Eldorado Peak is the "Queen of the Cascade River" according to Fred Beckey. Massively aloof, perched at the edge of the largest contiguous ice-sheet in the lower 48 states not connected to a volcano, the summit has a Himalayan-like splendor owing to its remoteness, position, and knife-edge summit ridge. The total climb encompasses a brutal 6800 vertical feet (before ups and downs) and can be made through one of two interesting approaches. The climb is not technically difficult, and a number of people que up each year to experience the thrill of stamping out a "just-wide-enough" path on the summit ridge and looking into the heart of the Klawatti-Inspiration-McAlister icecap. Views into Marble Creek, Dorado Needle, Forbidden Peak, Mt Buckner, Mt Logan, Johannesburg Mt and the other peaks of the Ptarmigan Traverse... It is an exhilerating summit experience, especially with the extreme alpine exposure.
Its the same directions as Forbidden Peak.... Access is by Cascade River Road at Marblemount, WA off of Washington Highway 20. Turn south at the strange 90 degree turn of the Highway in downtown Marblemount onto the paved road. The road will turn to dirt and keep going. Recent improvements on bridges in wash and slide areas are nice! Turn in and park at the large car-park and gate at 19 miles/2160 ft or so. This is the trailhead for the Eldorado Creek Approach to Eldorado Peak.
It can be difficult to locate the trail from the parking lot! In general, walk downstream about 300 meters from the edge of the parking lot until an obvious path to the right leads to the Cascade River. Cross as able on log or by wading (good luck). You are in the Eldorado Creek drainage basin! Locate a path heading back upstream for 0.2 miles which then turns left (steeply uphill) and starts the suffering.
At 4000ft or so, you'll find a talus field. Look for all climbing paths along the right edges oif these fields when in doubt. This field connects to a second larger field traversing up and right beneath a large and imposing granite arm (which turns into the Roush Creek - Eldorado Creek Ridge). Head up to small waterfalls at 5000ft and a steep muddy trail leads through the falls to something of an opening at 5400ft. NOTE: There is nowhere flat enough to camp between here and 7500ft!!!! Be advised.
Camp at 5400 ft or continue to suffer. COntinue up heather and rock slabs (slippery) until able to climb that same ridge around 6000ft or so. At 6150ft - where the ridge steepens - descend left into a class 3 gully (dirt and rock) 150ft into Roush Basin. The gully is marked by a large boulder just below the ridge crest. Do not descend the wrong gully - a number look promising - because they are down-slabby and nasty compared to the RIGHT one.
Once in Roush Basin, the rest is merely pain. If the glacier is in any kind of poor condition, better rope up here. Contour up and left, below and around the prominent granite cliffs for about 1500 vertical feet. Then turn the corner onto the first flat saddle since too long at 7500ft. Pitch a tent melt some water and cook some grub. You have finally arrived, 7-10 hours from the parking lot. The only worse approach in the North Cascades of which I am theoretically aware is for the Picket Range! But it must be worth it...
See the Beckey Cascade Alpine Guide Volume 2 or Selected Climbs in the Cascades from which this approach is largely plagiarized.
The SIBLEY CREEK approach is another alternative. I have not done that, and will refer the reader to the same Beckey Book, or to Selected Climbs in the Cascades, Vol. 1, by Potterfield and Nelson.
Parking permit (Northwest Forest Pass) is required at $5/day or $30/year. Wilderness permits are also required but are FREE.
I have met Rangers every time i've been in the area (3 years running) and they are always nice and always ask for your permits!
Also note that while there is "open camping" as described below on the Rousch Creek rib at 5400ft and on the Inspiration / Eldorado Glacier apron at 7500ft, these are also designated WILDERNESS ZONES and have restrictions on both the number of parties and the number of persons per party (just like Boston Basin).
Get to the Marblemount Wilderness Office (Ranger Station) ASAP to secure your permit, especially on a holiday weekend!
When To Climb
The best time for this climb is JUNE-SEPTEMBER. Early travel on the glaciers is easier, later travel means there is more rock scrambling and less snow / more exposed crevasses. Check the road conditions on Cascade River Road.
At 5400 feet above the waterfalls on rock and snow and in designated sites. At 7500 feet on the saddle of the glaciers. Or both. No fees to camp.
You can go to North Cascades NP General Info for some basic info on roads and main trails, but you're not gonna find anything good about this climb or it's approach.
Call (360) 873-4500 ext. 39
or GOTO NCNP Climbing Info
This is the official climbing site. It's entertaining i guess but not very TIMELY. No web-cams that i know of... I've never actually caught a "Climbing Ranger" in the office at Mablemount.