Our original objective for the weekend had been Glacier Peak, but we did a little research and it sounded like the road was still washed out, requiring multiple days to rock an ascent. Since Cam was likely on the hook for daddy daycare on Sunday, we hit the road Friday night to snag a scarce few hours of sleep at the trailhead and fire Eldorado.
Our stop in Darrington to provision up with Starbucks Moca Frappuccinos could have been the smartest thing we did all weekend. We rolled into the trailhead at about midnight and set up our sleeping bags on the gravel next to the truck, then attempted to fall asleep until 2:45am. Some rest was had, but not much sleep, as a number of other parties rolled in over the next couple hours and broke the silence of our otherwise still, star-filled night.
2:45am was painful, but the cold Frappuccinos, cinnamon buns, and various other snacky items really pulled us through. We ate and slowly packed up, hitting the rough climber's trail at about 3:30am. In our sleepless stupor and with heavy, awkward skis on our backs, the section through the woods felt a bit like being a human pinball. The trail was pretty steep and let us make great upward progress. By the time we hit the snow, we'd gained around 3,000 feet of elevation from the trailhead.
With skis on, we made quick progress except for the few sections that were steep enough and icy enough that we slipped around quite a bit. Ski crampons would have been an awesome addition for sure. We ducked over the ridge at about 6,200 feet, had a quick boot pack down the far side, and then kept skinning up the long snow field until the crest and large bowl below the summt. Skinning up the long ridge to the summit wasn't too steep and things had started to loosen up a bit by then, so we ended up skinning to about 500 feet from the summit.
Right at the spot where we started to take off our skis and throw on our rope and crampons, we ran into another party of two—the only other party we saw that day. Turned out one of the guys was an old friend from Dartmouth who used to live two doors away during our Freshman year. What a small world, especially considering that he doesn't even live in Washington and that we were up near the summit around 9:00am.
The knife-edge ridge finish was much shorter than I would have expected and we quickly finished things up, enjoying the view on such a perfect day, and without a ton of wind. Our celebration was short-lived since we all wanted to get down as quickly as we could. Evidence of wet slides was everywhere on our ascent and we knew that temperatures were going to be exceptionally high.
The vast majority of our descent involved awesome skiing, never too steep and never too icy. A short skate across the basin got us to a long section of skiing down the snowfield which was fun enough that I let some whoops and hollers out, which is saying something for a guy who doesn't ski much. The short boot-pack section led us to mashed potato snow for the rest of the way out. Things were sloughing quite a bit and our knees were getting really tired, but we made it out safely and experienced the joy of removing our boots, but the pain of strapping them and our skis to our backs.
In not too long a time, we made it down the pinball section (things were a bit easier with daylight), and got back to the truck around 12:30pm. Celebratory beers with Ben and his partner were especially tasty and we were back in Seattle in no time (or at least it felt that way since I ate a ton of Ben & Jerry's and passed out. Thanks for driving, Cam!