit. Crampons may be advisable. Time = 1 hour from Klawatti-Austera Col (2 hours max from Klawatti Col).
Klawatti Peak lies within North Cascades National Park, so park rules apply. Best to consult with the park service for specifics (they'll probably try and put a blue bag into your hands). The south side approach can be crowded since it is the standard for climbs of Eldorado Peak. Party size limit for this cross-country zone is 12 persons (dogs don't count as persons). Permits for this approach can be hard to come by (I guess). In early season when the Marblemount Ranger Station is closed, the permits are self-issue outside the building.
When To Climb
This area makes for an excellent early eason ski tour. In early spring/winter, this is an outstanding fantasy land of glaciers and serrate ridges. Otherwise, it is a summer or early fall kind of destination. There is rock climbing and or steep (45 to 50-degree) snow to deal with on Klawatti, so you will probably want to bring some amount of technical gear.
Good camping can be had in Eldorado Basin (~6,000 ft), Roush Basin (6,300 ft), the Eldorado snow and ice dome (7,500 ft), the East Ridge of Eldorado (7,500 ft), or Klawatti Col (7,800 ft). Klawatti Col would only be used if you intend to stay for more than one day in order to climb peaks farther out (peaks such as Austera, Tricouni, Primus, and Dorado Needle). If just doing Klawatti, no sense camping beyond, say, the Eldorado snow and ice dome.
You can go here for a report on conditions in the area. Also, this page will be useful.