Dorado Needle – Northwest Ridge (II 5.3)

John and I climbed Eldorado Peak’s East Ridge and Dorado Needle’s NW Ridge on June 15-16, 2019.

Me, nearing the summit of Eldorado Peak. Photo: John
John nearing the summit of Eldorado Peak.


After an invigorating (~6000′ vertical) approach to high camp, we dropped off our overnight gear and did a lap on Eldorado’s classic East Ridge.  This route is perhaps the best non-technical snow route that I’ve done – the views of the North Cascades are incredible from start to finish and the knife-edge ridge that finishes the route is a cool feature.  Once we returned to camp, we took a nap, had dinner and went to bed early.

Classy camp site. Photo: John

On Sunday, we woke up at first light and got moving soon after.  We slogged across the Inspiration Glacier, passed through the Tepeh Towers and dropped onto the McAllister glacier, which flows off of the flanks of Dorado Needle and several other named peaks.

Forbidden Peak at sunrise, as viewed from inside our tent.

It was a brutally warm day and I’ve heard of a couple of “exciting” stories from adventures on the McAllister.  Relentless sun was beating down and the snow was getting slushy already.  I realized that if we climbed our intended route, the Southwest Buttress, we would be descending the glacier in mid-late afternoon.  Snow bridge stability could be compromised even more by that time and there were signs of recent wet loose avalanche activity.  Opting to be conservative (and get home much earlier!), we changed objectives to the standard route on Dorado Needle, the NW Ridge.  This route consists of only three pitches of easy (5.3) ridge climbing.

Descending onto the McAllister Glacier from the Inspiration. Photo: John
Dorado Needle (left) and the McAllister Glacier.

The McAllister Had some large crevasses opening on the right, but we were able to take a nice, direct line up the left hand side which avoided one very large crevasse. Once at the base of the route, I tailed a rope behind me up the steep snow that accesses the climb and belayed John up.  We both removed our crampons and clipped them to the fixed anchor to retrieve on our descent.  John took the lead on the next pitch.

John leading the first rock pitch.

The climbing was easy from here and we kept our mountaineering boots on rather than wearing the rock shoes we had painstakingly carried up 7000 vertical feet of approach.  A few pitches of easy climbing on somewhat loose rock brought us to the summit.

Keeping my boots dry as I traverse the ridge. Photo: John
John mantling onto the summit of Dorado Needle.  Mt Baker is the big peak on the left.

A very annoying descent back down our ascent route brought us back to the McAllister glacier.  There are a lot of cracks, flakes and loose rocks on this peak that want to take your rope! All that was left was a two hour hike back to camp, four hours of descent through rough terrain to the cars, and a six hour drive home.  Worth it.

A rainbow cloud presenting some nice alignment above an unknown peak.
Whiteout conditions (almost) on the descent to the car. Photo: John


Strategy Notes

Carry a light pack, but bring plenty of calories! Don’t start from the car in your heavy mountaineering boots – wear light shoes until you hit snow line.

Gear Notes

Experienced climbers will need no gear aside from crampons and axe on the East Ridge of Eldorado.  The NW Ridge of Dorado Needle has a lot of fixed anchors and many rock horns to sling – consider bringing a handful of double length (or longer) slings for rock horns and a small set of rock gear.  A 60m rope is the minimum you would want for this descent, if rappelling.

2 thoughts on “Dorado Needle – Northwest Ridge (II 5.3)

  1. Any chance you found a #1 C4 there? On our rap a few weeks ago, one of the anchor blocks at the last station trundled. Thankfully the other sling held, but it injured my partner and core shot our rope in three places on one side. Didn’t feel like pushing our luck so we backed it up with the #1.


    1. Hi, we did find your cam and sketchy sling anchor. you were only about 5 feet higher and 10 feet to the left of the well-established normal anchor! Your cam was chewed to shreds by some animal, I think my partner tossed it.


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