Ephemeral Spring: The Mendenhall Couloir on Mt. Morrison aka "Death Couloir"

"Anyone wanna go climb the Death Couloir?" I laughed as I envisioned myself asking that question. I was high up the Mendenhall Couloir on Mt.Laurel, viagra dosage staring across the Convict Lake drainage at the other Mendenhall Couloir on Mt. Morrison, illness aka the Death Couloir (DC).

Route Photo

I had read of the mythical ice that formed at its base, and its reputation for loose rock and deadly conditions. Somewhere in the gung-ho section of my cerebellum, a little voice accused me of being a wuss, climbing this moderate snow route under the excuse that at least i was getting excercise and bagging a summit. "Go climb the DC," said the little voice, "you can do it!" Hell no! I have run some risky business in my day, but going to solo a route called the Death Couloir was beyond stupid. So I told myself to be content with making it to my 29th birthday and leaving the DC to those with larger cajones. As I ran back to my car from the top of Mt. Laurel, I could swear that I saw a fat drip of ice at the base of the couloir, milky and inviting in the distance, promising to elevate my level of badassness forever should I decide to sack up and go for it, but common sense and a love for my life put this final temptation to rest.

Could it be?

I met my friend Shade back at the Stellar Brew coffee shop in mammoth for some lunch and to make plans for the afternoon's sport climbing session. His friend Allen was there, just back from a trip to climb Ama Dablam. When I informed them that I just got down from Mt. Lurel, Allen lamented that his partner had bailed on him that day for an attempt on the DC! I could feel the glory welling up my Khram. "Lets go climb it tomorrow," I said before I even realized what I was suggesting. Before I could retract my statement, Allen agreed. That afternoon we finalized our half-baked plan over a casual sport climbing session in the Owens River Gorge.

we're psyched!

The next morning I picked Allen up at his girlfriends house in Mammoth and we drove the 20 minutes south to the Convict Lake Trailhead. We started hiking around 530am, and after 1 1/2 hours and slightly botching the approach, we dropped into the correct drainage which leads to the Northwest face of Mt. Morrison. There it was, the ephemeral ice, looming closer and closer as we ascended the snow slope to its base.

Getting Closer...

I kept telling myself it was just an optical illusion, but the closer we got, the fatter it looked, and the realization that we were about to climb waterfall ice in the Sierras in late May took shape in my mind. Allen had mentioned that he was fairly new to ice climbing, so I volunteered to lead. We soloed a lower angle step to the lower left base of the flow and roped up. I had not climbed much ice this winter, and was slightly nervous about jumping on what looked like a long pitch or 2 in relatively warm conditions. But alpine glory quickly displaced any doubt, and I fired the 60 meters of WI4, placing 5 of the 6 screws I had in ice that varied from fat plastic to thin verglass.

me leading the ice pitch

I stretched the 70 meter rope to its end and found a marginal belay in the rock on the right side of the snow gully. The rock on Mt.Morrison is just as bad as rumors make it out to be. I equalized a cam behind a dubious block, to a stopper which I hammered into a small crack using the pick of my ice tool. I backed it up to a well sunken tool in hard snow and brought Allen up.

precarious at best

We unroped here and continued the roughly 2000 ft of snow climbing passing one more short thin step of WI3 until the culuoir ended on the summit ridge.

Allen soloing up the 2nd small ice step

Another 200 feet of scrambling up the heap of loose shale posing as Mt. Morrisons summit, and we stood on top of the entire shitpile. 5 hours from the car, no death blocks, no car sized falling boulders, and decently stiff snow. We had sent the Couloir part, while cheating the "Death." I gave Allen a quick lesson on executing the PullHarder pose and the standard photos were taken.

Alpine Standard

We descended the steep eastern snow slopes, which contained some fresh ski tracks and were back at the car by 1230, 7 hours round trip.

Allen needs to work on the pose...but its a good start!

I decided to push my luck that afternoon and headed over to the Bachar boulders to work on some projects and ended up hurting a pulley in my left hand. The injury has dashed my hopes of sending stuff in the valley before I leave for Peru, but I guess thats the way it goes.