Inspiration-McAllister-Klawatti Ice Cap Traverse

This glacier excursion offers several summits to tag along the way, including Klawatti, Austera, and Primus, stunning views, and peace an quite in the remote North Cascades.

getting there

From I-5 just north of Mount Vernon, drive east on SR-20 (North Cascades Highway) to Marblemount. At Marblemount, turn right onto Cascade River Road and follow it to a large parking area on the right at about Mile 20 (2,100 ft). 


From the parking area backtrack downstream about 90 feet down the road (look for possible flagging), looking for a clump of three trees crossing the river, or one large log. Cross river and walk about 100 feet perpendicular to the river until running into a climber's trail.

Go right (east) upstream on trail. Proceed up and slightly right in open timber following climbers' trail. Stay to right (east) of large windfall and traverse up so that Eldorado Creek is within earshot. After about 1,500 ft gain, talus slopes are reached. Ascend talus (cairns and flags) (do not cross Eldorado Creek) with large cliffs on the left. Go up in center of talus field to break in cliffs with climbers trail to upper boulder field.

Ascend up and right (east), picking up segments of fair-to-good way trails into large basin at about 5,500-5,800 ft. Move up onto ridge on left. Look for a gully to drop down into Roush Creek Basin (best spot found north along ridge).  Rope up in Roush Creek Basin, and proceed up snowfields and Eldorado Glacier just left (west) of rocky ridge. Follow this to broad flat area of Inspiration Glacier at about 7,500 ft. Traverse Inspiration Glacier around to north to the base of the East Ridge of Eldorado.  From here make a traverse along the Inspiration Glacier to Klawatti col, contouring at about 7,800 ft.  Good campsites are found here.

Ascent Route

From Klawatti col continue east on the McAllister glacier and traverse under Klawatti to a small notch at the base of Klawatti's north ridge.  From here downclimb (early season) or rappel onto the Klawatti glacier.  Traverse below the rocky summit  (Point 8200) and continue upwards towards Austera Peak.  Ascend snow to rock and scramble to the ridge just to climber's right of the summit.  Scramble carefully towards the false summit (loose Class 3).  From  here either ascend the chockstone gully (low 5th class) or scramble to the right (exposed Class 3-4) to the notch between the summit and false summit.  Climb upwards a few feet to the true summit (low 5th class).

Optionally, after climbing Austera continue on to Primus Peak, or return to camp and climb Klawatti.

Descent Route

Retrace the climbing route.

Trip Profile

Segment Time (hr) Elevation Gain (ft)
Trailhead to Klawatti Col 7-9 5600
Klawatti Col to Klawatti 2-3 600
Klawatti to Camp 1.5 -600
Klawatti Col to Austera 2 530
Austera to Primus 4 -1500, +1500
Primus to Austera 3 -1600, +1600
Austera to Klawatti Col 1.5 -530
Klawatti Col to Trailhead 5-6 -5600


Standard glacier travel gear and a small alpine rack.

information for LEADERS


This traverse occasionally includes climbing Eldorado, if you are climbing Eldorado as part of the traverse please check Eldorado Peak/Inspiration Glacier route/place listing to ensure another group is not climbing Eldorado on the same day.

  • Suitable Activities: Climbing
  • Climbing Category: Intermediate Alpine
  • Seasons: May, June, July, August
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Intermediate Mountaineering Climb
  • Length: 15.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 6,000 ft
  • 8,334 ft
  • USGS Eldorado Peak
  • USGS Forbidden Peak
  • USGS Cascade Pass
  • USGS Sonny Boy Lakes
  • Trails Illustrated North Cascades National Park
Trip Reports

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  • Klawatti/S Face and Eldorado Peak/Inspiration Glacier

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