Climbing Conditions - Eldorado Area

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McAllister to Dorado Needle 9-19-22
McAllister Glacier approach to Dorado Needle, taken from Tepeh Towers

NPS/T. Denison

September 20, 2022
It feels like fall (and snow) is just around the corner in the high mountains. There are many small crevasses that must be crossed or travelled around just to get to camp at the base of the E Ridge; use caution and remember that these will be hidden after the first significant snowfall. There is still running water near camp but it may be frozen and unusable in the early morning.

The E Ridge route has its usual late-season bergschrund and smaller cracks that can be bypassed by gaining the talus on climber's left.

Access to the Tepeh Towers col and Dorado Needle are still possible but require end-running crevasses and crossing snow bridges that may not last much longer if sunny warm weather continues. Approaching or descending from the NW Ridge in particular involves crossing snowbridges that should be carefully assessed.

Again we remind all climbers to either use the toilet at camp or pack out human waste. It is unacceptable to leave poop on the snow surface anywhere.

Lastly, it is unfortunate that many car break-ins continue to happen at trailheads. Climbers should try their best to leave nothing behind in their vehicles for thieves to see.
 
Early Morning spire and the descent col to the right
Early Morning Spire with the descent to the right. Photo taken on 8/10/2022
August 10, 2022
Eldorado
The East Ridge can still be climbed purely on snow with some careful routefinding, but this will not last much longer. Going on talus for a short while is starting to become the easier option. The bivy area has many camp spots melted out with some running water tucked amongst the rocks.

Please be sure to bring blue bags with you, even if you plan to camp at the lower bivies. Rangers had to pick up 7 seperate piles of human waste and toilet paper. These do not disappear when you bury them in the glacier, they simply melt out. With how many users we have to our alpine areas, folks should be carrying out their waste if it's not going in a toilet to help keep it clean and pristine.

Dorado Needle
The bivy sites at Dorado Col have melted out. The East ridge is fee of snow and the NW face snow ascent option is almost gone. Expect to climb mostly on rock shortly. Inspiration and McAllister glacier have some cracks starting to open up on the traverse to Dorado needle, they are easy to navigate through.

Early Morning Spire
The snow patch on the route appears so be gone. The descent col has snow most of the way up, though you might have a tricky moat to navigate around when you rap from the top of the col.

 
7-20-22 Eldorado Ridge
Looking up on the East Ridge

NPS/J.Shields

July 20, 2022
Eldorado - East Ridge
Accessing the climber’s route from the parking area, parties still have been either crossing downed trees downstream from the culvert or fording the water. This river crossing has been a challenge for several parties with water levels still high, especially in the afternoon. Consistent snow travel starts above the boulder field and just below the meadow (~5300ft elevation). The East Ridge climbing route is still full snow travel with crevasses growing as we experience warmer temperatures.
The Eldorado East Ridge camp bivy sites (~7600ft elevation) are mostly free from snow now. The backcountry toilet located just below the bivy sites is melted out and useable. There are currently multiple low-flowing water sources around the bivy sites, but we found some of them were not flowing in the morning. As a reminder – if you are permitted for the Inspiration XC Zone, please continue to that area. The East Ridge bivy sites and the surrounding area are only for those with a permit for the Eldorado XC Zone.
 
7-20-22 Brun and Dorado Needle
Ranger Brun approaching Dorado Needle

NPS/J.Shields

Dorado Needle
The approach from Eldorado XC zone to Dorado Needle is straight-forward snow travel with some crevasses opening up. There are a couple snow-free bivy sites at the bottom of the East Ridge variation – these sites do have exposure to potential rock fall. The Northwest Ridge “1st pitch” is still steep snow climbing, but is quickly melting out with a large bergschrund forming. The remainder of the climb is snow free.
 
7/3/22 Eldorado
Looking up the East Ridge of Eldorado

NPS/J.Shields

July 3, 2022
Eldorado Peak
The Cascade River remains higher than average for early July, making the initial crossing a bit challenging. Climbing groups have been using a variety of log crossings, or wading across depending on the river level. Rain events, as well as warm weather have influenced the amount of snowmelt from one day to the next as well as from morning to evening. We recommend scouting your crossing in the daylight prior to your trip if you plan on leaving the parking lot before sunrise.
Snowline has risen significantly in the last week since summer brought in warm temperatures. Consistent snow begins at 5200’, but patches of snow remain in the boulderfield down to 4900’. Above 5200’, there is a considerable amount of snow, although we are beginning to see more moats open up, glide cracks, and melting around rocky outcroppings and cliffbands.
 
