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Eldorado Peak with Mountain Madness

Ken’s High Five — Part Two, Eldorado Peak

With beau­ti­ful weath­er con­di­tions, great com­pa­ny, and a hefty amount of train­ing in prepa­ra­tion, our three-day ascent of Eldo­ra­do Peak was one for the books. Eldo­ra­do Peak is in North Cas­cades Nation­al Park, sur­round­ed by peak after icon­ic peak. 

This rugged climb includes one of the most stren­u­ous approach days in the cas­cades. A tree trunk riv­er cross­ing, a steep, direct, climber’s trail, and boul­der field scram­ble make this a clas­sic Cas­cade climb. 

Ken on the approach with Mt. Johan­nes­burg in the background.

We spent our first day prep­ping gear in Seat­tle, stop­ping by the ranger sta­tion in Mar­ble­mount, and approach­ing base camp. With mul­ti­ple base camp options, Eldo­ra­do pro­vides the oppor­tu­ni­ty to select your pre­ferred scenery as well as length of sum­mit day. We start­ed on the steep climbers’ trail in the woods and pro­gressed out of the trees through alpine mead­ows. After descend­ing a steep gul­ley, we found our­selves select­ing a base camp in Roush Creek basin at the base of Eldo­ra­do Glacier. 

The next morn­ing, after an alpine start, we found our­selves near­ing the clas­sic knife-blade sum­mit. The tim­ing felt almost per­fect; we topped out on Inspi­ra­tion Glac­i­er as the sun began crest­ing the sky­line to our east. 

Sun­rise from the Inspi­ra­tion Glacier

We car­ried on toward the final sum­mit ridge as light filled the sky. We ascend­ed the glac­i­er in style — hap­py that most our heavy gear was left in our tent at base­camp. Roped up, we care­ful­ly ascend­ed the snowy knife blade ridge step by step all the way to the sum­mit. Stel­lar weath­er and spec­tac­u­lar views per­suad­ed us to take our time before start­ing our descent. 

Ken on the ridge.

On the knife-blade sum­mit ridge of Eldorado.

Back to camp by 9:30 am, we had time for a nap and an after­noon of snow school. We cov­ered anchors, knots and hitch­es, and self-arrest; all impor­tant skills to know as a mountaineer.

Day three wrapped up our trip. We broke camp and began revers­ing our burly approach to base camp. We began chuck­ling about how steep our approach trail was — if there is one pos­i­tive, it is def­i­nite­ly the most direct way up the mountain!

Descend­ing the boul­der field, top, and steep climber’s trail, bottom.

After our climb, we reflect­ed on our expe­ri­ence. The wilder­ness cleared our minds and made us rec­og­nize what is impor­tant. The act of climb­ing chal­lenged our bod­ies, and the clear moun­tain air re-invig­o­rat­ed us. It is these types of expe­ri­ences that make us con­tin­ue to return to wild places and chal­lenge our­selves in beau­ti­ful alpine environments.

Ken near­ing the final riv­er cross­ing to the parked car, at last!

Ken just com­plet­ed his fourth sum­mit in two weeks. With Adams, Bak­er, and Shuk­san sum­mits, the com­ple­tion of Eldo­ra­do leaves only Glac­i­er on his mis­sion to com­plete five sum­mits in a three-week peri­od. At 60 years of age, he is tru­ly show­ing that you are nev­er too old to make it happen”!

~Words and pho­tos, Mad­ness Guide Arthur Herlitzka