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TrogdortheBurninator

[TR] Eldorado- West Arete 6/25/2006

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Climb: Eldorado-West Arete

 

Date of Climb: 6/25/2006

 

Trip Report:

Colt45 and I climbed the West Arete on Eldorado this past weekend. I first noticed this line flipping through the becky guide while in the John. It looked really cool in the picture, and the description didnt sound too bad.

 

We approached via Sibley crk. The approach is in good shape with snow starting at the point the trail exits the forest. The lower portion of snow is heavily debris covered, but not much of a problem.

westareteeldorado%20001.jpg

 

While traversing the ridge toward triad col, we took one wrong turn into an easy gully. We also passed one of the high points too high and had to down scramble a 15ft class 4 step. On the ridge we had a clear view of our route. The line looks very imposing, and it is hard at first glance to imagine it going at such a modest grade.

 

westareteeldorado%20005.jpg

The SW buttress is directly in front of Mike and the West Arete is just left of that.

 

After correcting our wrong turn, more traversing led us to the base of triad col. The class 3-4 ramp system described in becky for gainging the col was not readily apparent to us. After srambling a few 4th class moves, the difficulty increased to low 5th class so we decided to rope up and belay two pitches to the col. The triad glacier was in easily passable shape, although it looks like some monster crevasses will be opening up pretty soon.

westareteeldorado%20019.jpg

Mike descending the Triad glacier

 

We found a nice bivy site with running water and good access to the route. The bivy site also had a front row view of a seasonal hanging snow field that would release small to large slides at random (including a very large middle of the night wake up call).

westareteeldorado%20020.jpg

 

The next morning we ate breakfast and headed to the base of the route. This involved a high speed dash across the slide path of the snowfield (which luckily remained stable for the few minutes we were there).

 

We had read route descriptions from Becky as well as on summitpost.com and cc.com. Unfortuneately summitpost was down on friday so we made due with just the Becky description. Gaining the ridge via the near toe involved a diffuclt looking schrund corssing as well as some time spent in a rockfall debris field. We instead decided to check out the far toe. Gaining the rock proved challenging. At first I started up a clean, but sparsely protceted section of steep rock. Almost immediately I took a short fall back to the snow when the moves became much harder than expected. I cleaned my gear, then mike started up another section with mid 5th climbing gaining a low 5th gully.

 

When trying to clean a slightly overcammed linkcam from the first pitch, all of the trigger wires sequentially failed, making extraction impossible. Both mike and I tried to remove it, but with no luck. Rather than spend the day there, we moved on.

 

A side note on gear choice: When packing for the climb, we couldnt decide whether it would be better to climb in rock shoes or boots (mine fully rigid, mikes 3/4 shank). We decided that since Mike was the stronger rock climber, we would just bring his shoes, then he would lead any harder rock sections and set up a fixed belay. This was huge mistake IMO. We should have both brought rock shoes so that we could have felt confident simulclimbing most of the route. As it was, we had far too many fixed belays, greatly slowing or progress.

 

back to the TR: Many hundred feet of class 3/4/5 brush/choss/rock lead us up the lower section of the route. The line here is very unobvious and much of the rock is far looser than I am used to. There were some nicer sections, but overall the climbing was a little sketchy.

westareteeldorado%20028.jpg

Mike on a lower section of the route

(one of the few quality pitches)

 

We decided that things would go faster if mike lead most of the 5th class rock pitches. What we didn't realize was that nearly the entire middle section of the route was interspersed with 5th class climbing. On the towers section of the route, the climbing improved markedly, with solid rock and interesting climbing. The very airy 5.7 crux was particularly exciting.

westareteeldorado%20029.jpg

Mike on the higher quality tower section of the route

 

After the tower section we were faced with a route finding decision, which we apparently chose wrong. Becky shows the line moving left of the crest. We found a ledge moving back left. I lead across some steep snow and loose rock up to a marginal belay. The climing above appeared to ease, but we were clearly off route. A few more pitches lead us to a snow patch. I was feeling really tired and suffering a bit from dehydration/exhaustion. I tried to eat something, but it immediately induced a gag reflex. A was able to find some wet snow and melt some water, but it was too little too late. I had also not eaten much since breakfast, which wasn't helping.

 

Mike lead the first pitch of moderate snow with bomber rock anchors. When I arrived at the next belay, I Prepared to switch leads, but mike said he would keep leading if I wanted.

 

westareteeldorado%20033.jpg

Here mike leads a very attractive simul pitch on snow with good pro.

 

After the snow a couple more slow simul pitches with one fixed belay at a steep step lead us to the summit in waning light. Due to some confusion at the car, I had left my headlamp behind, so we reliqueished to the fact that we would be spending an extra night out (not a huge deal because we carried over, but potentially bad if SAR had to get involved). We descended the E. ridge back to the highest regular route bivy sites where we melted snow and ate some of the (abundant) extra food we had left. We slept for a few hours and hiked back to the car in a little over 4 hours. The return hike seemed significantly easier than the approach. We quickly drove back to the ranger station to sign out (overdue), Luckily they were just in the early stages of identifying a potential rescue situation.

 

westareteeldorado%20035.jpg

 

westareteeldorado%20037.jpg

 

Thanks to mike for stepping up when I was feeling like shit and pressuring me to keep moving.

 

The lowdown: This is a beuatiful, long and intimidating line, but the loose climbing detracts somewhat. Would I climb it again - No. Would I recommend it to someone else - Yes, but know what you are getting into. This must be one of the more demanding routes for its grade in the state.

