Northeast Gully 5.2

  • Currently 3.0/5

Laurel Mountain

High Sierra, California USA

Trip Report
Laurel Mountain 10/20/10
Thursday October 21, 2010 1:12am
Looking to get motivated and get some training for the upcoming ski season I decided to go for a "hike."
I picked up Peter Croft's book Good Great and Awesome. I am in Mammoth so the choice seemed perfect, 15 minutes from my door, no need for a partner, and a short approach.
After hand splitting 2 truckloads of wood with sore arm and quite tired I got a good nights rest hoping I would be at the trailhead by 9AM
To my surprise I was at the trail head a bit past 8AM, the sun was just starting to come over the ridge.

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A bit of snow was at the top of the route, but seemed it wouldnt pose too much of a problem.
Let me also tell you I haven't hiked much and haven't really ever done any climb/scramble like this before.

I passed the John Muir wilderness trail and got to a switchback that led off in what I thought was the wrong direction. So I started to head up the by the creek, I saw 2 carins but going was already starting to be a pain, so I headed up the hill some more to find the trail I had just wondered off from. Gotta look at that book again, must have misunderstood the approach description.
Shortly later I was looking up a drainage with some dirty snow, I knew I was in the right place.

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A few minutes later I was over the dirty snow patch and looking up on the first section of "climbing." Dam this looks hard, but mostly because there is a bit of running water and the rock is all wet. I got about 5 feet up and decided to turn around, "there has got to be a way around this," I headed up the loose rock and found what seemed to be a way back into the gully, but I again decided against this, looked a little sketchy. Thinking of turning around I headed up one last part and sure enough found my way into the gully with a bit of easy traversing.

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I read a few reports and saw most people wore approach shoes or their hiking shoes. I decided to bring my trail runners and my Mad Rock Frenzy (mostly climbing/approach shoes)

The first section was blocked by a chockstone and I got up right to it. There was no way these trail runner were going to work, so I switched to my climbing shoes. I was up and over the stone with a little effort. A few more little steps that looked like they were going to be quite hard from far, but once I got close they were more mellow and lots of features.

About 1.5 hours after starting the route I was right below the red rocks, and it started to sprinkle rain/sleet, I am halfway between moving and didn't really have a light rain jacket and was only wearing a hiking shirt and my Patagonia R1 Hoody. I couldn't decide if the storm in the distance was heading right for me or not. Shortly after the rain died off, but there were plenty of dark clouds in the distance.

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After the red rocks section you come to the "slabs" which last I would say about 500 feet with plenty of platforms. This was my favorite part, the rock turns from slippery to super grippy almost like sandpaper to average rock, with red veins going through. Also noticed the rock was scarred and scratched from all the falling rock, made some cool patters, it was pretty amazing and fun. By this time you are really in the gully and I couldn't see the upcoming storm.

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Above the slabs is where I started to hit a bit of snow, no problem at first, but as I climbed higher the gully had more and more snow. I decided to head to the right which I thought would be the summit. I left my climbing shoes on for a while, trying to actually climb rock, instead of through scree. Finally I put my trail runners back on, but the rock was very loose, and the soil under was wet and not supportive. I sent a lot of rock down below.

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Finally after stomping through a few patches of snow and more loose rock I arrived at what I thought was the summit, and it was the summit! with the USGS marker 5 feet away. Mt Morrison the neighboring peak was covered in clouds, and the wind was picking up. There were also a few snowflakes in the sky. I was pretty tired and didn't see a register or anything. I had some water, gatorade, and a peanut better cup and I was on my way down.

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Instead of following the rocky loose ridge I headed down the 6-12 inches of snow, as I didn't want to deal with any more loose rock. This in a way was a mistake, because I got a little confused since I dropped low onto the backside. There is a HUGE bowl below which I thought was for the descent, but I wasn't sure so I headed to the ridge, "looks too steep," then I was going to head all the way around this bowl then drop down. I got a few hundred feet and looked back, I saw the ridge continued (I thought it just dropped off.) So I headed back to the ridge. I looked at the book 2 or 3 times and couldn't figure out the topo or the picture in Croft's book.

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I got further down the ridge and pulled out the book once again, now it was all making sense. I needed to drop down the gully right now. I had a blast scree surfing down all the loose rock. At a few points I was 6 inches deep in the scree. I followed down, through some more solid rock then surfed a bit more. It dumped me out into a creek, nice and rocky.

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By this point I was tired and just wanted to get down, it was so close but I knew it was going to be work and take a while. For the next 45 minutes or so I wondered through the rocky creekbed and through shrubs, bushes, and more rocks. The last 15 minutes seemed to take forever.

Finally I was back at the trail where i proceded to pretty much run, as I was hungry, tired, and wanted to be back home.

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Trail runners
Mad Rock Frenzy climbing shoes/approach (worked really good)
Patagonia R1 Hoody
Trekking Poles (didn't use them on route, but for the descent they were crucial, especially with all the rocks and scree surfing)
2 Liters water, 1/3 liter of gatorade, and some snacks
(before/after/and at the summit I was wearing my R1 with the hood on, helmet, and beanie over the helmet and was still a bit cold)

  Trip Report Views: 3,447
About the Author
Mtbphoto is a trad and sport climber from Mammoth Lakes, Ca.

2 l l

Sport climber
Rancho Verga, CA
  Oct 21, 2010 - 03:05am PT
Let me also tell you I haven't hiked much and haven't really ever done any climb/scramble like this before.
Above and beyond the call of duty (props). I went to the summit once, via the descent route. Thanks for the post.

  Oct 21, 2010 - 09:01am PT
Good job ! I was there in the vicinity last weekend on my way to Red Slate Mountain and saw the snow up high .. figured the route was pretty much done for the season :)

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Oct 21, 2010 - 09:54am PT
Nice! Sounds like a fun workout.

Bishop and Redlands
  Oct 21, 2010 - 10:26am PT
oh yeah, great adventure!

  Oct 21, 2010 - 10:34am PT

Social climber
Sierra Madre, Ca.
  Oct 21, 2010 - 10:42am PT
Nice report. How long did it take you to summit?
J. Werlin

Social climber
Cedaredge, CO
  Oct 21, 2010 - 11:01am PT
Great report, thanks!

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, Ca
Author's Reply  Oct 21, 2010 - 11:59am PT
2 I I, your crazy, going up the descent would be scree hell, but I guess you could pick your way through some better terrain.

Otisdog, It took me about 3.5 hours to do the route itself, and about 3 hours from the summit to home in Mammoth.

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Oct 21, 2010 - 09:58pm PT
Thanks for a great tr!

Trad climber
  Oct 22, 2010 - 02:23am PT
Hey mtbphoto... from that last photo, you were definitely in the good scree gully I mentioned in beta last week. Never has scree been so much fun! Nice work getting up there in the sketchy weather.

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, Ca
Author's Reply  Oct 22, 2010 - 02:40pm PT
I saw a report somewhere of someone that skied it. I heard it wet slides a bunch and there is always rockfall danger. It would be one fun chute though.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Oct 22, 2010 - 04:01pm PT
Very cool. Thanks for the TR.

Laurel Mountain - Northeast Gully 5.2 - High Sierra, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The route as seen from Convict Lake.
Photo: Chris McNamara