Emma arriving at camp!
Ema, (who organized the trip) arriving at camp after ascending the east side of the El Dorado Glacier!

El Dorado Peak, 8,868'

July 13/14 2002 Trip Report in the North Cascades


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The trailhead is 19.9 miles up the Cascade River Road from Marblemount, elevation 2,160’. There is a large parking area with an outhouse good for car camping the night before, but we met at the Marblemount Ranger Station. Amazingly, everyone arrived on time. Always, a good omen!

Our strong party, organized by Ema Nemes, included Scott Johnson, Nate Riensche, Ursula Holzer, Wolfgang Bethge, Deborah Swan, Murray Kahn, Andrew Grausstein, Jen Gregory, Doerte Mahanay, and Mike Mahanay.

The Climber’s Trail starts 300’ down the road. We crossed the raging Cascade River on a huge tree. Later in the summer, climbers can just ford the river. The trail goes over, under, and around a bunch of downed trees, and then starts a relentless ascent through wonderful old growth until it gets to 4,000’ and talus.

The talus continues for 1,000’. The route is cairn marked and moves from the center, to the right, then to a trail on the left before it ends at a waterfall. The talus is great fun, but challenging with our heavy packs.

From the waterfall we were soon above the trees at 5,400’ and enjoying great views of Johannesburg Mountain and Cascade Pass. Late in the season this area is rock slabs and fields of heather, but we found it still deep in snow. One descending party was camped here. Andrew placed a wand to mark the route back into the trees.

Up the snow we continued to 6,150’ and a steep dividing ridge between El Dorado Creek and Roush Creek Basin. There was some flowing water just below the ridge so we filled up our water bottles. On the ridge a Class 3 gully, free of snow, descends the ridge to the Roush Creek Basin. The Basin was still filled with plenty of snow, and it was hard to tell where the Eldorado Glacier began. Late in the season the route climbs talus, slabs, and moraine to the Glacier.

Properly equipped for Glacier travel, we ascended steep snow slopes of 20-30 degrees, staying far enough away from the ridge to avoid being in the path of any cornices of debris that might come down. We passed quickly through one small debris field. Naturally, we were very attentive since it was afternoon. Between afternoon and midnight is the most dangerous time for debris coming down.

Everybody smile!  

"Everybody smile!"

Andrew, Jen, Nate, Scott, and Murray.

On the Knife Edge of El Dorado!
It is barely wide enough to walk on, dropping steeply off both sides!


Photo from Wolfgang and Ursula.

We topped out on the Eldorado Glacier at 7,500’ and a huge camping area, big enough for the entire Washington Alpine Club! Luckily we were just a small party of 11. We set up camp, rested, melted snow, and admired a close-up view of El Dorado high above. Soon a Mountaineers’ party became our neighbors. Mike found some running water from melting snow near the top of the rock ridge where we could conveniently fill our water bottles without melting snow. Camp was filled with good cheer and great food. The sound of "Ursula, the ramen is ready" was often heard.

An hour before sunset we watched a cold black cloud move in fast from the North and then another. The temperature dropped 30 degrees, and visibility was reduced to 100 yards. Snow walls were quickly built to protect the tents from the wind. The wind blew most of the night, it rained some, and it stayed foggy. It is really hard to sleep with the tent flapping and having to worry about the weather!

With the sunrise, the fog lifted and Andrew gave the wakeup call. Although cold, the morning was spectacular! El Dorado was pink and then red in the morning alpenglow.

One by one our teams led off across the Inspiration Glacier to El Dorado’s East Ridge, 7,800’. We found the knife-edge perfectly "in season" and one by one, led by Doerte, ascended to the summit. The Mountaineers were very polite, waiting for us to ascend before they could descend.

Our group on the Eldorado summit! The team on
the summit!
Left to right: Nate,
Jen, Ema, Deborah, Wolfgang.
Mike is taking
the photo.

We watched thin clouds swirl around us like a lace curtain, and then admired views of the Skagit River Basin, Mount Baker, 10,778’, and Shuksan, 9,127’, massive Glacier Peak, 10,541’, Boston Basin with Forbidden, 8,815’, Boston, 8,894’, and Sahale, 8,680’, and the big 9,000’ers of Buckner, 9,080’, Goode, 9,200’, and Logan 9,087’ to the east. Even Mount Rainier was out! We enjoyed a sea of summits and glaciers in all directions. Our camp far below was just a few tiny specks.

Our camp from Eldorado summit on the Inspiration Glacier! Wow! The five specks on the left is the WAC camp on the Inspiration Glacier! The Mountaineers tents are the three to the right.

El Dorado, called by Becky the "Queen of the Cascade River" is one of the great mountains of the North Cascades. Fred says the name came from the El Dorado mining claim. The big mountain was first climbed on August 27, 1933 from Hidden Lake Pass by Donald Blair, Norval Grigg, Arthur Wilson, and Art Winder.

We carefully made our way back across the knife edge, and descended the Inspiration Glacier back to camp, and out.

The climb was 10 miles round trip and 6,708’ elevation gain over two days. Ema did a fantastic job planning and organizing the climb, evoking interest, putting together a strong team, and attending to all the details. The team stats were 27.5% vegatarian, and 37.5% European.

The East Ridge from Eldorado Camp and group! Back at camp after returning from the summit!

With the East Ridge behind, left to right: Mike, Scott, Doerte, Jen, Wolfgang, Deborah, Ursula, Nate, Andrew, Murray, and Ema!

More photos from Wolfgang and Ursula are at:


For another version of the same trip go to:



This website is a photographic and descriptive resource of routes and climbs, not a hiking guide. By using this site the viewer releases the creator from any and all liability. Hiking/climbing is a potentially dangerous activity and requires proper equipment, skill, experience, preparedness and awareness at all times.

All contents of all pages   copyright 1997 - 2002  by Mike Mahanay, All Rights Reserved

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