Trip Report
A bit of water ice on Mt. Morrison on June 8, 2011

by BMcC
Tuesday June 14, 2011 6:08pm
Water ice was recently spotted and climbed for the first time in years in the Mendenhall Couloir (also called the Northwest Couloir, Y Couloir, and other names) on Mount Morrison. I was in luck and was able to get to it just before summer weather took its toll on the ice and snow.

Like many others, I have been impressed by views of Mt. Morrison (~12,241') when I've driven past it on 395. It just begs to be climbed, but virtually everything I have read and heard made the rock routes on its north side sound ominous ("The Eiger of the Sierra"). None of my regular partners could be talked onto it... With so many peaks and routes to climb in the Sierra, Mt. Morrison was barely on my list.

That all changed when I saw Gil's Ephemeral Spring post on Supertopo (May 29, 2011). Gil and Allen climbed the couloir on Thursday-May 26th - perhaps the first time the route had been climbed since John Dittli and Andy Selters climbed it in May 1996. (edit: since originally posting this trip report, I learned that The Chief and others also climbed it a couple times between 2000 and this year's freeze)

They had been preceded by John Mendenhall who climbed the couloir in 1931 - he called it class three. Forty years later, Yvon Chouinard, Doug Robinson, and Dennis Henneck found 200' of steep rotten rock blocking their winter access to the couloir. Mendenhall must have been quite bold and had one heck of a large avalanche cone to get past that steep rock. Impressive!

Gil's Ephemeral Spring post and ensuing thread showed the couloir to be in great condition with ice in the key lower section, apparently little rockfall, and "decently stiff snow" above the ice. After Gil and Allen, other teams jumped on it (Frank and partner, PeteC and partner, and Stewart Johnson --http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1523768/mt-morrison-couloir-june-7 ).The pics we saw and reports we read looked very promising. (edit: since originally posting this trip report, I learned that we were also preceded by Paul Teare, The Chief, and others)

Fortunately for me and partner, the weather in that part of the Sierra remained chilly with freezing temperatures overnight and cool days. Unseasonably stormy, too. Had just learned from one of my regular partners that he was ill and had to cancel out on his plans to join me, when another lad (who prefers to remain incognito) called to see if I was interested. Well.... heck, YES!

Coordinating our respective family and work schedules, and other commitments with the weather led to our finally heading over on Tuesday-June 7, so we could climb it the next day - one day shy of two weeks since Gil and Allen zipped up the route.

Now some (lots of) pictures...

Mount Morrison with its prominent north buttress (June 7, 2011)
Mount Morrison with its prominent north buttress (June 7, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Somewhat closer. The couloir in plain view. The snow leading up to the couloir, the ice, and the snow above the ice look incredibly, wonderfully steep when viewed straight-on, especially when using binoculars. Deceptive.

Mt. Morrison in the evening (June 7, 2011)
Mt. Morrison in the evening (June 7, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

We drove up to Convict Lake (~7850') to take evening pictures of Mt. Morrison, scope out the approach trail before dark, and snag a campsite before heading over to an Italian restaurant for dinner in Mammoth Lakes. The rain, which we had left farther north in the afternoon, caught us in Mammoth and then followed us back to our camp. The rain finally let up around 10pm and the skies cleared. We did not have a thermometer, but while there was no ice on the bear box at 4am on June 8, there was ice on the picnic table.

A brief stop on the approach to take some pictures. Conditions looked ...
A brief stop on the approach to take some pictures. Conditions looked good. We were excited. (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

The ice on the bottom right of the couloir appeared to start lower than the ice on the left, and it had an enticingly steep curtain of ice. The left side looked to be more of a steep snow ramp leading up to the ice. We chose the right side and the little curtain (was it 10' tall or taller?).
ICE! (June 8, 2011)
ICE! (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Getting there... (June 8, 2011)
Getting there... (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Partner setting up a belay in a protected spot below the rock buttress...
Partner setting up a belay in a protected spot below the rock buttress. (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Moving up above the curtain. The ice was soft and plastic with some snow rot and air-filled voids. Excellent ego ice (easy to climb), if dubious protection doesn't bother you. With the camera in telephoto mode, the ice looks somewhat shorter than its almost 60m.
Climbing. (photo credit: Mr. Incognito,  June 8, 2011)
Climbing. (photo credit: Mr. Incognito, June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Some fun, soft water ice interspersed with lots milky, almost-too-soft...
Some fun, soft water ice interspersed with lots milky, almost-too-soft ice. (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Onward and upward. (photo courtesy of Mr. Incognito, June 8, 2011)
Onward and upward. (photo courtesy of Mr. Incognito, June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Placing the 4th and final screw just below the end of the ice and befo...
Placing the 4th and final screw just below the end of the ice and before making the transition onto snow. (photo courtesy of Mr. Incognito, June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Looking back down. With the 70m rope, my partner was just able to stay around the protective corner of the buttress, until I moved up over the bulge at the top of the ice and onto the snow. Very impressive that, with a bit more snow, John Mendenhall had climbed this eighty years ago!
(June 8, 2011)
(June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

