Climb Eldorado Peak via the East Ridge

Climb Eldorado Peak via the East Ridge

Rate this Adventure Cascade River Road

Distance

8 Miles

Elevation Gain

6800 Feet

Activities

Snowboarding, Camping, Photography, Skiing, Backpacking, Hiking

Skill

Advanced

Season

Year Round

Type

Out-and-Back

Forest
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

A 1-2 day climb that delivers you onto an airy knife edge summit surrounded by the jagged landscape of the North Cascades.

Standing on the knife edge summit, the terrain around you plummets steeply into glacier-filled basins that trickle into turquoise alpine lakes. Serrated snowy peaks give way to forest covered valleys below that craft a rugged landscape. Eldorado Peak delivers you atop this wild and mountainous world and leaves nothing between you and it.

Getting to the Parking Lot and Trailhead:

Upon reaching the town of Marblemount, WA turn onto Cascade River Road and continue on this road for 20 miles (at mile 10 the road turns to gravel). At mile marker 20 there is a small parking area to the right and early in the season a gate is closed that prohibits further vehicle travel up Cascade River Road. 

To reach the trailhead from the parking lot, hike left (west) down Cascade River Road for about 100-200 feet, a trail will be on the north side of the road leading towards the North Fork Cascade River. Begin hiking on the trail and you will soon come to a river crossing with a large log to use as your bridge (be sure to check trail conditions as past river floods have knocked the log bridge out and it would take a few weeks for trial maintainers to establish a new one). After crossing the river, continue on the trail and you will arrive at the trailhead sign.

The Approach:

Departing from the trailhead sign at roughly 2,100 feet, a climber's trail snakes its way up the forest and since this is not a maintained trail it can be easy in spots to lose the trail. To climber's right (east) is a ravine and the climber's path stays to the west of this ravine as it climbs upward. 

At about 4,000 feet the trail deposits you onto a boulder field (which could still be snow covered in early summer) that leads up Eldorado Basin. Continue climbing northward up the boulder field, a ridge line with a series of cliffs will be close to the left (west) of you. As you near the top of Eldorado Basin the ridge to climber's left (west) will become much smaller and will offer a couple places to scramble up and over it (one of the ridge crossings is around 6,200 feet). Once on the other side of the ridge you will enter Roush Basin and will then continue northward. 

At approximately 6,800 feet you will be on Eldorado Glacier (this will be a good time to rope up if you or others in your climbing party are not comfortable with glacier travel). At 7,500 feet Eldorado Glacier flattens out somewhat and becomes Inspiration Glacier. To the north of you the East Ridge of Eldorado Peak will now be visible. Trek over Inspiration Glacier and towards the East Ridge, near the east end of the ridge a gap will be visible.

The Climb:

Climb northward through the gap and once on top of the ridge begin climbing westward for the remaining 1,000 feet to the summit. The climb up the East Ridge is where most of the crevasse crossings occur. Cutting several switchbacks and checking snow bridges is important for safe travel through this section.

The higher you climb the thinner the East Ridge becomes, and in certain conditions it can be a very lean knife edge. An ice axe and crampons are highly recommended for this section of the climb. Once on the summit, enjoy the exposed and airy experience that Eldorado provides.

The Descent:

Descending from the summit, reverse the route that you took to the summit. In the summer, snow conditions can warm up quickly and make the crevasse crossings a little less secure. Continue reversing your route through the gap in the East Ridge. Cross Inspiration Glacier, and trek down Eldorado Glacier and into Roush Basin. Back on Roush Basin, at roughly 6,200 feet, cross eastward over the ridge and back into Eldorado Basin. Retrace your path down Eldorado Basin and back to the climber's path. From the climber's path make your way to the trailhead and the log bridge over the North Fork Cascade River.

Ski Touring:

For the winter, spring, and early summer Eldorado is a great mountain to ski tour. Be sure to check with the National Park for road closures and NWAC for avalanche conditions.

When to Climb:

Eldorado can be climbed year-round, however, weather conditions and road closures can shut down plans rapidly. Summer is your best chance to summit the mountain as the weather is most favorable in July and August. The National Park's Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount will be able to provide the best weather forecast so a quick phone call will help in planning your climb.

Camping:

There are numerous areas to camp and each provides different ways to divide up the climb. For those looking to do the climb in one long day, the parking area is spacious enough to set up a tent or you may car camp if space becomes limited. A good way to divide up the climb into two days is to establish a campsite near the top of Eldorado Basin (before crossing the ridge that leads you into Roush Basin). But Roush Basin, Eldorado Glacier, and Inspiration Glacier all provide ample space to establish a campsite. The base of the East Ridge is yet camping another option.

Permits and Regulations:

Eldorado Peak is located in the North Cascades National Park, but there is no entrance fee for the park. If you are camping in the backcountry you will need a permit that can be reserved in advance, or obtained the day of or day before. Pets are not allowed and climbing parties are restricted to no more than 12 climbers.

Useful Links:

Community Photos

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations.

Nearby Lodging

From $55/night

LOGE Leavenworth

Leavenworth, Washington

From $400/night

LOGE at The Pass Life

Snoqualmie Pass, Washington

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Distance

8 Miles

Elevation Gain

6800 Feet

Activities

Snowboarding, Camping, Photography, Skiing, Backpacking, Hiking

Skill

Advanced

Season

Year Round

Type

Out-and-Back

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