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jonthomp

[TR] Eldorado- west arete 6/26/2004

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Climb: Eldorado-west arete

 

Date of Climb: 6/26/2004

 

Trip Report:

A couple weeks ago my friend Dan and I set off for a three-day stint around Eldorado with our primary objective being the west arete. In the back of our minds' was the summit of Klawatti and Eldorado Needle (maybe even Austera) just to bag top 100 summits.

 

The approach however is certainly as the books say--grade IV, steep and tiring carrying technical and overnight gear. Thankfully, the clouds held until treeline so the slog remained cool at least. We passed many people coming out but only one other party heading in. We made one routefinding mistake by climbing toward the top of a ridgeline rather than descending to the glaciers below, but were rewarded later when on our last stop to pump water, the cliff above us (and fortunately above a flat space as well) climax avalanched sending chunks of ice cascading down the steep rocks and out of sight which gave us a few seconds of wondering what might come rocketing over the hillcrest above.

 

After depositing our gear at a campsite below the east ridge we assembled a small pack and headed off toward Klawatti by about 5pm. Not much of a surprise, but the snow was soft and slushy and the prospects of traversing the basin, summitting and returning was more than we felt like doing. Camp won out and we returned for dinner and sips of tequila and scotch.

 

The wind kept the tent flapping all night so getting up the next morning was in most ways a relief. We even got out of camp a half hour ahead of schedule at 6:30 which was good since another routefinding error led us down about 800' of great boot skiing in the opposite direction of the west arete.

 

Slogging back up our track we found the correct notch to the Triad Glacier after a bit of scrambling and began the lengthy traverse to our route. Finally by noon, we were roping up and heading into some steep rock. The first part of the climb is through gullies and much loose rock, loose enough that random falls crashed down to the glaciers below and Dan shortened many pitches to avoid dragging the rope across the rubble which from my perspective below was a nice thing!

 

Passing the gendarmes is definitely the highlight of the route. At this point the rock becomes both noticeably steeper and more solid, though that is not to say solid. Most holds were worth thumping and at one point I stepped up onto to a block that began to shift the pile that reached from foot to neck. In a couple sections one plays peek-a-boo with the route as it winds its way through the knife-like ridge and at these times the exposure is quite spectacular, the best climbing of the route.

 

With the day dwindling as it approached 8pm, we made it to the top of the technical climbing. Between us and the final 1000' feet of 4th class, a steep snowfield stretched. We switched from rock shoes to boots and gators and began kicking steps across and up the 50+ degree slope. I plunged up to my knees and sent the top several inches of slush hissing off into the cliffy oblivion below. This was no place for mistakes! Several steps more and I was in no mood to continue as my mind flashed back to the climax avalanche we saw the day before. I decided it would be safer to travel the shallow moat along the rocks at the top of the snow which we did until it was necessary to drop down to a notch. We kicked out to a small rock outcrop, set up an anchor, and Dan belayed me across the steepest snow for a rope length. We were then free to scramble to the top.

 

The final scramble to the summit while easy and enjoyable did require attention as we wound our way through some 1000' of stacked blocks and flakes. We didn't linger long at the summit as it was already 9:30pm. In the twilight we walked down the east ridge and were back in camp by about 10pm to enjoy food, water, and more tequila and scotch before sleeping pretty well.

 

The length of the west arete and the prospects of a long grind to get out, left me uninspired to do much of anything the next day and certainly not Eldorado Needle. Dan packed up a small pack and set off again toward Klawatti. I decided to just enjoy the scenery and rest against some boulders. A need for a little activity and the fact that we had no summit photos made me decide to pack up my blueberry granola and head back up to the summit of Eldorado via the east ridge. 45 minutes later I was back at the summit enjoying a delicious breakfast and amazing sights, snapping a picture or two that still need to be developed. Dan and I met back at camp, packed, and set off for the car. Going out we decided to traverse to the far col (Torment col?) and descend from there. The ridge traverse to the col was spectacular with views of all the surrounding hanging glaciers.

 

This was a great trip! The west arete is well worth the effort. Even with its moments of not-so-good rock, it's a classic alpine route with a great feel of remoteness and commitment.

 

The east ridge from camp:

5471Picture2-med.jpg

 

Looking back down the west arete:

5471Picture5-med.jpg

 

Looking across the steep, scary snowfield with fog covering the final scrambling beyond:

5471Picture7-med.jpg

 

Jon swimming in clouds and snow at the start of the hike out:

5471Picture9-med.jpg

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Nice report...and it brings back memories of being benighted at near the top the technical climbing on the West Arete, and spending a sleepless night on a small ledge watching a full-moon slowly slide across the sky. We got seriously off-route above the gendarmes, and spent a few hours puzzling our way back to the ridge, thus ran out of daylight.

