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[TR] Eldorado - NW Ice Couloir 11/03/2019
PorterM posted a topic in North CascadesTrip: Eldorado - NW Ice Couloir Trip Date: 11/03/2019 Trip Report: Camille and I had a great alpine romp on Sunday. Fall alpine ice season is in full swing!! Anyway, we left Mt Vernon at 1 am and headed toward Cascade Pass. We arrived at the Eldo trailhead at 1:45 am. Confused? so were we. Turns out, it was daylight savings and 2 am became 1 am. We started uphill at 2 am. Immediately I realized it had been a while since I'd been up Eldorado as the giant log we used to use to cross was gone and the river had clearly changed a bit. We explored downstream for a dry option to cross and found an icy, uphill log. This worked but it wasn't graceful, felt like climbing a squeeze chimney. Once across, we started up the trail, it felt warmer higher, the cool calm air must have settled in the valley. Near the top of the boulder field, Camille took a spill and smashed up her shin pretty good, lots of blood, very deep (sorry, no photos). But, she's a trooper and after a tight gauze wrap, we continued up. Snow started at 5000ft right at the end of the boulder field. It was refrozen week-old snow, that was mostly supportive and we switched to boots above, around 6000ft. We cruised up to the flat glacier below the summit and saw two guys walking downhill toward us. They had technical tools and said they had climbed the couloir the day before and found great conditions. This was exciting news as the several days prior had 9 to 11k freezing levels and that had me worried about the condition of the route. With tracks to follow and knowledge of a high-quality route, we crossed to the east ridge campsite and stopped to put on crampons. It had taken 5.5hrs (7:30 am) at this point and the sun was just rising. From there we had tracks to follow in the snow crossing the inspiration glacier to Deans spire where we found a 2 piton anchor with cord for the first rap. (Lucky that we have tracks to follow) We racked up while we still had sun and rapped the first 30m. We brought a single 60m rope so we had to get a bit creative on the raps since we couldn't find an obvious intermediate anchor. I found a good spine to the skiers right and we went another 30m off an equivocation hitch. That brought us to above the last vertical step and there was a single small fixed nut (perhaps a bit rusty) on the side. I backed it up, sent Camille first, then pulled the extra gear and headed down. In retrospect, I should have just left another nut to back it up. The raps left us just about 100m from the base of the climb and it looked pretty ideal. (HUGE thanks to the guys before us who replaced the tat at the top anchor and left tracks for us to follow all day). We tied in and started up, just simuling up the steep snow. It looked like there was going to be a lot of ice and based on trip reports, most people preferred fewer screws and more rock gear but these were not the conditions we had. We brought 3 screws and a bit more rock stuff so I was pretty bummed and had to be quite selective with where I put screws. We simuled through about 70m of actual climbing before reaching a near-vertical step. There was a nice crock on the climbers right so I belayed there then started up the step. All of the following pitches were a blur, a lot of AI2 type ice, sparse gear (maybe not if you had 6 screws), and a healthy dose of simuling through progress captures took us to the top. What I do remember is a ton of very high-quality ice, slightly soft but not wet. Not too many dinner plating issues and one ~20ft step that was AI3+ or maybe even 4. Quite steep, found a great pin at the base and halfway up put in another screw. (see a video of this on my insta @porter.mcmichael) There was an equal amount of steep neve connecting the ice pitches and a few short sections of mostly unconsolidated sugar. One thing that was perhaps slightly alarming was due to the warm temps, there was a near-constant barrage of ice pellets coming down the couloir. Not a big deal until something bigger knocks ya off when you're 100+ ft run out. I never saw anything bigger come down and around the top, there wasn't much that looked like it could come off in a bigger way. I suppose this is to be expected on bigger funnel-like routes when it's warm. I think I did 4 belays in the couloir (could be 5 or 6) before topping out on a fun 30ft roll of wet ice. We tied off short and went up to the left about 40ft before gaining the ridge that led ~100ft to the summit. Spectacular as always. Seemed a tad knife-ier than normal which was fun! (I wore tights, sue me ) After a few photos, we headed downhill. It was now 1 pm and we (or maybe just I) were slightly confused about the whole daylight savings thing so when darkness would arrive was something of a mystery... The descent was cruiser until we got off the glacier. There, the snow got very soft and we started punching through the crust. This was slow, tiring and hard on Camille's banged up shin. We got down off the boulder field before true darkness set in. (Jburg looking dashing as always) Upon getting back to the river, neither of us wanted to bushwack to the sketchy log so we just walked through the river and hopped in the car for 16.5hrs c2c. Not the fkt I'll bet but we were worried about timing since we were going c2c and it worked out alright. Thanks for reading along and hopefully this provides some good beta for future climbers as well as anyone who wants to go get after it in the next week or two! See you in the mountains! ~Porter PS. I'll put a few first-person vids of the climbing on my Instagram @porter.mcmichael (Shameless plug) Gear Notes: Cams .3-2, 3 pins, a few nuts, 3 screws (10,13,19), forgot pickets, 1 would have been nice for the conditions we found, more would be nice for more normal conditions). Approach Notes: Standard now seems to be the rap by Deans, could use better rap stations (or I missed them or they're buried.)