A pleasant belay: two TCUs in a crack, two ice tools in the snow, and ...
A pleasant belay: two TCUs in a crack, two ice tools in the snow, and a nice platform on which to stand stomped into the snow. (photo courtesy of Mr. Incognito, June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Partner above the ice. (June 8, 2011)
Partner above the ice. (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Upwards on the seemingly unending soft snow. Note: the rocks in the sn...
Upwards on the seemingly unending soft snow. Note: the rocks in the snow. Most of the rocks that came down were marble-sized or smaller. For the most part, the snow was so soft that the rocks plopped, rolled, and slid with little velocity.
Credit: BMcC

Fairly steep, although disappointingly soft. Air temp was definitely a...
Fairly steep, although disappointingly soft. Air temp was definitely above freezing. (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Of course, it was even warmer in the sun in the upper gully. (June...
Of course, it was even warmer in the sun in the upper gully. (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

The snow was feeling kinda warm, wet, and unstable, so the rope came o...
The snow was feeling kinda warm, wet, and unstable, so the rope came out for the last pitch. (photo courtesy of Mr. Incognito, June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Looking back to the belay from just below the WI3 ice step mentioned b...
Looking back to the belay from just below the WI3 ice step mentioned by those who went before us... while I was able to shove in a stubby ice screw to redirect and keep my new rope off the sharp rock, our "ice" step was mostly slushy snow.
Credit: BMcC

Time for more sunscreen. (June 8, 2011)
Time for more sunscreen. (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Stepping onto some of the geology that gives Morrison its reputation f...
Stepping onto some of the geology that gives Morrison its reputation for loose rock. (photo courtesy of Mr. Incognito, June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Following in Stewart's footsteps. (June 8, 2011)
Following in Stewart's footsteps. (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Getting down. (June 8, 2011)
Getting down. (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

More loose snow and avi debris. (June 8, 2011)
More loose snow and avi debris. (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Another look-see at the ice as we hiked by. The snow was getting softe...
Another look-see at the ice as we hiked by. The snow was getting softer and softer in the early afternoon summer sun.
Credit: BMcC

Another peek. (June 8, 2011)
Another peek. (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

John Mendenhall's 1931 route (in lean snow conditions). (June 8, 2011)
John Mendenhall's 1931 route (in lean snow conditions). (June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC


If only the whole couloir had been ice!










  Trip Report Views: 7,398
BMcC
About the Author
BMcC is a trad climber from Livermore.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
eKat

climber
  Jun 14, 2011 - 06:12pm PT
How cool is that!

TFPU!
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jun 14, 2011 - 06:16pm PT
Thanks for the great TR, and very inviting pictures. Now that real June weather is here, I guess this one needs to wait, but you've added one to my "list."

John
jfailing

Trad climber
part Texas, part Oman
  Jun 14, 2011 - 06:30pm PT
Rad! Way to get after it!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Jun 14, 2011 - 07:26pm PT
Real deal, thanks for posting. Don't some call the Morrison NF the Eiger of the Sierra? Maybe I'm botching the memory.
phylp

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Jun 14, 2011 - 09:05pm PT
That is a premium trip report. Thanks!
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
Author's Reply  Jun 14, 2011 - 11:07pm PT
Thanks, all!

We caught the route in nearly perfect condition with fun ice. The snow could have been much firmer, but, hey, I won't complain seriously - it was a great little adventure overall!