 

 

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

7 nuts to large BD

6 cams from yellow TCU to Blue DMM (Gold Camalot size) (although we fixed a red LinkCam on the first pitch, so it wasnt realy used on the route)

Ice axes

50m 1/2 rope

Brought crampons, but never used

Should have brought a second pair of rock shoes

 

Approach Notes:

Road open, trail in good shape, but prepared to use your ice axe for a significant portion of the approach. Glacier travel mandatory to reach bivy site.

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Right on Mike and Jason, you guys make a wicked alpine team and sounds like a classic adventure with plenty of unknown but a pretty good outcome. Those are my favorite.

Ben

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Thanks for the climb Jason!

 

I would describe this route as a longer and chossier version of the complete north ridge of stuart, with a lot of attention-grabbing routefinding along the way. The climbing is never technically difficult, but there are large amounts of low class 5 on somewhat loose rock. The arete is cool because of its length and position, and gives a "full alpine experience" (VERY different from the "pure rock climb" feel of NR stuart).

 

Here are a couple more photos:

 

The route as seen from the approach. The towers are easy to see about 1/3 of the way up.

route.jpg

 

The small but extremely unstable glacier that, in retrospect, was a bit close for comfort to our bivy spot (several hundred feet below where this photo was taken). The huge release we heard around midnight was likely the big block at lower left. After this I started to wonder what would happen if the entire glacier slid off...and then I decided to just get some sleep.

glacier.jpg

 

 

The link cam that broke on the first pitch. The plastic trigger wire design takes the flimsy nature of aliens to a whole new level! (note: I was pretty gentle while trying to remove this cam, compared to what I have done with my aliens and camalots for years with no problems whatsoever. Moreover I think these can get jammed easily if the cam pivots in the crack, because the lobes are extremely long)

 

Edited to add: OP contacted us and replaced the cam for free! Moreover the new version of the cam has been modified to correct this weakness. So I'll have to give link cams another try...

 

cam.jpg

 

A cool, exposed traverse passing the first tower.

traverse.jpg

 

An awesome snow arete about 2/3 of the way up.

arete.jpg

 

The coolest part of the climb: the summit arete suddenly appears after the last several hundred feet of rock scrambling.

top.jpg

Edited by colt45

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Great report & photos. Great corner of the world, eh? and a bit involved to get to. I'm curious about the approach: would Eldo Creek and thence around and down via the pass between Eldo and Eldo Needle be simpler if a bit longer?

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I'm not too sure how the Eldo-Eldo needle pass would work out. The only other published approach still invovles Triad col, but approaches via eldo creek. The Sibley approach is gorgeous, but maybe all that side hilling gets old at some point. From mikes route pic it looks like a steep rock downclimb might be necessary with this eldo needle approach. I haven't looked from the otherside to see how it compares. I think after doing the sibley approach once, it seems a lot less complex, but as mike said, it'd be a hard approach to onsight.

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This must be one of the more demanding routes for its grade in the state.

 

I just looked up the climb in Nelson Potterfield, and it says Grade III shocked.gif

 

From your description sounds like that is a total sandbag. That guide gives Backbone and Serpentine Grade IV's.

 

Nevertheless looks like a great climb.

 

How did you guys get back to your car?

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The lowdown: This is a beuatiful, long and intimidating line, but the loose climbing detracts somewhat. Would I climb it again - No. Would I recommend it to someone else - Yes, but know what you are getting into.

Pretty much my impression when I climbed it, except I really would not recommend it. Cool approach and setting, but the route just fell so far short of my expectations.

 

I just looked up the climb in Nelson Potterfield, and it says Grade III
I thought I remembered Nelson saying something about this route looking better than it actually is, but when I looked in Selected Climbs I couldn't find it. I think I gave away my 1st edition when the 2nd edition came out. Can someone verify that he dropped this route from the second edition of Volume I?

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Beckey gives it grade IV. Usually Nelson softens the grade instead of stiffening, so that is surprising. The west arete isn't in either of the Nelson Volumes I have. Reading through an old thread, it sounded like it had been dropped.

 

What edition do you have scottgg?

 

We got back to the car by traversing the eldo glacier and reversing the approach.

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Great climb guys, very cool looking line! I have the 1st edition of Vol. 2, and the "west arete" is in it.

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I'm curious about the Linkcam failure. How, exactly, did the trigger wires fail? Any kind of cam failure is not a good thing and if the problem is systemic it could spell trouble for OP. Tell me more...

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yes, i can see that the cam would have still held a fall. I haven't played with them much so I was trying to visualize what happened. do you think it was a matter of poor design, poor workmanship, what? In any case, it was certainly a pretty expensive "functional" failure. If that problem continues to show up in more units it could be a real issue. I mean, how did you guys feel about leaving a $90 cam somewhere in the North Cascades because the trigger wires came off?

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I have the 1st edition of Vol. 2, and the "west arete" is in it.
I don't doubt you, because I'm sure I've read a Nelson description of the climb in one of the books, but my Vol 2 says First Edition, 2000, and the only Eldorado routes listed are NE Face and NW Face Couloir. Wonder what's the deal there.....

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rockband.gifthumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gif

 

Just heard back from OP. They actually contacted Mike before I emailed them. Gary from OP read our TR and contacted Michael from OP who voluntarily offered to replace the cam. fruit.gif Apparently when overcammed, the extra amount of force required to clean the cams had lead to a few reported failures. They are already adressing this issue by beefing up the connection point. Gary cautioned that with these cams (even more so than others) it is essential to recognize the lower limit of their range.

 

bigdrink.gifto a NW company with amazing customer service!!!!

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it's good to hear the issue is being addressed. sometimes it takes a while to get the kinks worked out on new gear, especially on one so complicated. chalk it up to good, old-fashioned grass roots product testing. cool that it was replaced in the mean time. cheers!

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