Saturday, September 17, 2011
Mt. Gilbert, Northeast Couloir
Jon & Nick
Jon & Nick (as noted)
After arriving back from Europe the prior day (and Jon separately also arriving from Spain the prior day), Jon and I headed down to Bishop to once again give a go at the North Couloir on Mt. Gilbert (13,106 ft.). Last year we headed down much latter in the alpine ice season, and after a foot of snow fell, avalanche conditions were unsafe and lead to the Triple Skunk on each of the North Couloir on North Peak, the North Couloir on Mt. Gilbert and the Harrington Couloir on Mt. Thompson.
Fortunately, this year we headed back earlier in the season without snow on the approach and the weather was great. We ended up climbing the Northeast Couloir as it was more sustained without a burnt-out middle section, but now we both want to go back and climb the North Couloir proper. I guess we still have time this season!
Unlike the Triple Skunk last year, the approach was entirely dry well up onto the glacier just below Mt. Gilbert. Therefore, the approach was much faster (by several hours) and we made good time.
After an alpine start from the South Lake parking lot, we were treated to great views of the sunrise over the White Mountains to the East. Photo: Nick
The approach was smooth and fast moving, although the temperatures stayed pretty darn cold. We hit first light just as we were heading up into the Gilbert/Thompson basin. Here I get a first look at the North Couloir (to the right of the summit) and the Northeast Couloir (to the left of the summit). Photo: Jon
Jon looking off towards Gilbert, with Mount Thompson (13,494 ft.) light up in the distance by the early morning alpenglow. Photo: Nick
A close of shot of Mount Gilbert. We got out on the glacier and sat for about 30 minutes trying to decide which couloir to climb. Based on the approach and glacier consistency, it appeared both were consolidated to unconsolidated neve. Both also appeared to be essentially the same steepness, although the true North Couloir has a fun 5.6 rock section at the end that we were looking forward to climbing. Photo: Nick
Similar to recent years, the middle section of the North Couloir was burnt-out and appeared to be mixed climbing. We debated just heading up and giving it ago, and if we couldn’t get through we would rap and head up the Northeast Couloir. However, in light of the Triple Skunk last year, we just wanted to really be successful this time and climb a full couloir and summit. In light of that, we decided to go with the Northeast Couloir was it was sustained to the top.
Jon and I geared up and just soloed up the two independent ramps to the base of the unified couloir proper. Here Jon heads up towards the right channel. Photo: Nick
Jon higher up on the right channel. Photo: Nick
I headed over to the left channel – looking up. Photo: Nick
Nick working up the left channel to meet up with Jon at the base of the couloir proper. Photo: Nick
The neve was taking picks and kicks very easily and we could move up this terrain very quickly. Given we had lugged the rope and an alpine rack with us all the way, we decided to rope up and place some pro (although Jon and I both felt pretty comfortable on this terrain). We ended up simul-climbing up to the summit – it was a really great, fun climb!
Nick leading up the lower portion of the couloir. Photo: Jon
Looking down the lower portion at Jon at the intersection of the two channels. Photo: Nick
The upper portion got real fun as it narrowed and started to get a little steeper (and the neve got harder for better kick placements). Nick leading up in the distance. Photo: Jon
I was really pumped Jon let me lead the climb as he has much more alpine/ice experience than me and he knew I was trying to build my “chops” so to speak a little more and that this would be a fun/easy climb for me to run-out and move up quickly and confidentiality. So a special thanks to Jon again for giving me the lead on this one!
The tools planted higher up on the climb. It got a little softer here, but as you rounded the corner the neve hardened a bit. Photo: Nick
Once I got the full rope length we started simul-climbing. Jon working up the lower portion, looking down and standing in some of the feet chops from where I put some pro in the wall. Photo: Jon
There was a bit of a cornice up top, but you could easily go around it to the right. Nick leading the final push. Photo: Jon
Jon climbing up the last section. Photo: Nick
Looking up to the final belay ledge. Photo: Jon
Jon topping out. Photo: Nick
At the top, it was a second class scramble to the summit. The views were incredible – here I am looking off to the Palisades in the distance. Photo: Jon
Nick hanging out with South Lake way off in the distance. The views were incredible! Photo: Jon
Chilling at the top of the couloir looking down. Photo: Nick
Jon at the summit of Mt. Gilbert, with Mt. Thompson off in the distance. Photo: Nick
My altitude reading at the top of Gilbert. Was a little off. Photo: Nick
The descent from Gilbert was dry, but essentially four hours of walking down tallus and scree for 4,000 ft. Pretty tiring given we both flew for about 20+ hours less than 24 hours prior. Photo: Nick
We went down to Treasure Lakes immediate left of Jon in this picture, thinking that was the “notch” from the Secor guide. It is not
. Do not go that way – it is sketchy down climbing. Keep going further on the ridge until right before that snow patch and then turn left there. It is a screen field from that point you can work down. Photo: Nick
Treasure Lakes area – absolutely beautiful. Photo: Nick
Unfortunately, it was coupled with endless tallus fields! Jon works a path through. Photo: Nick
We finally hit the river and trail and knew we were home free. Photo: Nick
Interestingly, the South Lake parking lot was packed the night before, but we did not see another set of climbers or hikers the entire day until we got close back to the trail and there were a number of day-hikers and fishermen out. Up at the top of Gilbert, it had just been so quiet and desolate as far as you could see. Photo: Jon
A great day out – but now I want to go back and work through that mixed section of the actual North Couloir!
We headed to Who Nelli Deli and up to Tioga Pass, for Matthes Crest on Sunday.