A day later would probably have been too late.

le_bruce - the Eiger appellation is noted in both RJ Secor's High Sierra and J Monynier and Claude Fiddler's Sierra Classics. My (most excellent and gracious) partner for this fun couloir climbed the North Face Direct a few years back.

mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Jun 14, 2011 - 11:47pm PT
Bump for alpine ice when everyone else is at the beach.
marv

Mountain climber
Bay Area
  Jun 14, 2011 - 11:50pm PT
Mt Morrison is a "real" mountain in the High Sierra, not to be taken lightly. Well done
Stewart Johnson

Mountain climber
lake forest
  Jun 15, 2011 - 12:05am PT
awesome! thanks for the report and a nice way for me to relive the route. great photos.
this was my fifth summit, one would think i could find the
correct descent! cheers stewart
10b4me

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Jun 15, 2011 - 12:42am PT
sounds like fun
tuolumne_tradster

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
  Jun 15, 2011 - 12:59am PT
another high quality TR Bill
flakyfoont

Trad climber
carsoncity nv
  Jun 15, 2011 - 02:22am PT
now, thats an adventure !!
russellg

Sport climber
Malibu, CA
  Jun 15, 2011 - 02:34am PT
Great trip report. I didn't catch how many days it took? Just one?
T H

Boulder climber
ne'erdowell
  Jun 15, 2011 - 02:38am PT
That middle spur going to the summit on the NW face looks amazing. Hopefully your report will lure someone onto the rock too.
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Jun 15, 2011 - 04:50am PT
Wow, cool adventure and beautiful pics made Morrison go onto the wishlist! Now if I could only remember what got bumped off the list to make room in my head for this....
Stewart Johnson

Mountain climber
lake forest
  Jun 15, 2011 - 08:56am PT
the central spur on mt morrison is 5.10 and called don julie.
jim howle on mt.morrison
jim howle on mt.morrison
Credit: Stewart Johnson
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
  Jun 15, 2011 - 10:54am PT
Fantastic!

BAd
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
Author's Reply  Jun 15, 2011 - 02:32pm PT
russellg -
it's a day hike.

We drove over from the SF Bay area last Tuesday (June 7). Climbed and drove home the next day. Convict Lake is only a couple of miles off 395. With the overcast, rainy, snow weather the Convict Lake campground (just before the lake) was uncrowded mid-week.

For Mt. Morrison, you walk around the left side of the lake and then head up. For Laurel Mountain, go around the right side of the lake. The descents are slightly more complicated.



CONDITIONs update from another partner:
"Drove past it yesterday and it was looking pretty grim up there. The upper section had dirt showing. The ice curtain looked pretty sickly too."
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
Author's Reply  Jun 15, 2011 - 02:41pm PT
Stewart -

Great pic on the Don Julie route.

After all that I have heard and read, I was pleasantly surprised to see the rock up close looking as solid as it did. Pretty clean in stretches, too.

Debris? Yep. Nasty looking stuff on ledges? Oh, yes.

Shattered, broken rock? Sure, saw lots at the end of and some high in the gully, and especially on the several hundred feet of hiking from the intersection of the gully with the shoulder of the peak.

How do YOU think the rock and routes compare to those on Temple Crag? (my experience there, so far, is limited to the Moon Goddess and Venusian Blind aretes)... and other Sierra routes?

Cheers!
Bill
rdh

climber
  Jun 15, 2011 - 03:33pm PT
A few pics from Morrison's DNB - it goes directly up the prow of the main buttress.
lower on Morrison DNB
lower on Morrison DNB
Credit: rdh
Morrison DNB, ~9th pitch
Morrison DNB, ~9th pitch
Credit: rdh
quartzite cleft, ~pitch 11 on Morrison DNB
quartzite cleft, ~pitch 11 on Morrison DNB
Credit: rdh
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
Author's Reply  Jun 15, 2011 - 03:43pm PT
RDH -

Thanks for posting the cool pics of the Direct North Buttress. While methinks there's a bit of loose rock in a couple of them, it looks like some good adventuring!

Bill
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
Author's Reply  Jun 16, 2011 - 03:43am PT
Here are two more pictures to provide some perspective as to the overall length of the couloir on Mt. Morrison... it's much longer than what one can see when looking up from the snowfield below the ice.

Telephoto shot of Mr. Incognito and me (below him) on the snow...
Telephoto shot of Mr. Incognito and me (below him) on the snowfield leading to the couloir. (photo courtesy of my bro, June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

Previous photo cropped and enlarged to better see the pair of distant ...
Previous photo cropped and enlarged to better see the pair of distant climbers. (photo courtesy of my bro, June 8, 2011)
Credit: BMcC

T H

Boulder climber
ne'erdowell
  Jun 16, 2011 - 03:55am PT
The central spur on mt morrison is 5.10 and called don julie.

