Cook County High Point Trip Report
Date: February 18, 2001
Author: Edward Earl
Being a state HP, Eagle Mountain is already well-reported. However, I will report on it here because of
the unusual (i.e. midwinter) conditions of the climb.
I wanted at least one night of cold camping to be in the backcountry, without direct access to my car, and I
planned to do that here. I arrived at the Eagle Mountain trailhead late in the afternoon and, after packing
my overnight backpack, struck out on the trail at 5:30 PM, just as the sun was setting. The trail appears
to be maintained (perhaps shoveled) throughout the winter. I made rapid progress in the gathering
twilight through small forested hills, deadfall, and occasional swamps laid across with wooden planks
(buried under snow, but still evident).
About 1 mile in, I reached a clear area with a frozen lake on each side, and I decided to find a place to
make camp here. When I walked off the trail (which was in a plank-laid swampy area) in search of a site,
I sank into the powdery snow even though I had strapped on my snowshoes. Movement was a great effort,
and eventually I took one step in which I sank in to my hip, snowshoes and all. Because I was in an
awkward position, I couldn't climb out right away. A short time later I felt my plastic mountaineering
boots filling up with ice-cold water. After some desperate heaving and thrashing, I was finally able to
climb out and return to the trail. I had assumed that a swamp in northern MN would be frozen solid in
February and that this would make camping and cross-country travel easier, but this is not to be the case.
In any event, I skedaddled out of the swamp and made camp a few minutes farther up at a flat clearing in
the forest next to the trail. Fortunately my wet foot was not too much of a problem; it warmed up fairly
quickly and I dutifully thawed and dried the gaiter, boot, and liner overnight inside my sleeping bag with
my body heat.
The next day was uneventful. Before I knew it I arrived at Whale Lake, the final landmark before the trail
heads 400' up the east ridge of Eagle Mountain itself. The summit plaque was completely buried under
snow, but it gave itself away by the way a snowdrift was piled. I dug it out and cleared the ice off.