7/2/22 Eldorado Summit
Eldorado summit via the East Ridge

NPS/J.Shields

The bivy sites below the East Ridge are beginning to melt out, although you should expect to camp on snow with limited exceptions. We found running water near the bivy sites in the afternoon, but cold overnight temperatures slow the flow or cut it off completely for the morning. The composting toilet is currently buried under snow, so bluebags are a must for people planning on camping in this area.
The East Ridge route above the bivy sites is still entirely snow covered, but this will change quickly with sunny days and warmer temps. Some smaller rocks are showing through the snow in a few places, and some cracks are appearing as spring finally turns into summer. Most of the popular rock climbing routes in the Eldorado area still have significant amounts of snow lingering, requiring more mixed climbing techniques than pure rock climbing. This includes but is not limited to the rock routes on the Dorado Needle and the Eggplant.
 
6-11 Eldorado
Cascade River Crossing at start of Eldorado Climbing Trail

NPS/K.Vollinger

June 11, 2022
Eldorado Conditions:
Cascade River has fluctuated drastically recently with the melting snow and heavy rain events. Today there was water flowing over the standard log crossing at the crux of the crossing (see picture below). Rangers explored a couple other options to cross the river both down and upstream, however none them were ideal with the high water and would involve significant bushwacking and navigation to return to the climbers' trail. Plan your exit and entrances to Eldorado accordingly, watching for significant rain or warming events.
Snow levels at Eldorado were roughly at 4,000 feet in the last week. The bottom half of the boulder field has melted out and the upper half was still covered with snow.
We are above average snow depth for this time of year in the mountains. Climbers and skiers should still take care to watch out for cornices, wet loose avalanches, and rock fall which is exceptionally active this time of year as things melt out.
 

June 5, 2022
Climbing Conditions
There are only 2 weeks until the Summer Solstice, but the mountains may not have gotten the memo just yet. With a wet, cold, snowy April and May continuing into the first week of June, the snowpack in Washington is well above average for this time of year. Snotel averages show anywhere from 150% to nearly 350% of normal for June 4, depending on what part of Washington you are looking at. In much of North Cascades National Park, snowline is still below 4000’, even on south facing aspects. Many roads are blocked by snow below the trailheads and impassable to vehicles.

Keep in mind that “above average snowpack” can be misleading if just looking at a percentage. Thunder basin snotel site, for example, is well above average for this date (currently 1500%), and the site currently has 20” of snow on the ground. Easy Pass is also above average at 130% snowpack but is recording 130” or over 10 feet.

This amount of snow may sound great to some people and not as great to others. For skiers and riders, it is great to be able to utilize the flotation provided by backcountry gear. For climbers, it might mean more challenging approaches, snow on route, and lots of post-holing. Consider bringing snowshoes depending on the objective. For overnight visitors it might mean melting snow for water if the creeks are still far below the surface of the snow.

One thing that backcountry rangers have noticed in recent weeks is that the snow is wet and heavy and not freezing overnight. This seems to be true at fairly high elevations, and for different areas including Rainy Pass, Cascade Pass, and Hannegan Pass. The slushy conditions have made for slow travel, at times adding about 25-50% extra time if not more. This has been true for skiers and riders, and especially true for climbers without any flotation.

Along with snow considerations, the amount of snowmelt and rain have increased the flows in the rivers, and this could continue for weeks to come as the weather warms up. Even small creeks might not be crossable at some flows, and the timeline for high flows might look different this year than in years prior.

It is important to look into current conditions and plan your trip based on what you might encounter this year rather than assuming that it will be similar to what you saw last year at the same time. This includes many considerations, from travel times if the road is still impassable due to snow, to travel speed on snow versus on a trail, and whether or not a creek will be crossable. It might also include planning for a colder environment if you will be camping on snow, requiring more warm layers and more fuel if you are melting snow for water. Remember, plan accordingly in order to have a fun and safe trip.

 
08-01-21 Eldorado East Ridge
East Ridge of Eldorado at ~8200ft, large continuous crevasses opening

J.Shields/NPS

August 1, 2021
Eldorado - East Ridge
The North Fork Cascade River crossing to Eldorado’s climbing trail is challenging if there is recent rain. The logs used for crossing can have water washing over them and the river can increase in flow/size for fording.
Large continuous crevasses are growing on the east ridge route up Eldorado, pushing the route onto the rocks at approximately 8200ft. From here, the route either goes directly up to the summit staying on the rocks or diverts back onto the glacier at approximately 8500ft. Some parties reported staying on the climbers’ left side rocks for almost the entire ascent. The upper summit ridge is rounding out with large bucket steps. As a reminder, both the approach and east ridge route does involve travelling on glacier - make sure to use proper glacier equipment and travelling techniques.
The toilet on the east ridge is still useable and located just below the bivy sites on the east ridge. There is running water at the bivy sites on the way to the toilet but it can be muddied by people walking above.
 
