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[TR] Eldorado and Dorado Needle - E. ridge and SW buttress 7/2/2014


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Trip: Eldorado and Dorado Needle - E. ridge and SW buttress


Date: 7/2/2014


Trip Report:

Alright, I am a long time lurker around here but this is my first trip report. I've gotten tons of beta from this site and feel like I should pay it forward a bit. Go easy on me please.




Headed up to the Eldorado area over four days around the fourth of July. From a camp at the E. ridge we climbed Eldorado and the SW Buttress of Dorado needle.


This was my first trip up the climber's trail that leads to Eldorado and based on reports that I have read over the years I was prepared for misery. As is often the case, it was mostly easier than advertised. We found the log crossing without incident and proceeded up the hill. It was definitely steep and more than once I wondered if I could have brought less rock gear. Other than a few blowdowns though, the trail was pretty straight forward. The boulder fields went quickly as well. The snow had all melted and we were able to locate a nice path to climber's right of the rocks. The part of the approach that most lived up to it's reputation was getting around the waterfalls. We encountered the first snow here in the form of thin looking snow bridges over water and boulders. it was late in the day and we opted for a more direct route up through the trees. This is not recommended unless you like brush bashing and shenanigans, but it goes (the trail goes climber's right and avoids the steepest part of the hill) and we popped out in the upper basin around sunset about four hours from the car.




The next day we got moving around ten and popped over the ridge to Roush basin. There is still a fair amount of snow here but it's melting quickly and there are a number of opportunities to punch through. The well traveled descent gully is snow-free. The views of Johannesburg and its little friends got better with every step as we wandered on up the Eldorado glacier. Holy jeez what an awesome place to be! We roped up at the flat spot before dropping onto the inspiration glacier and Eldorado came out of a cloud just before we headed down. Everyone seemed impressed enough for my liking so I didn't say anything, but what a beautiful place. We made camp on the E. ridge one or two rock outcrops higher than the pooper. Said facilities are fully melted out and functional by the way. That afternoon we wandered up to the top of Eldorado. The trip was very straight forward, we roped up due to the soft snow and our ignorance as to whether or not we might fall into a crevasse here but soon we were stepping up the "knife edge ridge." In such soft snow conditions, the ridge was very secure. We snapped some photos of each other and Dorado's SW buttress and then cruised back to camp.












dorado needle the sw buttress is just left of center





Fully expecting to be tortured by evil snaffles all night, we were a bit surprised to have been left alone when the alarm went off at 4. I guess they were all off bothering someone else. We messed around getting ready for an hour and a half and got moving just after 5:30. Some climbers we had talked to the day before had done the SW buttress and put in a pretty good trail to the Mccalister glacier. We followed it without incident and watched a beautiful sunrise on a bluebird day. I was a little nervous about the route as we would be climbing as a team of three, but everyone was pretty psyched to go for it. That's what head lamps are for anyway right? We followed the tracks down the Mccalister and made a mental picture of the crevasses on the descent route. We arrived at the col that leads to the no-name glacier about an hour after leaving camp. There was a little bit of scree surfing down to the head of the next glacier, and it looked like it might take a few spicy moves to get up on it, but we found an easy snow ramp that brought us right up to the top. We quickly moved down and around the rock ridge, dropping around 800 ft. We lost a little time here as we tried to avoid going all the way to the bottom. Either way will go, but the upper path is melting and thin.








Slowly stepping back up many of those feet of elevation that we had lost, the route came into view. We found an obvious path off of the snow and did one pitch of easy scrambling on rock and then another of part rock part snow. This brought us to the bottom of the left-leaning dihedral. I recognized the roofs on the pitch from a picture we had brought, but the snow had deposited us about 1/3rd of the way up. The sun hit me while I belayed Elliot up this pitch and for the first time I realized it was going to get hot. It was the damn 4th of July after all.






Happy to be on route, We made pretty quick work of the next two pitches. The first up a left leaning ramp and onto the lower buttress crest and the second up some alternating slabby and blocky terrain to the amphitheater where the lower and upper buttress meet. Any time there was doubt, going a bit to the left yielded a faster way. There was a lingering snowfield in the amphitheater and I chose to go under it before heading up. After leading a full 60 Meters I was a bit confused as to why I was not on the crest of the upper buttress as the description said I would be. Shenanigans ensued and more time was wasted as we added an extra pitch traversing back over to the left. I had gone too far to the right. The amphitheater is an obvious feature, when you get there, go as far left as you can go and follow that ridge. Once back on the ridge, we identified the "dirty slot" described in our route description but declined to climb it as there was a giant death block teetering on what was the most likely foot hold. Instead, we traversed farther left across the ridge and found easier climbing. From here we were back on route, but it was getting late. It was already 4:30 and we needed to climb 5-ish more pitches and get back on the snow before the sun went down. We decided it would likely still be faster to go up, as the rock had been kind of hard to protect, and getting rap anchors would be a PITA. Fortunately the hot sun was starting to be obscured by menacing looking clouds.












The rain started around 6:30 just as we began the slabby headwall with handcrack pitch. Not enough to make the climbing unpleasant, but enough to make me wonder if that was what was coming. This pitch was a lot of fun. 5.6 or 7, but huge exposure. From there we continued along the ridge, and went up and over a big gendarme. I could then see a rap anchor on the NW ridge and we hurried up blocky ground to get there. This part was three pitches including the big slab pitch, but we made quick work of them. Being on route is very helpful to moving fast.


As I started up the ridge, the rain intensified and some wind picked up. It was starting to get a bit cold, and it was now pretty late, but this bit of climbing was fun and varied, and I thought about that instead of what it would feel like to belay two people up to the exposed summit. I got there at 8:30 and brought Jason and Elliot in. Elliot touched the top and immediately turned around and started downleading the route. After changing back into boots and stowing gear I was the last one to make the one rope rap down to the snow (straight forward), reaching the end of the rope around 9:30. It was still light out. Pretty proud about that.




The rain had been blowing in sideways from the SW, but we were now sheltered by Dorado Needle itself and had a pretty dry walk (in the dark) back down the Mccallister and up the other side and then back across the inspiration to camp. There were footsteps to follow the whole way, so we didn't need to do much navigating, but we did end up a little higher on the ridge then our camp and ended up having to descend a ways. We got there just after midnight, 19.5 hours camp to camp.


We woke up late the next day and reveled in the joy of our speed record for awhile before deciding that none of us were feeling up to doing Klawatti as we had planned. Instead we packed up and headed down to the car. There was noticeably less snow around the waterfall section before the upper boulder field than there had been on the way in.


Route finding was the crux of this route for us. We could have moved faster as two, but we lost a lot of time trying to match features up to our route description. Staying left is the key. Once you're on the ridge it's pretty tough to get lost.


Gear Notes:

single rack to #3 camalot with doubles in .5, .75, and 1, and a set of nuts. Could have done without the #3.


Approach Notes:

snow is melting quickly. This will surely make the glacier crossings and moats more involved.

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Hey Kurt, nice meeting you too. It was fun having you top out on the w ridge of eldorado as we were descending the e. Strange to have two climbers materialize out of nothing behind us and follow us down! I've actually followed your posts on here for some time. Good to put a face with the name.

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Kurt, we need a WA TR! Sounds like you did it a bunch faster than us, which isn't surprising....


Sorry to hijack the TR, sounds like you guys had a great trip! Didn't you find that one textured face pitch on the SW buttress amazing? It's right up there with the most memorable alpine pitches I've climbed.

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