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Trip Report    

Basic Glacier Climb - Eldorado Peak/Inspiration Glacier

A spring season attempt at Eldorado, with conditions that made the outing challenging.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Cascade River - high flow

    Climber trail in woods - snow free

    Boulder field - snow free until 4400’ then soft, unsupportable snow begins

Another climber contacted me several weeks ago about mentoring her for glacier leads, and we had decided to climb Bacon and Canadian Bacon via the winter route. Unfortunately, the hot weather dictated that the winter route was no longer in and we decided a few days prior to the trip to change our objective to Eldorado.  

We parked at the closure on Cascade River road and began our walk to the Eldorado Trailhead at 8:00am on Wednesday 5/17. The two miles of road walking went quickly and we found ourselves at the TH trying to find a crossing. After a week of high temperatures, the Cascade River has posed some difficulties for potential climbers. We checked the standard crossing, however water was swift and too deep for our party to feel we could make it safely across. Absolutely a no fall situation. Our team split into two, searching upstream and downstream, being thwarted repeatedly. Occasionally we would find a log that would get us to an island, but there were no continuous crossings without getting into the swiftly moving water. After several failed attempts to cross, one member spotted an area downstream from the trailhead where the river had many braids. We went to assess and all members agreed to try to cross at this location. To cross, we had to get into the river next to a tree. Using the tree as a handrail we were able to cross through mid-thigh to hip deep water. In hindsight I would not recommend this crossing and because of this I am not sharing the location of our crossing. Total time to cross the river was approximately 2 hours. 

Onto the climb! 

We quickly found the trail and began the hike up to the boulder field. The hiking on trail was smooth sailing and fully melted out. The lower boulder field was also melted out. The boulder step was wet and slick so I set up a handline for the rest of the team members. After this we continued up through the boulders and climber trail (to the right of the boulders) until we reached snowline at approximately 4400’. This dramatically slowed our progress as the snow was not supportable and we were postholing on snow in the boulder field. It took us a lot of time to gain elevation through this section, slowing our pace to average 500 feet of gain per hour. When we hit 4800’ we decided it was in our best interest to turn around. At the rate our team was moving, and the fatigue of some of the members, we admitted that it would take us too long to climb the peak within the timeline we had planned.  

We got back to the Cascade River at approximately 8:00pm and had enough daylight to suss out the river crossing again. Unfortunately the river rose significantly since the morning and we were unable to cross, which was a concern I had after the original crossing. We camped in the woods next to the river with the intention of a 5:00am wake up to investigate river crossings.  

At first light we encountered a friendly, and very tall guide that had just forded the river, but stated that the water was thigh to hip deep and very swift.  We spent some time determining the safety of crossing, however with many shorter individuals in our group (me included), we didn’t feel that getting back into the river was a safe option. We proceeded to bushwhack downstream, investigating 3 more options before finding a suitable crossing that included thick devils club, a marsh, a logjam and then walking across a fallen old growth tree. We celebrated being back on Cascade River road and rapidly walked back to the cars.  

Even though this trip went exactly the opposite as expected, I wanted to share this report so that others are aware of the conditions. Until the snow has fully melted from the upper boulder field, others should expect some extra time for navigating that area. It would also be beneficial for people to check the flow data of the river in Marblemount to have an idea of local river flow information. I also would like to reiterate that swiftly flowing river water is easy to underestimate, incredibly hazardous and accidents in this setting are catastrophic. In hindsight I am very unhappy with our group’s decision to cross the river the first morning and if I could do it again I would have turned around and gone home.