Eldo_from_Forbidden
Current Conditions of the Eldorado, Inspiration and Klawatti XC Zones from Forbidden Peak.

B.Ducay/NPS

July 21, 2021
Eldorado Conditions
To cross the river and reach Eldorado's climbing trail from the parking area, you can either piece together downed trees downstream from the culvert or ford the water where convenient. Once on the trail, head past the kiosk, try to stay on the trail through a section of downed trees and avoid anything that does not look well used. The rest of the trail is in good condition. Snow line begins at approximately 6,000 feet but is not continuous until you reach the far side of Hammered Ridge. Snow conditions up high on the plateau are typical for this time of year.

Crevasses are growing on the east ridge route up Eldorado, but a solid path remains. The upper summit ridge is relatively wide with secure footing. The North Ridge of Eldorado can provide a fun alternative route to the summit consisting of lower 5th class terrain on good rock.

The east ridge bivy sites are melted out and the toilet is ready for use. If you are permitted for the Inspiration XC zone, please continue to that area as the east ridge bivies are only for those with a permit for the Eldorado XC Zone.

 
June 28, 2021
Eldorado Approach
Multiple parties have been turned back in the last two days by the immediate crossing of North Fork Cascade River, which is flowing very high and strong. Remember that any watercourse will flow more strongly later in the day, especially during these hot temperatures.
 
posthole1
A North Cascades Ranger wallows up a short section of soft snow on Eldorado

A.Brun/NPS

June 22, 2021
Eldorado Conditions
Unfortunately, the Cascade River Road remains closed at the park boundary. A section of the road was destroyed this winter but is currently undergoing maintenance. Expect to park at the gate and walk an extra 2 miles up road to the Eldorado Trailhead. Once at the road washout, look for some large tree trunks cabled together. Currently, this is the easiest place to cross the river. Once across the main section of the river, continue on a faint trail to find another downed log to cross a smaller braid of the river. This should lead you to the main climber’s trail. Large sections of avalanche debris can obstruct the trail at times but there are worn paths that lead though if you are attentive. Further up, snow is scattered throughout the boulder field and becomes continuous at approximately 5000ft. Beware of fragile snow bridges and moats through this area.

There is still a lot of snow up high and unseasonably warm temperatures have made for difficult and potentially dangerous travel conditions. Loose snow avalanches were noted on numerous aspects and are common on warm afternoons when the snow loses cohesion. A red flag for loose snow avalanche potential includes boot penetration into the snow under body weight. This is exactly what we experienced with continuous post-holing and slow travel.

Eldorado East Ridge Camp (7600ft) still has plenty of snow but bivy sites are melting out fast. The backcountry toilet located in the lower rock section has been uncovered for use this season. Please bring blue bags to carry out human waste any time you’re above treeline in the case that you cannot reach the toilet in time.

 
Mountain climbers walking on glacier with mountains in the background
Climbers traveling across Inspiration Glacier to the east ridge high camp.  Photo W.Hsieh
September 13, 2020
Eldorado Conditions
Eldorado glacier remains mellow, but care should be taken at the lower part where climbers need to cross thin snow bridges and slippery rocks. Many crevasses are opening on the flat area of Inspiration glacier before reaching the high camp. Large moats are present along the east ridge and crevasses are easy to spot. Climbers could opt to descend on rock with easy scrambling (class 3 or 4) almost all the way back to camp. There are spots with small moats where climbers can transition back to snow to avoid a section of steep loose rock. The high camp is clean, and the composting toilet is in good shape – please help us maintain a clean camp and pack everything out! Running water from snow melt is available at the high camp below bivy sites.
 
ElDorado's Knife Edge
A ranger climbs Eldorado's knife edge. Photo W.Tarantino/NPS
August 9, 2020
ElDorado Conditions
The Eldorado approach trail is melted out to Eldorado Creek Basin, with only patches of snow until it crosses over into Roush Creek Basin at the base of the Eldorado Glacier. The Eldorado Glacier is still very mellow up to the bivy sites, but a few moats are forming in the rocks down low and a couple small cracks are beginning to open up in the flats. The East Ridge route is in great shape with only one easy bergschrund problem and a bomber boot-pack all the way up the knife ridge.