Those DNB pics are crazy too. Props to all.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 19, 2011 - 08:08pm PT
Awesome TFPU! It has been A COLD SPRING!!!
Gagner

climber
Boulder
  Jun 19, 2011 - 11:18pm PT
Hey Bill -

Long time....

Thanks for posting up ... Rick, I mean Mr. Ingonito - sent me the link. Let me know if you ever make it out to CO.

WOO HOO!!!!

Paul
bergbryce

climber
East Bay, CA
  Jun 19, 2011 - 11:35pm PT
This is awesome.
TFPU.
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
Author's Reply  Jun 20, 2011 - 02:41am PT
Hey back at you Paul,

Long time? Seems like just a few years ago we talked at the Pinnacles or a few days later that you were sharing your insights on the Black Ice Couloir. Time flies.

Was in Ouray in January. Will contact you before the next time.

BTW: Your Sunkist climb, pics, and TR were outstanding! http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Sunkist-May-2011-Threading-the-Needle/t11026n.html THANKs for posting.


Bill
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
Author's Reply  Jun 20, 2011 - 03:29am PT
Thanks, all, for your comments!

As I mentioned in the TR, my partner and I felt lucky that we even learned that the route had ice and then so very lucky that the ice hung in there long enough for us to eventually make it over to the East Side to get on it.

TRs and/or posts by Gil, Frank, PeterC, and Stewart on the route and conditions were very helpful in informing us and I have no complaints about our COLD spring.

Cheers!
PellucidWombat

Mountain climber
Draperderr, Utah
  Aug 25, 2011 - 09:20pm PT
Sweet! Looks like a great route. Thanks for posting such great pics!
Captain...or Skully

climber
Boise, ID
  Aug 25, 2011 - 09:25pm PT
They are good, huh?
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Aug 25, 2011 - 09:52pm PT
Well done! One of the bigger steep-ish alpine routes in the Sierra?
NotIt

Trad climber
SF, CA
  Aug 25, 2011 - 10:31pm PT
TR bump because you climbed it on my birthday.

Also, strong work.
T H

Boulder climber
ne'erdowell
  Feb 15, 2017 - 10:38pm PT
... should be hideously phat this year.
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
  Feb 17, 2017 - 03:26am PT
Nice!
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
  Feb 17, 2017 - 09:26am PT
Missed this the first time it was around. Now That Is What I Am Talking About! I just cannot imagine a day in the high country being any more wonderful than this must have been. Ice-filled couloirs on spectacular-looking mountains - it just makes me weep with happiness.
Boffo performance, dudes.
Jody

climber
Occupied Territory
  Feb 17, 2017 - 09:31am PT
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
  Feb 17, 2017 - 03:35pm PT
Great pic, Jody.

BAd
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Feb 19, 2017 - 04:06am PT
Thanks for the bump, hope the couloir comes in! There is a good chance for sure! And ice nine may come in too.
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
  Feb 19, 2017 - 04:59am PT
Awsome TR

And a fun thread.
Some great pictures !


O!! Hey V.
Congrats on the Mugs Stump award!
Got an objective ? trip plans? Can't say? Keeping it quiet till the tr!
I hope we see at least a link.


Yu won't get this but others might;

"Bg time, Ronnie ~ Big time"
splitclimber

climber
Sonoma County
  Feb 28, 2017 - 09:54am PT
snowboarded Morrison Col on Friday and got a good look at this climb.

Ice is NOT in right now. Looked to be all rock for 50-70 feet at the base.
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
Author's Reply  Mar 2, 2017 - 08:14am PT
About 45 minutes after sunset ...

Perhaps it'll come in this spring, but it doesn't look icy, yet (3...
Perhaps it'll come in this spring, but it doesn't look icy, yet (3/1/17).
Credit: BMcC
T H

Boulder climber
ne'erdowell
  Nov 15, 2018 - 12:18am PT
c/o Frank Kelly
Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
  Nov 15, 2018 - 08:34am PT
That mountain is amazing, and it scares the sh#t out of me. Ill probably never touch foot on its flanks.
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Nov 15, 2018 - 09:01am PT
I dunno Brandon, those pics of DNB on Morrison look pretty darn sexy and not as sketchy as I expected. That little voice in the back of your head will keep whispering until you surrender to it!
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
  Nov 15, 2018 - 12:31pm PT
Great Bump! Some of that rock up there doesn't look too shabby either!
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