Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Eldorado, WA 6/21/14 - 6/22/14

With yet another sunny weekend we cannot not pass the temptation of Eldorado. It means getting up at 4:30 a.m. in order to be at Marblemount Ranger Station before the permits run out. It turns out our worry is unjustified, there is only one party of 2 ahead of us, plenty of permits left. Other areas like Boston Basin, or Hidden Lake Peak are quite open too. Where is everybody? Enjoying the naked bicyclists in Seattle?

 The initial creek crossing is easily accomplished on a wide log which is wet but not slippery.
From there we used several smaller logs to cross marshy areas and another smaller stream. Then, finally, we are on the unmaintained climbers route as the trailhead sign referred to it.

At first there are some blowdowns to deal with but the path gets relatively clear within the first ¼ mile or so and after that there is only an occasional tree to climb over or under.

 It is nice not to deal with snow on the boulder field but we are  not lucky to enjoy the same conditions all the way up. The snow starts at the upper reaches of the second boulder field, and it is soft and weak, and collapsing under our feet. It does not feel the best not to know if our next step is landing on solid rock or a snow bridge. It is a relatively short section though, and if the warmer
temperatures persist for few more days, it might be melted out before next weekend comes.

The glacier is in a great shape all the way to the camp, no visible crevasses along the route or nearby. We camp at the bivi site where we find a water source (decently trinkling snow melt water), it is going well in the afternoon, not so much in the morning, so filling up in the evening is advisable. The toilet is melted out and in working condition, always a good thing.

 We start towards the summit in the morning, not particularly early since we only have about 1500
feet left. We chose to use crampons but the snow is already softening on the east facing slope. Not much route finding needed, it’s quite a straightforward climb. At one spot our rope leader notices a crack which the previous kick steps crossed. We decide to avoid the area by climbing to the left.

 The top still has a cornice hanging towards us, and though there is a slight detour. Instead of
heading straight up towards the knife edge, the route leads us behind it where we found ourselves on a wide ledge, and few steps up a snow bank got us to the base of the final ridge.

The knife edge is not as melted as we were hoping for, and the upper part is much steeper than it usually is later in the season. There is a boot track all the way to the top which we follow but we do not like the approximately 60% slope and the snow condition which are not in favor of successful self arrest should we slip. We make it part way up but in the end we decided to play it safe and turn before reaching the high point.

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