The Eldorado area is becoming very popular and this route has been getting A LOT of use. Remember that all parties camping within the National Park need a backcountry permit! Eldorado Cross-Country Zone permits are the only valid permit for the bivy sites at the East Ridge. The toilet at the bivy site is in good shape, but be prepared with blue bags in case you need to pack it out. Bears are entering the high country and the mice are hungry, please bring an approved food storage container!
 
Looking across the Inspiration Glacier towards Klawatti Peak from the north side of Eldorado
Klawatti Peak rises above the well-named Inspiration Glacier, photo taken from the North side of Eldorado Peak

W. Tarantino/NPS

June 24, 2020
Eldorado and Klawatti Icecap Conditions
Like the North Cascades alpine terrain in general, Eldorado and the Klawatti Icecap region are still in early season conditions. The Cascade River log crossing at the start of the Eldorado approach, is the first challenge climbers face when attempting to access this area. The river and its braids are swollen with water from snowmelt and recent rains, so fording is not recommended. There is a large, crossable log-jam downstream of the parking area, 20-30 meters past the culvert, look for the small cairn marking the use-path. Once across these initial logs follow a faint path upstream to a second log crossing and follow the now well-worn path further upstream to the old approach trail and sign. The trail is in standard condition and easy to follow up to the boulder field. Snow is currently encountered about 2/3s of the way up the boulder field (~5000ft), and becomes consistent as the trail traverses East out of the boulders (~5400ft). Use caution negotiating weakening snow-bridges over the creeks in this area. The upper mountain glaciers have ample snow coverage, with few noticeable crevasses outside of the lower icefall areas. Take caution that the North Cascades alpine is still undergoing a melt-freeze cycle during this time, and conditions have yet to stabilize, expect deep unconsolidated snow and challenging walking conditions until there is another hard freeze or the late-season snow melts out.

 
Eldorado Peak from the summit of Dorado Needle
Eldorado Peak, viewed from the summit of Dorado Needle.

W. Tarantino/NPS

Small wet slab and large point release avalanches were also noted on the steeper slopes throughout the area, including many small human-triggered releases. Most common times for natural wet avalanches are during sunny afternoons/evenings or periods of warm rainy weather. Eldorado high camp (7600ft) still has deep snow in places, but a few bivy sites have melted out and the backcountry toilet has been dug out and is available for use. Whether staying at the East Ridge bivy sites or not, make sure to bring blue bags to carry out human waste above tree line!
 
August 25, 2019
Eldorado Conditions
The approach route is in normal condition. Look for the cairn on Cascade River Road for the most manageable creek crossing. Cross the creek on downed logs. Parties have reported bear sightings close to the boulder field. Please refrain from camping in Eldorado Basin and Hammered Ridge to preserve alpine vegetation. Follow cairns to drop into Roush Creek Basinand up to the toe of the Eldorado glacier. The lower Eldorado glacier is becoming more crevassed and is currently in its late season stage. Parties have been roping up for the approach to the East ridge bivy sites. At the East ridge bivy sites please store food properly as there have been increased rodent issues. The composting toilet is in great shape.
 
July 10, 2019
Eldorado / Inspiration Glacier / Austera Peak / Klawatti Glacier
Approach to Eldorado is in standard condition with patchy snow starting just below the ridge between Eldorado Creek and Rouse Creek Basins. Toilet at Eldorado is in good working condition. Please only TP and feces in the toilet. Many parties are going up the Eldorado glacier and East Ridge of Eldorado without any issues. Traversing the Klawatti Glacier and Inspiration Glacier to Austera Peak is in more or less typical condition for this time of year.
 
June 15, 2019
Starting from El Dorado trailhead, river can be forded about 15-20 feet from original log crossing. Use caution while fording! Crossing might be safer than "log jam" crossing down river. Ford is below knee height.

The toilet at the bivy site is melted out, please do not put trash in composting toilet.
 
Ridge Between El Dorado and Boston Basin
Ridge between El Dorado and Boston Basin in early September.
D Veenhuizen
From June 1 to November 15, Interagency Grizzly Bear Commitee approved food canisters are required for camping below the vegetation line in Boston Basin , El Dorado , and Sulphide Glacier cross-country zones.

For old climbing conditions blog posts, check out the links below.

Last updated: September 20, 2022

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