Cascades > North Cascades > Cascade Valley

Eldorado Peak

Mountaineers, Alpinist who want a good workout, skiers, and trained glacier newbies

Partly Sunny Considerable Avy Risk Trail open + blowdown June 15 Road closed on June 28 Trailhead Statuses


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8,876ft / 2,705m

7,291ft / 2203m

10mi / 18km

1-2 days

2,188ft / 667m

Mountaineering, Scrambling, Glacier travel

North America

United States

State / Province


48.537626, -121.134283

Associated Lists
Washngton Top 100, 2,000 Feet of Prominence

Easiest Route
East Ridge Glacier Climb with Class 2

Best Months
June -September

Written by
Josh Journey ยท Josh Lewis, Matt Lemke

Created / Updated
8-21-2011 / 03-08-2019

Favorites / Views
85 / 61,931 views

Eldorado Peak is Located in the North Cascades National Park and is on the Washington Top 100 list. Fred Beckey calls this peak “Queen of the Cascade River” considering that it is in the middle of a collection of beautiful peaks. 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 6,800 feet of vertical feet (not including ups and downs) and can be made through one of two interesting approaches. The climb is not technically difficult, and a number of people climb 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, Mount Buckner, Logan, Johannesburg and the other peaks of the Ptarmigan Traverse. It is an exhilarating summit experience, the ridge gives one a feeling of being out in the true alpine environment. This is a mountain that any mountaineer visiting the Pacific Northwest really should see and climb it!

Alpenglow from Sultan
Alpenglow from Sultan
Alpenglow in the Sky
Alpenglow in the Sky

I start running out the door with my heavy pack on. When you play the game of buses you either make the bus or fail the mission completely. As I pass the gate Tim yells to me “where are you going?”. “I’m going on an adventure” I announce excitedly as I run with the climbing instructions in my hand. Kinda like the Hobbit.

Lucky for me I arrived early at the bus stop. It’s not that I’m paranoid of catching the bus in time, but I’ve lost count of adventures that have failed because of the bus being early. It would often happen right in my face when I missed it. After taking a few buses I arrive in Monroe to meet Matt. Matt drove us over to the trailhead of Ingalls Creek which by this point it was night time.

Starting Out

In the morning we start the 8 mile approach up Ingalls Creek. We made good time and did it in the shaded hours. Right before Crystal Creek we went right (North) off the trail and into brushy terrain.

Looking up McClellan Peak from Ingalls Creek
Looking up McClellan Peak (Photo by Matt Lemke)
South Face of the Nightmare Needles
South Face of the Nightmare Needles


The woods were grassy with an occasional fallen over tree. As we got higher the sun came out and it became hot. As the trees faded and the slopes opened up more there was some scrambling. Passing by a creek I asked “should I fill up”. Matt replied “it shouldn’t be too long before we hit water again”. As we kept going up I ran out of water and was getting a bit dehydrated. As I became fatigued I kept thinking to myself “why didn’t I just go for the water when I saw it”. At the tarn we set up camp.


Heading up the Crystal Creek Route
Heading up through the Woods
Approaching the Upper Crystal Creek
Approaching the Upper Crystal Creek
High Point on McClellan Peak
High Point on McClellan Peak
Clouds Rising on McClellan
Clouds Rising on McClellan


The tarn near by was very dirty which concerned me. The creek appeared dried out. I knew that if I didn’t find water soon I would have to turn around. Dehydration was already making me feel dizzy and exhausted. Fortunately after a few minutes of doing up the dry creek bed we found a nice water trickle. After filling up we had lunch and got ready for climbing the South Face of Little Annapurna.

Approach Gully to the South Face
Approach Gully to the South Face

As we approached the gully I was quite pleased to be re-hydrated again. Starting out the gully had a bit of loose rock but wasn’t too bad. As we climbed I wasn’t sure where exactly the route went. Fred Beckey described the route by saying “climb up the east gully”. No surprise there. The terrain got spicier once we arrived at the cliffy section. I decided to do a class 4 variation by going right around the cliff section. Matt went right up the crack system. Once I was on top of the bypass I saw that Matt was below me. Between him and I was a class 5 move that would be sketchy to do unroped. After evaluating it he decided he wanted to be roped up to do the move. I found a solid looking bush and setup a belay.

Climbing the gully
Looking up the Gully (Matt)
Climbing the Gully
Looking up the Crack System (Matt)
The small tarn in Crystal Creek
Looking Down on our Tarn (Matt)
Matt Attempting to Free Solo
Matt Attempting to Free Solo


After Matt climbed it we proceeded on with heading up the gully. Some spots were solid and others had some loose pieces. My approach shoes had less traction than your average city shoe making me a bit nervous as the exposure got higher and the moves became more demanding. Further up the gully the rock once again became crummier which required us to stay close to each other. It looked as if we could easily top out to the top of the gully. As we traversed over to the right side the exposure increased and the terrain was becoming dicier. Once we found a small platform I carefully changed into rock shoes.

