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Trip Report    

Dorado Needle/Northwest Ridge

May 14-18, 2015—Day 1=5,180’ gain, approximately 9 hours. Left parking lot with heavy packs, weights ranging from 55 to 72 pounds and carrying skis. We were able to start skinning approximately 200’ above the waterfall. The 6100’ notch had a lower option we checked, but a moat and down-sloping rock made it look treacherous so we opted to down climb through the normal notch which was filled with steep snow. The moat at the bottom, forced us onto the rock to continue down climbing to snow. We set up camp at 7,380’.
Day 2=approximately 1,500’ gain. Skinned around the east ridge of Eldorado on the Inspiration Glacier. Camp was set up at the Klawatti Col. We traversed around the south side of Klawatti to the first snow that gained us the easiest access to the SW ridge. The first bit of rock was low 5th class then easy, but loose 3-4 class scrambling. The final 100’ was steep snow. We rappelled on the snow to bypass one particularly loose section of rock, and the final descent back onto the snow. Gear: ice axe, crampons, helmet, harness, rope.
Day 3=4,380’ gain. 14 hours. Awoke to dark clouds and strong winds. We had planned to do Dorado Needle, but instead decided to do Primus and Austera. Skinned to col on north side of Klawatti where we easily down-climbed steep snow to the Klawatti glacier. We traversed to 7850’ at the base of Austera Towers where we skied down to 6,800’ where we could get around the towers. This was the most hazardous area of our trip. Steep, loose snow with poor run out. We skinned up along the north side of the towers and on the North Klawatti Glacier. We dropped some of our pack contents on an exposed rock and continued up snow to the summit of Primus where we aired our feet out and enjoyed a long lunch and warm sunshine. The ski down Klawatti was enjoyable. We retraced our tracks and continued up towards Austera. From the top of the snow we traversed leftward onto a rock ridge that connected to the main summit block. We used a handline to descend a short steep rock section and traversed to the steep snow filled gulley. 3 pieces of rock pro and a picket were set for a short pitch to the summit (exiting left from the snow gulley). A handline brought everyone up and we rappelled down. Gear: #1, #2, mid-sized nut, 1 picket, ice axe, crampons, harness, rope, helmet, sacrificed cordelette and rap ring. Descended and traversed back to camp arriving in the dark.
Day 4=1,200’ gain. Traversed north out of camp onto the McAllister Glacier. And carefully descended on skis/skins to 7,600’ staying closed to the north side of the Tempeh Towers. Ascended to the north side of Dorado Needle. There was a steep snow finger that went up to the rock. There were no moat issue. We ascended the rock 30 feet around the corner from the top of the snow (low class 5) to gain the NW ridge. The first anchor and handline was set up at the NE end of rock edge that was just clear of snow by 1-2 feet, making travel very easy. From the anchor, we continued up a loose snow finger with exposed rock to either side to the bottom of the au cheval. A second handline was established to the summit. The last person down climbed on belay, cleaning the route. A short rappel brought us back to the steep snow finger and our packs. Gear: 5-6 small/medium nuts, .2 micro cam, #2 & #1 cam, red tricam, sacrificed cordelette/rap ring, ice axe, one 50m; one 60m ropes, crampons, harness. Skied down to 7600’ before skinning back up to camp. What an amazing day!! This was also Curt’s Intermediate graduation climb!
Day 5=Skinned over to east ridge of Eldorado then skied down to the notch. Three of us ascended the lower area—required a tight belay over slimy/down sloping rock and over deep moat. This should be avoided. Two went up the normal notch on rock and then steep snow. We skied as far as we could before changing back into boots and making the slow, painful journey back down the boulder field and climbers trail to the cars.