Eldorado Peak: Eldorado Galcier/East Ridge Route

Eldorado Peak, reaching to a modest elevation of 8868', is located approximately 6 miles NW of Cascade Pass and is without a doubt one of the gems of the Cascade River area. The Eldorado Glacier/East Ridge route is by far the most popular route due to its direct approach and because it offers the least technical route to the summit. This is not to say that it is an altogether easy route. It is suggested by many that this climb be done in 2 or 3 days but it can be done in a single day. The approach will take its toll, and it may be more pleasant for most to follow the suggestion.

The journey begins at the location of the winter closure of the Cascade River Road, about 20 miles from Highway 20. From the large parking area/snow plow turn-around, locate the beginning of the "Eldorado Creek Cross Country Route" a few hundred feet before the gate. There is now a sign located 50 feet off the road that will indicate that you are going the right way. Cross the North Fork Cascade River on logs and follow the path as it ascends steeply upward along Eldorado Creek. At about 4000', the trail enters a boulder field which is far better traveled though when snow covered. I cannot say where the path goes from there because it has been hidden by deep snow both times I have been there, but basically go straight up avoiding a minor rock band on the right or better on the left (steeper and more exposed to possible avalanche problems, but more direct). At about 5500 feet Eldorado Creek basin is reached, and the objective is to reach the western rib of the basin at 6200 feet. It is easy to get distracted by the views and one could find themselves at the wrong location on the rib.

Distractions: Cascade Pass, Mix-up Peak, The Triplets, Cascade Peak and Johannesburg Mountain

Eldorado Creek Basin and Correct spot on the West Rib


Upon reaching the rib at 6200', descend a 45 degree snow gully for about 100' to the Eldorado glacier. Ascend the glacier on its east side for 1500' while enjoying still more incredible scenery until the 7500' Inspiration/Eldorado Glacier Saddle is reached. If you feel like you are still at the bottom of the mountain as you stare across the vast glacier flat at the summit of Eldorado, I assure you that you will not be the first person to have felt that way. Chris Mattson, is one of the strongest people I have climbed with, has recently become the father of a future climber named Grace. This has resulted in his getting up at 4:00 to change a diaper rather than getting up at 4:00 to spend all day hiking and climbing. Consequently, Chris decided he didn't have enough left to make a safe ascent of the East Ridge to the summit Eldorado. Not a bad decision for someone with the gifts he has. Unable to change his mind with name calling and snowball throwing, I decide a solo attempt was in order.

Eldorado and the East Ridge from the Glacier Flat

Photos can of course be very misleading, in the one above, it is difficult to get a feel for the size of the flat and the height of the summit structure. From the low point of the half mile wide flat, the summit is still 1400' above. The next photo might help put things into perspective. Sorry Chris, you had to see this coming.

Photo of the flat from c.8000'

The East Ridge is generally broad and not too steep but there are crevasses closer than one might be expecting. The crux is the final 100 to 200 feet of the summit ridge. It is steep and exposed on both sides and proceeding safely to the tippy top was proving to be very time consuming. I decided to call it a day. With my rigid definition of a "Summit", I have yet to decide if I climbed Eldorado, or if I just got close.

The Last Bit of the Knife Edge

I don't know what the meaning of life is, but I feel closer to the answer when I am on Eldorado. It is not the highest in the region, but it is one of the grandest. For those who venture to this mountain, there are great rewards at the top and below.

A Look North from the Summit ridge

Selected Climbs in the Cascades Volume I; Jim Nelson, Peter Potterfield; Pages 146-150
Cascade Alpine Guide Volume II, Second Edition; Fred Beckey; Pages 284-287