Northeast Gully 5.2

  • Currently 3.0/5

Laurel Mountain

High Sierra, California USA

Trip Report
Team Trundle Tackles the NE Gully of Laurel Mtn
Friday July 20, 2012 1:17pm
Laurel Mtn from Convict Lake. 3,500' to climb!
Laurel Mtn from Convict Lake. 3,500' to climb!
Credit: PellucidWombat

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.

Nighttime Prep

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!

Summit Views

Red Slate Mountain.

Ritter Range and Mammoth Mtn from the summit of Laurel Mtn.

Bloody Mountain

Unknown Pk to the NW.

Mt Baldwin.

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 . . .

Mt Morrison

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.

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?

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About the Author
PellucidWombat is a mountain climber from Berkeley, CA.

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Trad climber
San Jose, CA
  Jul 20, 2012 - 01:20pm PT
Lol I love the pull harder salutes. Cool looking mountain!

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Jul 20, 2012 - 01:40pm PT
Climbed this with Fletcher way back in 2003. Lots of loose rock. We were off route also, and ended up to the right of the summit.

Trad climber
Tunneling out of prison
  Jul 20, 2012 - 02:08pm PT
Climbed this route this year, lots of snow in gully, got forced off route multiple times. I think I will go back in late season and try to do the actual route, LOL.


Social climber
Lida Junction
  Jul 20, 2012 - 02:23pm PT
Actually think it would be better as a snow climb

Trad climber
Valles Marineris
  Jul 20, 2012 - 02:37pm PT
That looks fun.
Some Random Guy

  Jul 20, 2012 - 02:54pm PT
good to know it's not as loose as it looks. hopefully get up there soon.

i've done the north ridge of mt. morrison, it is as loose as it looks pretty much all the way up....scree skiing uphill?!?! i'd still recommend it though as a non-technical scramble (if you like that sort of thing). i might repeat one day
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Missing photo ID#256016
photo not found
Missing photo ID#256017

Mountain climber
Draperderr, Utah
Author's Reply  Jul 20, 2012 - 03:09pm PT
It looks like it is still a bit better than the rock on Mt Rainier's Curtis Ridge (TR in the works). While loose rock sucks, it can be nice on ridges since you get that satisfying experience of ripping/knocking a path along the route without the guilt/worry of pelting someone below. Just take care to see how the jenga is stacked before you go stomping and pulling!

Does that ridge ever collect much snow to cover the scree? Or is it usually blown off or melted out in the winter? It seems like a nice one to do as a solo trip or just a side trip while on the E Side for ice climbing or as a car-to-car fall back option if weather turns bad for a longer winter alpine objective.

Nevahbe Ridge on Mt Morgan (North) is a fun one on the area too. There is some loose or friable rock but it's not too bad, and you can keep it sustained 4th to low 5th if you stay right on the crest but you can usually drop down a short ways to make it cl. 2-3 if desired. It was a bit iffy to be hand traversing on a knife edge and feel the rock fin vibrate in your hands though, as if it were about to fracture . . .

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Jul 20, 2012 - 03:28pm PT
Nevahbe Ridge on Mt Morgan (North) is a fun one on the area too. There is some loose or friable rock

someone I was with knocked a rock loose, and almost clocked me on that route.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 20, 2012 - 03:31pm PT
Looks like some fun choss!

Mountain climber
Draperderr, Utah
Author's Reply  Jul 20, 2012 - 03:54pm PT
Speaking of friable rock, does it could as hold chipping if you make new footholds out of the rock by stomping off the outer bits and grinding your shoes on it to wear a protrusion down to a stable feature? ;-)

There is some friable rock in the Morrison area that seems like cement in appearance and texture, and it is very easy to shape in this way.
Some Random Guy

  Jul 20, 2012 - 03:54pm PT
this was spring of 2011, high snow year. my guess is that it remains fairly clear all winter(?). the south and east side decent was all deep snow. when i become a better ice climber, and if i can muster up the balls, the death couloir would make for a terrifying day outing. i think the upper portion iced up more later season and i read online somewhere of someone soloing it!
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Nevahbe Ridge on Mt Morgan (North)-can that easily be banged out as a c2c solo?

Mountain climber
Draperderr, Utah
Author's Reply  Jul 20, 2012 - 04:17pm PT
That Death Couloir definitely looks like a nice climb if you can catch it in condition!

Nevahbe Ridge on Mt Morgan (North)-can that easily be banged out as a c2c solo?

Plenty easily if you're fit for peakbagging-type elevation gains and slogs. It is somewhere between 5,000 ft to 6,000 ft of gain, pretty much ascending and traversing the entire time. It has a lot of short sections of cl. 3-4 but most of it can be kept to cl. 2 if you wanted to (but why?). We moved continuously but not fast and managed to pound it out in 3/4 day as a warmup for a longer climbing weekend. We made it faster by dropping down sand & scree slopes to Davis Lake to the East and taking a trail/dirt road back. This is much faster than taking the standard ascent route down.

Picasa Album

The only thing I didn't care for on the route is that the summit plateau is a tedious pile of boulders and is much longer than it looks.

This was the highlight of the ridge, and the climbing crux. Other parts were harder but completely contrived for fun. To avoid this knife edge you have to go out of your way and drop down a hundred feet or so, but still not too much. This was the part with the vibrating rock fin hand traverse.

Mt Morgan North & Nevahbe Ridge from Hwy 395

Mt Morgan North & Nevahbe Ridge seen from the drive in

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Jul 20, 2012 - 04:02pm PT
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Missing photo ID#256021

we went up the loose chute, and then left to the summit.

Nevhabe ridge can be done C2C in a day.
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  Jul 20, 2012 - 04:16pm PT
Some Random Guy

  Jul 20, 2012 - 04:23pm PT
There is some friable rock in the Morrison area that seems like cement in appearance and texture, and it is very easy to shape in this way.

well as i remember, on the loose shale parts you could pull out loose rock on top and the stuff underneath was the same. you could keep digging and it didn't get anymore solid. there was one (or maybe two) short sections half way up where the rock type changed and it was of better quality. i remember reaching that part and thinking, finally! and then a few hundred feet later it was back to petrified mud wrestling.

thanx for the info and good tr's. very detailed. keep 'em coming

edit: who needs guide books when you have the wombat

Mountain climber
Draperderr, Utah
Author's Reply  Jul 20, 2012 - 04:31pm PT

Trad climber
  Jul 20, 2012 - 05:56pm PT
looks like fun!

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jul 20, 2012 - 09:00pm PT
lOOKS great!
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Laurel Mountain - Northeast Gully 5.2 - High Sierra, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The route as seen from Convict Lake.
Photo: Chris McNamara