Eldorado Peak

September 14 - 15, 2002

Dave Svilar, Matt Elley

Matt Alford called from Bellingham as Matt Elley and I were heading north on I-5 towards  Snowfield Peak on a clear Friday night.   The Nissan wouldn't start and he was stranded in Bellingham.  Somewhere near Marblemount Matt Elley and I began talking about how we would like to get up Eldorado someday soon.  The next thing we knew the Corolla was bouncing down the road along the Cascade River.  Matt Alford and Snowfield Peak were out, and Eldorado was in. 

I enjoyed a cozy night in the back of the Corolla munching my mom's cookies and spooning Matt.  With our sudden change of plans we weren't sure if we were at the correct trailhead, but I knew we were close.  I figured any trail that went up would get us there.  Around 7:30 a.m. we found a trail that definitely went up - straight up.  I had heard that Eldorado had a long approach, so was surprised to find ourselves at the base of the glacier before 11:00 a.m.  Decision time: it would be easy to do it in one day or we could take our time and spend the night on the mountain.  We voted for the latter and spent the next hour eating and throwing rocks on the slabs beneath the glacier.

Matt grabs some water and takes in the view of Johannesburg. 


I soak up some rays on the slabs beneath the glacier.


By noon my tan was looking even, so I put on my shirt and we headed for the glacier.  I had a rope in my pack, but roping up for the glacier would cut into precious tanning time at the next stop.  The rope remained in my pack and we ascended the sparsely crevassed glacier.  Matt's energy level was sapping, so I had plenty of opportunities to take his picture.

Matt poses on the glacier with an annoyed expression.

We came over the top of the steep section, crossed the glacial expanse beneath the summit, and found ourselves a bivy site on some rocks not far from the summit.  At this point Matt was ready for a nap and I wanted to take some pictures, so we decided to make a summit bid in the evening.  The view of Forbidden Peak from our bivy was unreal.  The mountain looked unclimbable from this vantage - especially the west ridge which I and my meager rock climbing skills had done the year before.

Forbidden Peak and the emerald blue waters of Moraine Lake.  The west ridge of Forbidden forms the right hand skyline.


Exact same view.  It's so  good that it's worth two pictures.

I was tired of looking at Matt sleeping on the rocks.  His shorts were hiked up and his legs hideously spread.  Therefore I woke him and we started the short trip to the summit.

Matt wakes from his nap.

I still had the rope in my pack, but was still too lazy to take it out.  Once we neared the top I thought it would be best to at least put on some crampons.  Unfortunately Matt's crampons didn't fit.  The summit of Eldorado is a Himalayan-like knife edge of snow and a fall in either direction would do serious damage.  Since Matt didn't have crampons we should have at least tied into a rope, but I was still too lazy.  Matt's not afraid of much, and I figured the summit of Eldorado would be no exception.

I had wanted to do Eldorado for a long time just for spectacular summit ridge.  I wasn't let down.  We kicked over a couple of small crevasses and emerged onto the knife-edge ridge leading to the summit.  It was like walking a tight-rope of snow, especially for Matt who lacked crampons.

Matt approaches the summit walking precariously on the knife-edge snow ridge.

The views from the summit were just as stunning as the summit itself.  Eldorado sits amidst a sea of snow and ice with numerous peaks extending to the horizon as a backdrop.  Next time I'll bivy on the summit, but this time we had to head down before the snow turned too hard and dangerous for Matt's crampon-less boots. 

Me near the summit with the Dorado Needle in the background.

After carefully crossing the exposed summit ridge we made the descent to camp in only a few minutes.  We watched the light of the sun fade off Forbidden as we sat in our sleeping bags on the rocks.  Usually Matt and I never run out of conversation material, but on this night both of us felt like going to bed instead.  Expecting Alford to join us I hadn't brought a bivy sack, so I had carried one of Matt's old tarps up that he had in the Corolla.  We expected a storm so Matt tucked me in by rolling me in the tarp and placing several large rocks on top.  Luckily I was sufficiently dehydrated, because Matt had tucked me in so well that there was no option of getting up in the night to take a leak - I would have just had to wet myself.

Matt watches the sun fade on the glacier below our camp.

The storm never materialized, so we happily awoke Sunday morning and made the haul back to the car.  We scouted the possibilities of a snowboard descent and thought there was a good chance of making it from the summit to the trailhead in one shot.  We'll be back one of these springs.

- written September 2002

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