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Laurel Mountain
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East Rib - North T 
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Mendenhall Couloir T 

Mendenhall Couloir 

YDS: 4th French: 1 Ewbanks: 2 UIAA: I ZA: 2 British: M 1b

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 3000', Grade III
Consensus:  YDS: Easy 5th French: 1+ Ewbanks: 3 UIAA: I ZA: 5 British: M 1c [details]
FA: John Mendenhall, James Van Patten, 9/7/1930
Page Views: 3,110
Submitted By: Tavis Ricksecker on Dec 1, 2007

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (27)
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How do we get down to the hot tubs? Tavis contempl...


This is the huge gully on the east face of Laurel Mountain, easily visible from the hot tubs down in Long Valley. The route starts at the Convict Lake parking area. Take the lake trail around the north side of the lake. At the far end of the lake there is a junction, stay straight (right) as the lake trail drops down to the left. After half a mile or so, the trail crosses an old creekbed. You can see it leading up to the gully above to your right. Follow the creekbed to the gully, and proceed up the gully. Depending on season the bottom of the gully may or may not be full of snow. I had to bypass the snow and ice by climbing choss on the gully's right side. Eventually, I was able to come down to the bottom of the gully again. The rock in the bottom of the gully is quite good, blue limestone, very unusual for the sierras. The climbing comes in steps... 20 feet of steep (though always easy) rock, then flat for a while, then another rock step. After a while, the gully steepens but stays easy. It winds to the left and then back to the right again, shooting straight for the summit to the right of a very steep buttress. Eventually the gully opens out onto the scree slopes that lead to the summit proper. Whew! Descebd to the north, then down snow and scree slopes to the east, eventually picking up a faint trail through the brush that leads south back down to Convict Lake. Now buy yourself a beer and go soak in the hot tubs!


None needed. You could bring a rope but there's no pro anyway.

Photos of Mendenhall Couloir Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Wide angle view looking down the Mendenhall Couloi...
Wide angle view looking down the Mendenhall Couloi...
Rock Climbing Photo:  Georgeous view from Convict Lake.
Georgeous view from Convict Lake.
Rock Climbing Photo: Scrambling up Laurel Mountain.  Photo by Dale Apga...
Scrambling up Laurel Mountain. Photo by Dale Apga...
Rock Climbing Photo: This is at 11,300 feet in the Northwest Gully on L...
This is at 11,300 feet in the Northwest Gully on L...
Rock Climbing Photo: Ryan at around 10,100 feet on Laurel's Northeast G...
Ryan at around 10,100 feet on Laurel's Northeast G...
Rock Climbing Photo: Up the technical crux, may 2 low 5th moves, but pa...
BETA PHOTO: Up the technical crux, may 2 low 5th moves, but pa...
Rock Climbing Photo: Ryan low on the Northeast Gully of Laurel
BETA PHOTO: Ryan low on the Northeast Gully of Laurel
Rock Climbing Photo: The gray limestone has the best friction.
The gray limestone has the best friction.
Rock Climbing Photo: Things start to get loose at 11,100 feet. This is ...
BETA PHOTO: Things start to get loose at 11,100 feet. This is ...
Rock Climbing Photo: From the bottom head up this first chute (deep and...
BETA PHOTO: From the bottom head up this first chute (deep and...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down at Ryan in the talus from about fifty...
BETA PHOTO: Looking down at Ryan in the talus from about fifty...

Comments on Mendenhall Couloir Add Comment
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By Preston Rhea
From: Mammoth Lakes
Mar 20, 2013
rating: 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b

This is also a great climb to be done in winter. It consists of almost all snow climbing with a couple sections of exposed rock and thin ice depending on the snowfall that year. I found it to be easily solo-able at 4th class moderate snow. A trip report (not by me) can be found here.
By tom donnelly
Aug 12, 2013
rating: 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b

Best done with no rope.
The summer descent circles around the first bowl on the NE side.
If you go direct down the first bowl at 10700 it's nasty & loose in summer.
Circle around until approx 9800 feet before going down into bowl & brush.
By kenr
Aug 14, 2013
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c R

Joined three very experienced Bishop climbers to do it today (with no rope). Some of us were thinking this is about the longest stretch of reasonably good easy rock in the Sierra.

At least two of us felt there was at least one 5.4 move. Most of the hard moves are near the bottom, but then there's one more like 3/4 the way up. The most recent guidebook rates this route 5.2

The harder moves mostly have slabby feet, so I recommend wearing shoes with sticky climbing rubber. I did it in my approach shoes with climbing rubber, but I sort of wished I'd had my climbing shoes for a little more precision on small slopy spots on the upper crux.

I thought the rock was generally good, except rather loose scrambling on the reddish rock near the top, and in a few short sections along the way. Also I found near the bottom when I went outside the narrow gully, then things were pretty breakable. Also lots of other places with little heaps of rocks on ledges, easily avoided by careful climbers. On the other hand, on this route I would not climb anywhere under another party whose competence and carefulness I did not know.

Rope? I think that some people capable of climbing this route (mostly 3rd class) would want the protection of a rope belay for some sections. But the leader better be someone comfortable soloing it.

