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North Cascades 2009

Following an earlier email in which I mentioned Pico de Orizaba, Mexico, I was in touch with a friend in the States. Dale is an avid mountain climber and, as luck would have it, he and his friend Steve had been planning a private climb in Washington State for some time. Their Guide, Craig Van Hoy, is based just outside of Seattle, and the three of them have climbed together numerous times in the past – including ascents of Orizaba. So this was a training climb of sorts, "a good introduction" I recall Dale writing - and that it was!

The night before we left from Seattle though, I was having second thoughts. The approach to Eldorado, I discovered, goes "straight up" from the road (8868ft) and the last stretch to the summit is a "knife-edge" of snow. As the guidebook put it: "Newcomers to the range may find this approach unreasonable if not brutal". At breakfast I suggested that it might be best if I let the three of them do their thing, I could spend a more "cultural" weekend visiting art galleries in Seattle. They quickly reassured that my inexperience wouldn't jeopardize the climb and happily, though still not entirely convinced, I was persuaded to stay the course. As it turned out, it wasn’t the ice ridge that was the challenge – although a precipitous 600ft drop off one side was rather unnerving – but the steep approach, in heat wave temperatures.



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