There are sections of the upper route that reportedly retain ice into late season and this certainly will be a mixed climb in winter conditions if approached when George Creek is open . The approach and descent also make the climb a minimal 14 hour effort from both Wallace Lake or the George Creek Basin. There is a steep 1200 foot drop from Vacation "pass" then a 400 foot climb to reach the base of the route. The first pitch (5.4) is followed by a long arete traverse (broadbrush at class 4) to the final pitches to the summit.
If done from George Creek, follow the left hand side of the creek comming down from lake 11,200', staying about 300' above the creek until the 10,600' level. There are good camping spots here.
Kelly Maas adds:
I think it was at least class 4. Harder variations are certainly possible. A very nice climb.
Christopher Jain adds:
There is a trip report and discussion regarding the rating of Mt. Carl Heller's East Ridge in the China Lake Mountain Rescue Group's June 2001 newsletter on the web at: http://www.ridgenet.net/~cburge/tp6.01.html
Craig A. Clarence adds:
In May 2000, I backed off this route about half way up after encountering some exposed class 5 sections. A 5.5 rating sounds about right, although it might have seemed harder at the time as I was climbing in plastic boots and most of the route was covered in couple of inches of new snow...
Ron Hudson adds:
Jim Curl, Kelly Maas, Bob Suzuki, and I did it last summer; snowless conditions. We didn't use the rope we brought. There were exposed places and a couple moves that might be low 5th class but we felt it was not a 5th class climb. Class 3-4 rating seems appropriate. It took us less than three hours for the ridge climb, and two of us also did Barnard the same day.