Peak(s):  Eagles Nest A  -  13,420 feet
Date Posted:  08/05/2022
Date Climbed:   07/28/2019
Author:  eskermo
 Eagles Nest   

Eagles Nest (13,420')
W Ridge ascent, N Ridge descent from camp at Mirror Lake
Surprise Lake TH
21.4 miles, 6,700' vert
7/27 - 7/28/19

Twice in 2018 I intended to climb Eagles Nest and Powell from Piney Lake. The first time my partner and I bailed off of the Eagles Nest-Powell ridge after a late start with weather moving in. The second time I was solo and got intimidated looking at the ridge from the top of Game Pass, so I settled on Powell only that day. However, viewing Upper Cataract basin from the top of Game Pass proved quite inspiring. At some point in my life I wanted to backpack high up in there. Fast forward to the summer of 2019, and equipped with some new, light backpacking gear, I was stoked to get up into the Gore for an overnighter and a climb of the Wilderness' namesake.

Starting late morning from the Surprise Lake TH, I filled out my wilderness permit and made quick work of the Surprise Lake Trail up to the Gore Range Trail. A light but steady shower began just before the junction, so I hunkered down in the trees at the intersection to take a longer break until the rain died out. Surprise Lake was a short distance from the turn onto the GRT and had quite a few parties camped around it. I continued up the GRT until the Upper Cataract Trail split off to the left, then followed the Upper Cataract Trail past Upper Cataract Lake until reaching Mirror Lake, about 7.5 miles in.

Just before Upper Cataract Lake. Eagles Nest blurred in background.

Lingering snow bridge at the outlet crossing below Upper Cataract Lake

Looking SW at Eagles Nest

The Upper Cataract Trail was pleasant. I hoped that since so many parties were camping at Upper Cataract Lake, it might leave Mirror Lake empty or close to it.

Waterfall and flowers along the Upper Cataract Trail

Upper Cataract Creek a little bit below the outlet of Mirror Lake

A log jam offered a stable, easy crossing just below Mirror Lake. Upon reaching the lake, I ran into a friendly party of 6 camping there for the night. I hiked uphill and away from the lake to find a good spot in the woods, set up camp, filtered water, and promptly joined the party of 6 at their campfire with the 24 oz Imperial IPA I packed in. The group of 3 guys and 3 ladies in their mid 20s were great company and I ended up spending a couple hours with them that before retreating to my tent. I want to thank those kids for playing "Thunderbird Will Do Just Fine" on their camping playlist, because it is an incredible song and got me hooked on the band Eleven Hundred Springs.

Eagles Nest from the west early the next day

In the morning I left camp following the sometimes faint Upper Cataract Trail. The trail suddenly takes a hard turn toward the pass north of Cataract Point. This is where I left the trail and began contouring further up into the basin, high above the dense willows and swampland below. Plenty of bushwhacking with occasional trail segments led to an unnamed lake high in the basin at ~11,080'. I took a long break at the lake to admire the views, filter water, and gawk at all the fish in the lake. The ridge between East Corner and NW Corner looks sweet!

Looking north into Upper Cataract Basin

PT 12,211'

"East Corner"/12,626' to PT 12,211 (the Spearhead-like sub summit of "NW Corner"/12,663')

Leaving the lake at 11,080', I took a northeasterly course up a steep, broad gully toward a notch on a flatter section of the W Ridge. Gaining the ridge at 12,000', I turned right and scrambled up the ridge.

Columbines high on the west slopes of Eagles Nest

The West Ridge of Eagles Nest from where I gained the ridge

West Ridge a little bit higher

The ridge went well with mostly class 2 and a little class 3 mixed in. There may have been a few 4th class moves, but those harder bits could have been avoided by zig zagging on ledges if one were so inclined.

The "Corners" and "Cataract Point"

The West Ridge meets up with the Eagles Nest-Powell connecting ridge just above 13,300'. From there, it's a quick jaunt over a false summit to the true summit.

Looking southwest

Looking south

Looking southeast

Cliff Lake below Dora Mountain.

Previous trip reports indicated a summit register tube lives on the north summit, but I couldn't find one on either the middle or north summits.

Looking down the North Ridge with Mirror Lake below

The North Ridge of Eagles Nest was fun and offered even more great views. Most felt class 2 and 3 with solid optional 4th if you stay ridge proper. Below the ridge was loose and kind of scary. I did a combination of skirting ridge proper and staying on the ridge. If I repeated it, I'd stay on top of the ridge for more fun and solid rock, even if the difficulty is a step up.

North Ridge and Green Mountain Reservoir

From a Notch on the N Ridge of Eagles Nest

Mirror Lake on the left on the way down the North Ridge

Upper Cataract Lake from a notch along the North Ridge

Around 12,250' I dropped off the west side of the ridge and followed a heinous series of steep, loose gullies into a thriving colony of willows, whose outlet deposited me above cliffs that required a quarter mile of zig zagging to progress 50 lateral feet. This led to more cliffs, which led to an unfamiliar section of the raging Cataract Creek forcing me to walk another half mile through complex terrain to locate a crossing. Next, I needed to cross back over due to impenetrable willows, then cross back over again because the grass on that side of the creek was way too wet and I completely drenched one shoe and sock. One final steep bushwhack through dense trees led to the trail. This is why we Gore.

Back at camp, the party of 6 had already left and done a great job cleaning up... except for the one dog shit bag partially concealed under an uprooted tree stump. Having used a wag bag earlier that day, I opened up my bag of feces, plopped the dog feces in there and zippered it shut so I wouldn't smell like Fido's crap on the 7+ mile hike out. I broke down camp, loaded the pack, filtered water one more time from Cataract Creek, and set off back down the Upper Cataract Trail. I got back to the car with just enough daylight to drive home, completing a satisfying solo weekend in the hills.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Road info
08/07/2022 09:54
How are the roads to the TH? Can a low clearance van make it back there? I always wanted to do this peak, on my Gore bucket list. If not, there is always the TH at Piney Lake and go over a pass north of Kneeknocker and climb the northslopes. Eagles Nest has always been a fascination for me since my days in Vail.

08/08/2022 11:54
Absolutely you could get a low clearance van up there, from what I remember. I recall Priuses, etc. Get after it!!

Great Report
08/22/2022 22:32
With wonderful photographs.

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