August 17, 2013
The whole idea of doing a guided climb of the North Ridge on Eldorado Peak came about while in Argentina this last winter. Near the end of the 18 mile trek out from Aconcagua base camp, Ken asked me, “What is your favorite climb in Washington?” Without hesitation I answered, “The North Ridge of Eldorado Peak.” After describing the climb to him, Ken simply said, “Let’s go!”
This last week, six months after first talking about the climb, we made it happen.
I met Ken early Tuesday morning in Seattle. After a couple shots of espresso and a few pieces of perfectly cooked bacon, we were off. We arrived at the North Cascade Ranger Station around 8:00 a.m. and registered for the climb. From there, we drove along the Cascade River Road to the trailhead located at 2,200 ft. After a few last minute gear adjustments, we were off.
For the first two hours of the approach, we ascended a steep climbers trail through a beautiful old growth forest. From the top of the climbers trail, we broke out into a massive boulder field, which took about an hour and a half to negotiate. Once we were through the boulder field, we spent an hour hiking through a gorgeous meadow, filled with wild flowers and blueberries.
We gained access to the Eldorado Glacier, by going up and over the ridgeline to our left. On the other side of the ridge, we were greeted by a mountain goat. He was a curious fella, who followed us until he got distracted by another climbing party. At the base of the glacier, we roped up, and climbed for another hour to our camp at the base of the East Ridge, located at 7,200 ft. After setting up camp, and eating dinner, we settled in for the night.
In the morning, we awoke to one of the most beautiful sun rises, either of us had ever seen. After a quick breakfast, we roped up, and traversed along the Inspiration Glacier to the base of the North Ridge.
Once on the ridge, we climbed ten pitches of outstanding, high quality, and moderately difficult (5.4 to 5.8) rock. For the first five pitches, we ascended the right side of the ridge, affording us exposure of over 1000 ft., with breathtaking views of the many glaciers below.
Halfway up the ridge, we began climbing the right side of the ridge. The upper half of the ridge is unique because the Inspiration Glacier is so close, you can almost touch it. In addition, the upper pitches have some of best rock in the entire North Cascades.
From the top of the ridge we were faced with a 65-70 degree ice wall. After donning our crampons and ice tools, we climbed the wall, and reached the summit ridge. From the top, we enjoyed spectacular views of the North Cascades. We also marveled at Eldorado’s perfect knife edge summit.
After a half an hour on top, we descended the East Ridge back to camp. That evening, we enjoyed some Mac n’ Cheese, and discussed our favorite parts of the climb.
The next morning, we woke up to fog and light mist. We quickly broke down camp and started our 5 hour walk down to the car. Although we arrived back to the trailhead slightly wet, we were both smiling ear to ear, because we knew this was a climb neither of us would soon forget.
Thanks for a great climb, Ken!