Interesting fact: I forgot my camera at home, all photos were taken on my iPhone 11.
We had spent the previous day hauling up to the 7400’ camp of Eldorado. This camp is such a long way to go that it doesn’t particularly make sense to me for anything except mini-basecamping. Our primary objective of the trip was to climb the rarely touched North Ridge of Eldorado, with the NW Ridge of Dorado needle as a warmup. Being the slightly overlay ambitious people that we are, chatting over our rehydrated meals, the East Ridge came up. “Why not!”
We tucked ourselves into our tent, it was a warm enough night for me to leave my pants off and bag zipped open. We set our alarm for a 7am alpine start. Okay fine, that’s just a regular start.
PS. If you got the heading, “Warmup++”, high five!
Beautiful, but sub-optimal
We moved pretty quickly over the Inspiration Glacier. The only sight I had ever laid eyes on this terrain had been from the distance on Forbidden Peak. As we cruised onto to the McAllister Glacier, what from afar appeared to be continuous rock ridges were actually dramatic spires rising up from the glacier. The jagged tooth-line of the towers truly made the terrain feel wild. It reminded me of the videos of people climbing those wild Antarctic spires above the sprawling glaciers. This’ll have to be the closest I get to that for now.
Getting to the base of Dorado Needle, I couldn’t help but feel our route was a little contrived. The NW Ridge was clearly the optimal route to the summit, a short moderate snow slope ending just shy of the summit, with a few pitches of rock to get to the top. Our route would start us from way below, have us climb up a few pitches of rock to a glacial patch, get back onto the rock, climb to a sub-summit, rappel off it, then climb back up to the true summit just a few feet higher. How is this optimal???
We began the climb in our boots, planning to keep them on until we had to rejoin with the McAllister Glacier. The climbing maintained itself as short-pitch after short-pitch on moderate but loose-ish lichen splattered rock. The notable cannonball hole was a lot bigger than any of us expected. Jess asked me, “Would you bivvy here?”. “Why not..? haha”
The little patch of the McAllister Glacier was relatively disconnected forcing us to do a little moat trickery to rejoin the rock. We switched to our climbing shoes knowing that the (slightly) harder climbing would be ahead of us. We had also been moving more slowly than any of us would like until now.
Moving a ton faster in our climbing shoes, we found ourselves at the top of the sub-summit pretty quickly. The day was getting late and I wondered if there was a practical descent from here. Then I remembered that bailing has more often put me in rowdy situations than actually finishing…
We rapped down the sub-summit, and shot our way up to the true summit in a few additional short pitches. The clock was ticking, thank god for the climbing shoes. We snapped a few summit selfies and angled our way towards the NW Ridge, which proved to be a bit of a down climbing effort in its own right.
After a long day of climbing, we found our ways back into our tents. I think that was a bit more of a warmup than any of us expected!!
See WHat we climbed the next day!
I mentioned to Will that Jess and I were looking at climbing the NE Face of Eldorado. His AMGA Alpine exam happened to take him pretty close to our objective, the relatively untouched North Ridge of Eldorado. Kind of a coincidence because I had just been looking at the N Ridge topo wondering if it would be a viable ascent. Turns out it was, and Will was ready to get back on it! […]