I had already packed the car up, and was psyched to get in another mountain before the winter snows set it. I consulted my Big Tick List, looking for something interesting that I could solo, and settled on the north east gully of Laurel Mountain. The guidebook describes the routes as being "part canyoneering part mountain climbing". The gully ascends more than 3000 feet of 3rd class to low 5th class rock with only a 2 mile approach. Peter Croft rates the route at 5.2, but with only short sections of "difficult" climbing Perfect for a solo outing.
I took the long drive around, spent a night in my car near Bishop, and I was hiking into the mountain out of convict lake by 8 am. The approach hikes skirts the north shore of convict lake. A well maintained trail with beautiful views of Mt Morrison, and lovely fall colors.
|Mt. Morrison in the early morning|
|Climbing good rock in the gully|
|A sea of grey slabs|
At this point I "decided" (i.e. went the wrong way) to head left into another gully system that ultimately brought me the the east ridge. Although this was not the "correct" way, it ended up being fortuitous, as the route avoided the scree garbage on the upper 1/3 of the NE gully system, and resulted in 1/4 mile of exposed, 4th class ridge climbing. Mark Thomas calls this variation the "Wombat variation" (see below)
|NE Gully of Laurel Mountain, I took the variation in green|
|A cruxy section in the snowy gully on the "Wombat" variation|
|Looking down from the east ridge|
|A steep section of 4th class leading up to the false summit|
The remainder of the east ridge was easy 3rd class scrambling on loose blocks, which eventually transitioned to class 2 scree walking. I also spotted the scree slope I should have been climbing! I'm glad I ended up on the ridge, I think it made for a more enjoyable climb.
|Scree leading to the summit. The bully to the right of the snow is where I should have been|
|Class 2 section|
I was on the summit ~3 hours after starting, even with getting lost. Not bad for a wussy, out of shape guy. Since I had so much of the day left, I hung on top, surfed the internet (I had 3G on top!) and enjoyed the clear views around me.
|Red Slate Mountain - still holding lots of snow|
|Mammoth mountain in the foreground. Ritter in the back?|
|Starting down - Convict lake and Owens valley below|
|Mt Morrison (left) and Laurel Mountain (center/right)|
However the descent turned fairly heinous, with maybe 1500' of descent on loose garbage, steep scree. I ended up rolling my ankle several times which was fairly painful. This is the downside to approach shoes - no ankle support.
I reached the convict lake parking lot in about 2 hours. I sat in the sun, and enjoyed a beer. What a great day.
I had originally planned to go solo another mountain on Sunday, but my ankle was swollen and fairly painful. So I packed it up and headed up after an enjoyable diner at the Whoa Nellie Deli.
I hope I get in at least one more mountain trip this year, but with winter fast approaching , my November fairly booked, and my neglect of rock climbing this might be the last peak I summit in 2017.
|Veggie chilly - good way to the trip|