I agree though....its a worthy climb.

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We saw couple bivies scratched out here and there, none of which I would have been terribly happy to spend the night in. For as much as the route seems to be on an arete from all photos, it's interesting how there is so much space for wandering. Easy to get off route.

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Nice report, going in to climb it in a a week. Got a question, i climbed early morning spire so i know the approch. My thoughts are to base camp close to the east ridge but access the arete thro the inspiration col and drop down the slope between the needel and eldo. Any thought on this? Thanks

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In retrospect your plan might be better. It seemed like a long way to wrap around the mountain from Triad col. There are some cliffs and steep snow to negotiate once through Inspiration col, but there should be some way to the route. Be most wary of rockfall as you approach the west arete from this direction. It seemed to be the only place that routinely was letting fly big chunks of rock coaxed down by nothing more than gravity. Have fun and I'll be curious to know if your approach makes better sense.

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sean - your plan is feasible terrain-wise, but if you are going to do a bivy, i think camping at the triad col is better, just because it's a lot less out of your way to grab your stuff on the way down. if you're planning to do a carry-over, i guess that doesn't matter, but it would be pretty tedious to summit via the w. ridge, descend the e. ridge, hoof it all the way over to the deacon's tower (better camping than in the actual eldo-needle col), then cross right back over the terrain you had just crossed to get BACK over to the descent...

 

i don't know what you consider easy or hard, but since you know the approach and the days are still pretty long, the route is quite doable as a car-to-car. This simplifies the logistics quite a bit! I would only recommend this if you are comfortable simulclimbing the bulk of the route. as jonthomp's TR noted, there is not very much sustained climbing on the route, but there is LOTS of low fifth class. i thought this route was a lot of fun, if a bit vegetated down low, but i was a bit surprised at how long it is - over 3,000 feet of real (if easy) climbing!

 

Also, don't waste too much time trying to line up the guidebook description of 1st, 2nd, etc. gendarmes, there's actually a whole bunch of towers but the "crux" is really really obvious. We only rapped once, off the "last" gendarme, YMMV.

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Didn't think of the descent. The only reason we camped directly below the east ridge is to make for less travel if we decided to do more summits like the Needle and Klawatti. Bivying near Triad col would be a great idea.

 

Agreed on the reading up...any wandering you might do will be above or below the gendarmes. We only rapped once as well where there was at least one fair and many iffy pieces of webbing. Climbing off the first one is fun anyway.

 

It is surprising how long the climb is. It just sort of keeps going and going. A car to car would be cool as well. Ditch the heavy pack and go light. thumbs_up.gif

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Nice report, going in to climb it in a a week. Got a question, i climbed early morning spire so i know the approch. My thoughts are to base camp close to the east ridge but access the arete thro the inspiration col and drop down the slope between the needel and eldo. Any thought on this? Thanks

 

I did this a few years ago and I found it to be acceptable:

 

http://www.cascadeclimbers.com/threadz/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=UBB2&Number=50211

 

However, I've never been down Triad col... Forrest may be right that this is faster.

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So Forrest, would you recomend descending through Triad col to approach the West Arete, if going for the one day? Or going the other way that Sean is suggesting?

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Going triad col is MUCH faster. It's about 3-4 miles shorter and 1,500' less elevation to gain (and then lose again). Think of it this way: from the standard approach, going triad col takes you in "front" of eldorado, eldo-eldo needle col takes you all the way up over the shoulder of the east ridge and around the "back" of eldorado before you even get to the col.

 

Triad col is slightly more technical (some low fifth class rock - look for a ramp that leads up and left from the right side, i've never roped up to go up but i know people who have) and some crevasses to navigate on the far side, but i would think it's at least two hours faster than going the other way. [chestbeat]our total time on the w. ridge last summer was a bit over 15 hours car-to-car.[/chestbeat]

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John Dittli and I went in Sibley Creek/Pass to Triad Col. This approach to the Eldo area starts from a much higher elevation. We saw a bear sliding down the snowfield below Triad col. We also ended up bivying near the top of the W Arete and were annoyed by a crack snaffle until I winged it with a chucked rock. "Squeek" and it was gone ...left us alone the rest of the night.

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I did this route with Dave Seman in the 70s. We approached from Sibley Creek Pass and bivied on a bench before the Triad Col. On climb day, we climbed through the col and descended to the base of the ridge, which was fairly straightforward with a bit of unroped low class 5 to the col before the snow/glacier descent.

 

We did the climb in mountain boots, and did fine. The crux was traversing around one of the gendarmes-I think Nelson has a picture of it in his book. Sometime after the gendarmes, we coiled the rope and scrambled the rest, summited, descended the E Ridge and returned to the TH.

 

A worthy route. Not the best rock, but neither the worst. Position is superb.

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