Eldorado - Inspiration GlacierDate:
Total Elevation Gain: 6,800 ft
Round Trip Distance: Approximately 8.5 miles
We left Seattle at around 6:00am on Saturday, and met up with the rest of the climbing party at the Marblemount Ranger Station at 8:00. Unluckily the forecast for both days was 30% chance of rain or better, and overcast. We registered for our backcountry camping permit, and drove up the cascade river road about 20 miles to the trailhead where we threw on the boots and finished packing. By about 9:30 we were on the trail and headed up hill. After a short river crossing on a good log, The first mile or so of trail was through relatively heavy forest on a climbers trail, and gained about 2,000 ft of elevation (roughly a 40% grade). Climbers arenít typically known for the trail setting so it basically goes straight up hill. Lots of big steps and lots or roots. Once we got through the trees we broke into the boulder fields.
The cloud layer was low for the entire first day so we could rarely see more than 100 yards, but at least it kept the temperatures down. We gained about another 1,000 ft in the boulder field, trying to keep good footing on the rock, slick from rain and mist. After working our way through the boulder field we made it up the Eldorado Creek basin. Passed 2 parties heading down who had opted not to make a summit bid as it had rained all night and the whole mountain was socked in the fog for the day giving near zero visibility.
From here we crossed the snow patches and a small creek, and worked our way up to the ridgeline on the left, gaining about another 600 vertical ft. From here he we dropped down a short 3rd class gully . Once at the bottom of the gully we started up the snowfields at the toe of the Inspiration Glacier. We worked our way another 600 vertical feet or so to our camp at an elevation of 6,500 ft. Once we hit camp we all started digging out our tent platforms, and filtering water, yada, yada, yada. Saw one other party of two in the basin, who I think gotten lost in the fog in the morning and decided to stay put for the day. They said they ran into impassable cliffs, but I think those were only on the right hand side of the basin.
While setting up camp we actually had a Marmot try to run off with a whole 60m rope
Bad Marmot, no bagels for you! After a barrage of snowballs he finally dropped it but gave is the evil eye for the rest of the day.
We settled on a 3:30 wake up time to make sure the snow was firm for the climb up, and go lucky enough to have a break in the clouds which is just what we were hoping for. When we woke up the snow was nice and crunchy, perfect crampon conditions. We all had some quick breakfast, suited up and were moving by about 4:30. We gained another 1,000 ft of elevation to the broad flats of the Inspiration glacier where we got our first glimpse of Eldorado, in the pre-dawn light. While we were on this flat area the sun came over the horizon and broke through the clouds.
We traversed our way over to the ridgeline, and started up the last steep slopes to the summit. Passed one party who had bivied at the base of the ridge and were starting to get going for the day. Later on we saw them heading north across the glacier, not sure to where.
Part of the reason we had such clear skies was that the cloud layer had dropped below us, except for a bit of high haze. The last bit just before the summit is a traverse of a sharp, knife edge ridge to the rock summit. For this stretch we placed 4 pickets, though a 5th might have been nice.
We were on the summit by about 8:00, about 3,5 hrs after leaving camp. Since we summited on Monday morning there werenít nearly as many people out and about so we had the entire climb to ourselves. Great views and plenty or summit room.
We got back to camp at about 10:00, and broke down the tents. By 11:30 we were headed back downhill. Eldorado is called the Queen of the Cascade river for a good reason.
As a bonus it was also the last climb that one Basic Climbing students needed to graduate, and the last climb that one of the Intermediate Climbing students needed to graduate. It was also my first official climb as the Mounties party leader
Yes, that's right, it was a Mounties climb. No we didn't kick rocks down on anyone. We didn't clog the route or the summit and make other wait for us. We didn't have any gumbies fall down and hurt themselves. We didn't leave any trace we were there save a few platforms in the snow, and a bit of a bootpack across the summit ridge. We didn't have lectures about rope coiling.
We did get up and down a good beginners route at a relaxed pace, enjoyed the climb, and chatted with the few people we ran into about route conditions and weather patterns, and tried to teach some of the less experienced members of the party how to tread a little more lightly and move a little more efficiently in the alpine than they could when we started the trip.
Flame away. Gear Notes:
Standard glacier kit. Approach Notes:
Go uphill through the forest. Go uphill through the boulder fields. Go uphill through the basin trending left. Cross the ridgeline at roughly 6,200 ft.