Descent: Lots of people think descending toward the North, then down East is pretty steep and un-fun; and very experienced climbers and guidebook writers recommend other descents. But we did the N then E descent, so I can't comment on the other options. I mostly liked the N then E option: because I'm good at "skiing" down steep scree, and I brought my light hiking poles to help me keep my balance while "skiing" it - (gaiters also recommended). The instructions in the SuperTopo guidebook were very helpful. Near the bottom I found a short section of 4th class down-climbing on rock. And there was a section of moderate bushwhacking at the bottom, but I got through it just fine without wearing long pants. Climbers who are not sure they have knees and ankles of steel should investigate the other descent options (one source I know is the SuperTopo guidebook).

name? I think "Mendenhall couloir" is more the skier's name for this route. In the two climbing guidebooks I own it's called the "NorthEast gully". It's not really a couloir except in the bottom section, and it shares that section with another (easier) route called the "NorthEast trough" (which one guidebook says is fairly good).
By kenr
Aug 14, 2013
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c R

Navigation ...
To my surprise yesterday on Laurel Mt, the tracks I had put onto my GPS turned out to be rather useful (and accurate) for doing both the climb and the descent.
The tracks I followed are linked from this page .

Some detailed directions for my descent as I remember it ...
. (these are for the steepest most difficult "N then E" option) .

From the summit of Laurel Mt, follow a vague track roughly N about 500 meters distance down to around altitude 3390 meters. Then trend NE for about 600m down to around altitude 3150m, passing by the lowest last mini-peak of the rocky NNE ridge of Laurel Mt. To be careful, it makes sense to get up on top of that point and have a look around. Facing down toward the SW end of Convict Lake, see a scary-looking gully on your right, a wide bowl to your left, and a steep scree gully straight below aimed roughly at the end of the lake.

I think the theory here is that the scary-looking gully is a really bad idea, and that the wide bowl looks inviting and is likely less steep, but it has lots more bushes, while the straight-down gully has mostly scree/dirt/gravel instead of bushes. Myself, I can get down steep scree (by sort of "skiing" it) faster and easier than lots of bushes, so I chose the straight center option.

That gully started down E (later curved SE). At first that went well, but much lower down the gully narrowed and it was mostly a choice of rocks (or bushes) instead of scree/dirt/gravel. For about 20ft I encountered a pure rock slope, felt to me like I needed to do some Class 4 moves. Then close to the bottom I felt forced into the bushes, which slowed me down. But I think much less of that than if I'd taken the wide bowl. Then I hit the main hiking trail.
By timmaly
Aug 9, 2014

Climbed this over 4th of July and it was fun! Lot's of vertical, easy climbing/scrambling, and awesome views...and no crowds (we saw one person on the route besides us). Agree with KenR - it's the 'NE Gully' in the SuperTopo and has a handful of low 5th-class moves near the beginning. We brought a rope and very light rack used both but simul-climbed in approach shoes. Near the top where the gully is less obvious and the rock quality deteriorates, we stayed right on solid rock (rather than following the gully up steep scree), for a long 3rd/4th class ridge that brought us directly to the summit. We descended the N ridge. On the descent, aim for the red pyramid on the ridge line and don't drop down until you are at the far edge of it. You can't see it from the summit, but it is very obvious from the base/lake so scout it out before you start. It's a big landmark so not sure why ST doesn't call it out in their descent beta. Heed their advice not to drop down the scary looking chutes (too early) or the obvious cirque on the left (too late). The descent was long and loose/sandy but fairly direct and we found it to be all 2nd-3rd class. Overall a great outing!
By Chris D
From: the couch
Sep 13, 2015
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c

Some observations from yesterday's climb of this gem:

First, this thing is not nearly as complicated as reading about it makes it seem. The start is impossible to miss. From there, there's really only one "critical" choice, and that is to make that right turn at the first fork that Supertopo calls out. Above this turn, you will trend left, yes, but don't just keep trending left blindly;

follow the main gully.

The "main" gully is obvious, and if you're not near smooth, clean white rock, or glassy-polished red rock, you're not in the main gully. It's that simple, at least for the first ~3,000 feet of the route, over which you should never have to step on anything too loose, if you choose your path judiciously. At 11,000 ft, about 700 feet below the summit, you start to get into looser stuff that careless climbers are likely to knock loose.

Do not climb below others if avoidable, but if you go under another party anyway, wear a helmet. We had a few people above us, and there were a couple of shooting gallery moments where sizable rocks buzzed past us like bullets. I pride myself on my care and caution, and I still managed at around 11,500' to send a 60-pound pumpkin of a rock down the gully toward my partner (and anyone who may have been beneath him), so watch yourself. Let parties above you get far enough above you that any real big stuff they dislodge has a chance to explode into smaller rocks before it gets to you.

Once the gully widens so much that there's no longer a gully but a sea of boulders and talus(11,400 ft), just go up toward the highest visible point on the horizon (this is the true summit), trying to stay on the largest rocks, and moving over talus from one island of bedrock to another. Pretty soon you'll be at the summit, and if you've really gone straight up, you'll pop out right at the summit register, as we did.

Descend by dropping west about 15 feet to a TRAIL that switchbacks down and north/northeast. You'll feel like the trail is leading you too low, but it's not. This trail will peter out, then you contour skier's right, back to the north ridge where it's safe to travel along the ridge again (above, it is steep, large, and loose). Once you join the ridge, you simply follow the ridge down until it gets pretty heavily vegetated (3-foot bushes and occasional pine trees) right after the brown rock gives way to white rock and rubble. Here you either drop skier's right (the supertopo north ridge descent) or drop left to a meadow and follow that to a saddle that drops down a trail over a vegetated slope. We left the ridge at 10,000 ft. The latter descent is a pleasant hike that has nothing more than 2nd class terrain.

An outstanding route in a spectacular setting on a beautiful mountain. The rock quality is mostly (and surprisingly) good, the climbing mostly easy, but mostly at least 3rd class with a little low 5th that you would not want to blow. Leave the rope at home. There are a couple of moves in the first few hundred feet that could pass for 5.6, maybe, and you wouldn't want to blow these moves, for sure. But since you don't have a rope, I guess it's 4th class.

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