Ascent of Bloody Mountain on 2016-04-08

Climber: Scott Larson

Date:Friday, April 8, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Bloody Mountain
    Elevation:12552 ft / 3825 m

Ascent Trip Report

Bloody Mountain April 8, 2016

The night before, I was able to drive about half a mile up Laurel Lakes Road before frozen snowfields hampered my progress. I slept in and awoke to a warm, partly cloudy day. As I was packing my bag, a snowboarder walking up the road passed by with the intent to ride some of the thin, low angle chutes close by. I told him I was heading to Bloody Couloir and he changed his plan to go with me. Great - having a partner in extreme backcountry terrain is always preferred over going solo. He continued up while I was still getting ready. After ten minutes, I rushed to catch up - needlessly draining my energy reserves. He didn't have crampons or an ice axe, and after about a mile further up the road, when he saw the full couloir come into view, he wisely turned around and bailed on me. I continued onward, taking about 2.5 hours to hike the 4 miles to the gate at the road's end, which is conveniently at the base of the couloir around 10500 ft (3200 m). The rocky dirt road was mostly snow free until the last mile or so, and then it was patchy. I skinned what I could, but had to pop in and out of my bindings a few times.

The Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center warned of potential wet slides due to solar radiation, but the couloir doesn't see as much sun as surrounding slopes, and my observations showed a stable spring snowpack. I felt safe to attempt a solo send.

It was a warm day, and the snow was late-season, clumpy, sticky, mashed potatoes. I made a silly decision to don crampons, and had to stop every 5-10 steps to knock out the balled up snow. For some reason, I stayed committed to my stupid decision and slowly booted all the way up the chute, which felt never ending. I could have and should have skinned. But why stop for 5 minutes to transition from crampons to skis, when I can enjoy the clumpy sufferfest? The couloir gets steeper as one ascends, but it didn't really seem that steep - likely the forgiving snow conditions were boosting my confidence. I thought I would be intimidated by the 40+ degree slope, but after doing the 45 degree "final 400" on Whitney's north face two weeks prior, this seemed like cake in comparison. The corniced snowbanks off the side of the couloir were much steeper; I'm gonna have to drop into those on the next trip.

After three grueling hours, I made the summit at 12558 ft (3828 m). The east summit is the true summit, though on the way up, the west summit looks like the high point. The west summit also feeds the steeper right section of the couloir. Worried that the right section, now in the shade, would harden up, I stayed on the wider left side.

Grey clouds were starting to roll in, but remained high, creating a dramatic sky over clear views of the neighboring peaks. I ate some snacks and took a short snooze before ripping my skins. This was way more tiresome than I expected. But I did just gain almost 5000 vertical feet.

Let's get to what we came here for: sending the gnar! I clicked into my skis, tightened up my pack's sternum strap and waistbelt, and made a few turns down the moderate summit slope to the breakover, assessing the skiability of the snow. I meant to wax my skis before this trip, and now I wished I would've. Standing atop the breakover, looking down the chute, the excitement was building. I snapped a quick photo and then silently dropped in. The soft snow made the descent easy, and the turns were phenomenal. I should've got some footy for the boys, but didn't have a mount for the GoPro. The mild slopes at the bottom of the run were like your uncle at a pool party: sunbaked and grabby, but still pretty dang fun. I took a peek into a little miner shack that would make a great bivy site if one wanted to spend a couple days slaying the various runs in the area. I thought about going to explore the old mining tunnels where a rotting ladder was precariously resting, but dismissed the idea of booting back up the mush.

At the gate at the top of the road, I began the patchy descent. It wasn't until I got to the switchbacks on the road did I realize I could've skied the brushy snow along Laurel Creek. Critical thinking was shot from the tiring ascent, and I simply went down the same way I went up. The second big bonehead decision of the day. I guess I like flipping those motivational cliches around: work harder, not smarter. I can justify it by declaring it's good training, right?

Two hours of hiking down the road and I was back at the adventure mobile. I saw fresh tire tracks in the snowpatch where I turned around. Big tires. Apparently a truck or jeep came up and turned around in the exact same spot I did. They could've definitely chugged further up the road; I guess they weren't ready to send it today.

The weather had finally rolled in as I popped in to Mammoth Lakes for a pizza. I flicked the wipers on and headed over to the June Lake Loop to stake out my accommodations for the night: the luxurious Forester Suite at the Subaru Inn, in the quiet parking lot of Silver Lake.

0911 - Start
1138 - Base of couloir
1437 - Summit!
1518 - Depart summit
1532 - Base of couloir
1730 - Finish
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Skis, Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Route:Road to Bloody Couloir
Descent Statistics

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