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Eldorado Peak (8868')

Inspiration Gl - July 10-11 '99

Eldorado from Sahale
Eldorado Peak from Sahale - showing route

Party: Mountaineers - 12 people!! Leader: Rob West , Rope Leaders:  Chris Nowak and I. Basic Students: John, Britt Murphy, Kathy Beahn, Linda, Ron Williams, Dan, Doug, Izette (Izy) and one other basic student (names anyone?).

Route: Inspiration Glacier...

Weather: Awesome both days. Sun, heat, sunburn.....


The Approach

In every climbing guide around, the approach to Eldorado is disdained. Comments from it being "perhaps unreasonable" to "the crux" of the climb. Needless to say, I was prepared for the worst. I managed to pack my DAYpack for an over night trip. I was going light! (It helped to offload the tent and rope on my assigned basic student ropemates!). I also went with the bare minimum of glacier gear, and instructed my rope team to do the same. That is: three oval biners, a large locking biner, two double runners, prusiks, and pulley. Two pickets served for group gear. Given that we were traveling with three rope teams of four people each, there would be enough gear to haul a truck out of a crevasse.

Given my preconceived notion of a torturous day, when it turned out quite reasonable, I was pleasantly surprised. The climbers trail up there is in great shape! I've seen a lot worse elsewhere. The trail is steep, but the path is such nice "bark mulch" it was nice to walk on. Between talus fields I was expecting nasty bush wacking through slide alder... didn't happen. The path is clear all the way. The only nasty part of the trip was the transition from the talus fields to snow. It was quite dangerous for break-throughs.

Well, as for packing light and bringing a small pack, I learned a lesson for basic climbs..... nice guys finish last! There were a couple students that were having a little trouble with their loads (Their rope leads didn't advise them as well on the principles of light packing). I ended up strapping various loads to the top and sides of my small pack... foregoing the benefits I'd worked so hard to accomplish. It wasn't a big deal in terms of weight, however, next time I will bring my large pack and still try to pack light so I have more room for other people's gear. On the other hand, I have recently been learning the lessons of taking responsibility for oneself in the mountains. It is probably more damaging to students to give them the impression that they can depend on other climbers for their success and safety. Unfortunately, on Mountaineer's Basic climbing trips, one or two people's lack of preparation shouldn't ruin the trip for the entire party, so a best effort should be made, at least, to get everyone to base camp.

We camped on the ridge seperating Eldorado basin from Roush Creek Basin. It is a fine spot with great views in all directions but North. We were at camp so early (1PMish) that we had plenty of time to soak up the rays, socialize and enjoy the views.

Johanesburg from Eldorado camp
I didn't hear a single complaint about our camping location!
Mt. Johannesburg in the background

I was wishing I had brought my skis up to camp: the Eldorado basin was in prime condition for some yo-yoing. Really, the ascent is not impractical for toting skis.


The Climb

The morning start required descending the gulley (a choice between two obvious gullies) and then nearly immediately roping up for the Eldorado Glacier.


Sunrise break on the Eldorado Glacier
Glacier peak on the left


Me with the Eldorado summit behind


Up the Inspiration Glacier with Moraine Lake and the Boston Basin Peaks

The big deal climbing Eldorado is the famed Himalayan style knife edge summit ridge. Visions of walking the line with exposure on both sides danced through all of our dreams. Preparations to instruct students regarding the method of arresting fallen teammates by jumping to the opposite side of the ridge were in vane... Fortunately or unfortunately, the summit ridge was slightly corniced, so we didn't get to walk right on top of it. Instead we traversed a couple feet to one side which eliminates the "double-exposure" effect. The single exposure was exciting on its own, but not too extreme.


Eldorado's famed knife-edge ridge

The rest of the climb, at least in these heavy snow conditions, was a no-brainer. I think we saw one open crevasse high on the Eldorado glacier. The snow was a little soft on the way down the east ridge, but post holeing wasn't an issue crossing the plateau between the Eldorado and Inspiration glaciers.... if you stayed in the boot track.

Remember that snow-talus transition zone? Well, on the way down, several people broke through. One guy, John, slashed his lower leg on the rock quite badly. He was pretty tough though. We bandaged him up and he walked out on his own (we shared his load), and he was probably the first one down the trail. We were lucky no-one else was seriously injured.... there was a lot of potential.

Leader Rob topped everyone's day by supplying a case of barley hops and water at the trail head. Always a foolproof way to garnish brownie points.


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Last updated: Jan 13, 2000
Copyright © 1999 Gordon Schryer.
E-mail: grs@earthling.net.