Scrambling up to the South Face
Matt Scrambling up the Gully
Josh Lewis climbing the slabs in the gully
Myself Scrambling Slabs (Matt)
Climbing exposed slabs
Myself Climbing Past a Sketchy Spot (Matt)
Matt with the Sketch Zone
Matt with the Sketch Zone

The Sketchy Spot

I didn’t like the feeling of the place, and I sure didn’t want to have to climb back down what we came up. I certainly could, but it would have been tedious and dangerous. Matt lead the sketchiest section which was a unprotectable slab with bad holds and littered with loose rock. I was honestly worried for him and was tempted to yell out “do yourself a favor and don’t climb things like this again”. I know I wasn’t about to climb it with no protection, no belay, and with a perilous fall waiting below. Matt kept having to shovel off rocks and kick in to make foot holds. According to Matt he said it was 5.6 slab. I can’t disagree with that. As he climbed on, rocks kept going by me making me even more nervous. You could tell that he was very unpleased with the slope and that it took a lot of concentration. Once Matt was on better ground he announced “that was the sketchiest climb I’ve ever done”.

Nearing the col
Nearing the Col (Matt)

Once he got to the top, a belay was set up and the rope was thrown down. I was pleased to see it didn’t get caught on the loose rock. As I walked forward I couldn’t help but think “Matt, stop knocking all those rocks down on me”. What was actually happening was that the rocks were so loose that the slightest movement of the rope made them come down. Once the rocks slowed down I could finally get onto the slab section. The moves were few but enough to get by on. I would have to stop at spots to reduce the number of peddles coming down. Once I passed the slab I went through more sandy slopes with more loose rocks filling up my shoes. We were both happy to reach the col.

The Crown of Little Annapurna
The Crown of Little Annapurna

Climbing the South Face

After taking out the rocks in my shoes we hiked/scrambled on over to the south face of Little Annapurna. Matt led the first 5.4 pitch. I led the next pitch. I was amazed at what a difference the quality of the rock was. Clean climbing that was enjoyable. Matt led the final class 3 pitch. With a little bit more scrambling we arrived onto the summit of Little Annapurna. After a big snack break we could see that it was getting late. We started the hustle down racing the sun.

The Final Climb up the South Face
The Final Climb up the South Face
The route up follows the obvious crack
Follow the Obvious Crack (Matt)
Josh Lewis leading P2
Myself Climbing the Second Pitch (Matt)
Cashmere Mountain
Cashmere Mountain (Matt)
Little Annapurna summit rocks
Little Annapurna Summit Rocks (Matt)
Looking Down towards Camp
Looking Down towards Camp
Josh Lewis on the summit
Myself on the Summit (Matt)
Little Annapurna with Wispy Clouds
Little Annapurna with Wispy Clouds


The views of the enchantment basin were lovely. Lakes, green larches, and a sunset atmosphere. After passing Crystal Lake the talus picked up again.

Matt Hiking down to Crystal Lake
Matt Hiking down to Crystal Lake
Alpenglow on the Temple
Alpenglow on the Temple


Perfection Lake with The Temple
Perfection Lake with The Temple


It probably wasn’t much more than an hour of scrambling but heading over the dark talus just kept going on and on. As we get further down Matt is now ahead and I’m finding myself surrounded by house sized boulders. Sometimes one would roll from underneath of me which I’d catch myself just in time. The holes around where getting quite big and I could help but wonder if I would be found if I fell in one. Once I arrived in the woods I became very paranoid when I saw what looked like recent bear evidence. Or was I just so out of it that I couldn’t tell what it was? Couldn’t tell you. After calling out Matt shined his light which I could finally spot where he was. I was about 10 minutes later to camp than Matt. We had some dinner and went to bed.

Heading Out

Prusik Peak and the Temple sounded like a lot of work with how tired we both were. So we both decided to call it good with what we got. On the way down we managed to miss the cairn trail and did some extra bushwhacking. After what felt like hours we arrive at the Ingalls Creek trail.

Cave near Cystal Creek
Cave near Crystal Creek

8 miles later we were both happy to make it out. When I got home I seriously considered skipping Mount Shuksan. But I didn’t want to let Excitableboy down and it’s been a goal I’ve wanted to do for many years. The next day I went out to climb Mount Shuksan. I guess I just can’t get enough.

Matt Lemke’s version of the story is Little Annapurna…The Hard Way.