Early Morning Spire forms a steep, but not prominent point of banded gneiss just Northwest of Eldorado Peak in the North Cascades. Although it rises barely 300 feet from the col it shares with Marble Needle to the Northeast, a 1400-foot face comes from the Southwest, an 800-foot face drops to the Southeast, and a complex mass of broken ridges and walls forms a 1600-foot Western aspect.
The spire makes a prow, pushing the Marble Glacier away to the Northwest, while a smaller, unnamed glacier spills from a col shared with the Marble Glacier to the South. A small glacier also spans the deep trough beneath the Southwest Face. The spire is entirely within the uppermost watershed of Marble Creek, a dense, jungled valley draining some eight miles from Early Morning Spire to the Cascade River. Abandoned mining claims exist in the valley, and at one time there were trails to reach them, but now no passable trails or tracks aid travel.
The upper Marble Creek basin is a surprisingly remote place given its proximity to the Cascade River Road, owing largely to the numerous glaciers, deep valleys, craggy ridges, and lack of trails in the area. Expect little company and outstanding Cascades terrain.
Early Morning Spire presents difficult access due to the aforementioned valleys, ridges, and glaciers. The two most practical points of access both traverse from Eldorado Peak, which conveniently has easy trails leading to its upper slopes.
There are two common ways to get to the Eldorado Glacier and upper reaches of Eldorado Peak. One is via Eldorado and Roush Creeks. To make your way up Eldorado Creek, follow the colorful directions given on the Eldorado Peak main page, here,
to the Eldorado Glacier.
The other way to Eldorado Glacier is to drive to the end of Sibley Creek Road and traverse the northern slope of Roush Creek. This option is recommended by Jim Nelson in Selected Climbs of the Cascades, and by personal acquaintances for those proceeding to Triad Col.
Once at the edge of the Eldorado Glacier two more options present themselves:
One option is to make your way to Triad Col on the Southwest side of Eldorado Peak via either hike in. From here drop down onto the Triad Glacier and traverse across other small glaciers, snow, and talus to the basin between Early Morning Spire and Eldorado Peak. See the West Arete route page of Eldorado Peak, here
, for more details.
The other option is more circuitous, but probably more straightforward. From the Eldorado Glacier climb to the East side of Eldorado Peak and around the East Ridge of that summit onto the Inspiration Glacier. Traverse generally North across the Inspiration Glacier to the 8000-foot Inspiration-McAllister Glacier col and continue Northwest downhill across the McAllister Glacier. Travel to the lowest gap on the Southwest side of the glacier, the Marble Creek-McAllister pass at 7600 feet, and find a manageable crossing to the small glacier on the Marble Creek side of the pass. This will generally be on the Easternmost side of the pass. From here, descend the lightly-crevassed ice to the basin between Eldorado Peak and Early Morning Spire.
All of these options require significant glacier travel, distance, and elevation, Fred Beckey in the Cascade Alpine Guide Volume II advises as much as two days to get in and out of the upper Marble Creek basin.
Early Morning Spire lies in North Cascades National Park so free, but limited, permits are required to be picked up at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount for overnight stays.
Party size is limited to six "pairs of eyes," in any cross-country zone, and 12 on any trail in the national park. So a total of either six or 12 stock, people, and dogs are allowed in any given party.
Currently a Northwest Forest Pass is not required to park at the Eldorado Creek trailhead, check at Marblemount for the status of Sibley Creek Road.
All cross-country campspots must, by NCNP rules, be one-half mile from any trail and one mile from any established camp, and preferably be on durable surfaces such as rock or snow.
Comfortable overnight spots exist at Triad Col, on the East Ridge of Eldorado, in several places in upper Marble Creek, and just about anywhere you're willing to dig out a tent platform on the generally low-angle upper Inspiration and McAllister Glaciers.
This particular area generally lends itself to extensive travel above treeline so please carry bluebags so as to not contaminate the otherwise pristine water source.
Many good shots of Early Morning Spire in Winter can be found on this page, here
, taken by John Scurlock.
Mr. Scurlock also has an aerial photo from late Summer, here