June 17, 2012
Laurel Mtn's NE Gully (III, 5.2) was our objective. Team Trundle, composed of Nic, Rachel, Ryan, donWolf and I, launched our assault at a leisurely 9:30 am.
After some forced detours around wet snow-covered steps lower down, living with some loose & gross rock, we soon arrived at the crux 5.2 chimney. We made short work of that, hauling 2 of the packs with the rope that I brought for ballast. Rock quality improved as we got higher.
Naturally, with there being 5 of us, we climbed the mountain by 5 different lines of attack! I chose the E Ridge to flank the summit unawares, while the others scattered back across the NE gully to knock down more rocks. donWolf took the most courageous line of all, attacking the high summit directly, suffering the worst of the loose rock. As we hadn't knocked enough rocks down on our ascent, we had a pretty good scree skiing extravaganza on the descent. Unfortunately we did suffer casualties, as Nic's shoes failed to survive the beating Laurel dished out.
Nic and I had had a long day climbing the N Buttress of Mt Goode the day prior, so before our team was ready to take on Laurel, we had to rest and prepare . . . with beer at the nearby hot springs!
Milky Way over the Sierra from the hot springs.
Night sky over the Sierra from the hot springs. The glow is light pollution from Mammoth reflecting on a cloud.
Laurel Mtn NE Gully (III, 5.2) seen from the hot springs
Climbing the NE Gully
Team Trundle, ready to start the attack.
Rachel giving me her 'bad ass climber' pose.
Cruddy start. We climbed the wall to the right to bypass the wet step. Yuck.
Team trundle at the first bypass, climbing dirty slab.
The 5.2 chimney crux. Not that bad and the rock was plenty solid.
Well, I brought a rope. Might as well use it for something. (by Rachel Doran)
Going up the slot.
More mountain canyoneering. Don't be here in a rainstorm!
Ryan at the firs small band on the slab-tastic part of the climb. The larger red band can be seen higher up. That is the routefinding crux, which is where we went wrong.
Tream Trundle on the slabulous calf burning part of the climb.
Crazy dikes. I think Laurel Mtn has worms . . .
Red rock band. We climbed the rib where the rock was surprisingly good. I even did some unnecessary jam cracks here and there. We should have gone right, towards the right slab, but all of the route info emphasizes staying left and on better rock. Oops . . .
Reaching some slab near the top of our line. We thought we would turn the corner and reach the top.
End of the chute.
Ryan and Mt Morrison. This is looking less 'gully'-like.
Somehow this didn't match the route description for the NE 'Gully'. :-)
The Wombat ‘Direct’ (aka E Ridge)
OK, I admit it. I took a seriously off-route variation. However, it seems like it might actually be a better way to go! Apart from a short cl. 4 section with loose boulders to avoid, the rest of the E Ridge was pretty nice cl. 2-3 scrambling on fairly solid rock, and I never got on anything nearly as loose as the final few hundred foot slog to the top. The E Ridge also feels a lot more airy and has better views!
We decided to take the summit by surprise. Team Trundle took a scattered approach while I flanked the summit unawares
Beginning the climb of the East Ridge. From here the others chose to traverse back to the proper chute, while I decided to keep climbing up.
Crux of the E Ridge (cl. 4) in the beginning. The crux is crossing the red band in that corner. Watch out for the large loose talus stacked in a chute above that corner!
The others are trying another line of attack . . .
Looking down the E Ridge. It is (slightly) more solid than it looks. Still more fun than talus!
Notch in the E Ridge (cl. 3). Fortunately this wasn't as hard and loose as it first appeared.
Ugly talus on the last few hundred feet of the proper route. I'm glad I'm not on that!
Red Slate Mountain.
Ritter Range and Mammoth Mtn from the summit of Laurel Mtn.
Unknown Pk to the NW.
I’ve had a lingering interest of doing the N Ridge of Mt Morrison as a winter climb sometime, so I took various ‘recon’ photos throughout the climb . . .
More Mt Morrison
Even More Mt Morrison
The Others Arrive
I slept on the summit for about an hour before I first heard Ryan coming up. Over the next hour the others gradually trickled in.
Nic and Rachel nearing the secondary summit.
Nic and Rachel on the secondary summit.
The summit is ours! (by Summit Boulder)
donWolf & Ryan chilling at the top of the scree chute on the descent.
E Ridge of Laurel Mtn. I reached the ridge near that little tower on the left, and basically followed the skyline.
My first experience scree skiing was way back in 2003 when I was descending from Carillon Col after climbing the E Ridge of Russell, so by this time I've had plenty of opportunities to ride the flow. However, none of my friends had ever experienced such fun.
As the chute steepened I told them about scree skiing and that I hoped this sandy chute would allow a little bit. It sure did! Everyone took to the technique pretty quickly and we enjoyed hundreds of feet of scree skiing.
Rachel scree skiing!
My friend Ryan had the interesting insight that we could go down in pairs by staying close together, as we would ride the same flow and therefore not be at any greater risk of knocking rocks on each other.
Red Slate Pk from the trail.
Nic got some very interesting looks from hikers on the trail as we hiked back out along the lake.
Nic and his poor shoes.
Nic and his poor shoes.
I don't get why this route is listed in ST & Croft as a great Sierra scramble. There are many that are far better, although this one was one of the more geologically interesting routes I've done and it is fun enough. I could see it being much better as a ski descent though! It is definitely one of the easiest scrambles in the Sierra in terms of approach to get to some lengthy scrambling and you can knock it off in a few hours RT if you're fit for running up slab and scree skiing. The gully probably has one of the highest climbing-to-approach/descent length ratios in the Sierra, so perhaps that accounts for the popularity?