Eldorado Peak Ski


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

I’m in Colorado now enjoying the great snow drought of 2011. Even the Pacific Northwest is less wet than normal, but that just means more weather windows (or at least that’s what I keep telling myself). Eldorado Peak is a PNW classic ski descent. We headed up there about a week ago.

Collin skiing on Eldorado Peak

Collin skiing on Eldorado Peak

We left Thursday evening, and we’re able to easily drive all the way to the summer trailhead. The hike to timberline commenced late the next morning. I’d gotten lost here during an ill-fated one-day attempt a few years ago, so we took our time and attempted to follow the summer trail buried under a foot of snow. Thankfully there were some old footprints to follow, which made the going easy. We weren’t able to skin until we breached the trees.

Zach on the approach hike

Zach on the approach hike

We reached camp just in time to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the North Cascades. They say the views from the Eldorado area are some of the best in the Northwest, and I’d be inclined to agree. We dug out a tent platform, and agreed to wake up before dawn to head up to the summit. Short December days make for pre-dawn starts and apre-dusk finishes if you want to get anything done.

backcountry skiing moonrise

The moon rises over camp

I woke up and stumbled out of the tent, and was greeted to a red moon with a sliver of white on it’s lower edge. “Hey guys,” I said, ” I think there’s a lunar eclipse happening!”. I’d never seen one before, and it was a special sight to be greeted with as it set to the left of Eldorado Peak. The eclipse served as good motivation for leaving warm sleeping bags, and we got going around dawn.

Variable bulletproof snow made for difficult skinning, especially for Zach’s splitboard, but we eventually made it to the base of Eldorado. Clouds began moving in, but we kept heading toward the top. I had a GPS, so I wasn’t too worried about getting whited out. By the time we reached the summit clouds to the west had obscured everything more than 1500 feet below us. Only the tallest peaks poked above the vaporous ocean. I enjoyed the views immensely on the way up.

Ski mountaineering the summit ridge above the clouds

climbing the summit ridge above the clouds

Zach and Colin stoked on getting the summit.

Zach and Colin stoked on getting the summit.

The snow on the ski down was horrible, as expected. Up high was somewhat enjoyable wind-crust spiced up with patches of bulletproof ice. We entered the clouds, and the skiing and route finding became more challenging. We made camp around dark, and skied the section below camp by headlamp. It proved to be some of the most challenging skiing I’ve done in a long time, and I think Zach and Colin would agree. Horrendous breakable crust, with manky glop underneath, combined with limited visibility from a moonless night inside a cloud — all made for careful skiing. The heavy packs probably didn’t help either.

Into the clouds

As with many peaks, I’ve been wanting to head up to Eldorado for a while. Although it would have been a bit more enjoyable with good snow, it proved to be a good choice for the conditions, as the beautiful views more than made up for it.

Comments

6 Responses to “Eldorado Peak Ski”

  1. Sky December 19th, 2011 10:52 am

    Hey Louie,
    If it starts to get to you, it’s a great time to ski New Mexico. It’s snowing and blowing so much in LA today that they closed the lab. All your base are belong to us.

  2. Bryce M. December 19th, 2011 7:23 pm

    Gorgeous photography! My fingers are crossed for some long-overdue snow this weekend as well. Cool looking tent; Who makes it?

  3. Jesse December 19th, 2011 10:31 pm

    Thats a black diamond Mega-light. Great setup anytime. Great photos!

  4. Kathy December 20th, 2011 8:13 am

    nice work getting up there .. great pix !

  5. colin December 20th, 2011 4:13 pm

    great post Louie, awesome job leading us up there!

  6. Louie December 22nd, 2011 7:45 pm

    Yep, Black Diamond Megalight. It and a groundcloth pack down smaller than a football. It’s nice and light, but only really works in a storm if you have time to fortify it a bit with snow walls.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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