Bloody Mountain

25 Jul 1999 - by Arun Mahajan

Bloody Mountain is the huge peak that is seen from Highway 395 a little north of Morrison. It is of a reddish hue with a ridge on the north-east side that adds to it's bulk. A narrow snow cuoloir with two prongs near it's top, snakes it's way up the peak and is visible as well from the highway. It was only at the last moment that I decided to climb Bloody and drove to the access road, planning to do it by the more conservative north-east ridge.

The walk in on the old mining road, called the Laurel Creek Trail by Secor went quickly enough till the point where the mining road veered sharply right to descent to the Laurel Lakes and a small trail forked off to climb the ridge in the direction of Laurel Mountain. Taking neither, I walked straight ahead till I was at the base of a few switchbacks that led to the base of the cuoloir.

Here, I had the option of heading up the slope on the left to the NE-ridge line, but the cuoloir looked very inviting and due to the foreshortening, of a smaller length, and the slope leading to the ridge looked like an awful scree slog, so I decided to do the cuoloir. The walk up to the cuoloir was very tedious. I tested the snow on the cuoloir with my boots, it was firm but not icy, so I started walking up. I had an axe but no crampons but the snow was pitted and featured and by making small switchbacks I made steady but slow progress. A couple of times I had to use my axe in an overhand swing and sometimes use the pick to jug myself up as the shaft wouldnt go in deep enough. On the right of the cuoloir are cliffs but on the left are class-3 rocks and this may provide a good escape route if the going on the cuoloir gets hairy. At about three quarters of the way up, there is a rock horn that splits the cuoloir. The right fork is shorter but steeper and the left fork is longer but of a lesser angle. I looked longingly at the steeper slope but caution prevailed and I stayed on the left fork which itself splits into two smaller forks due to another rock island in the middle. I stayed on the left fork and at one point took the refuge from the cuoloir to climb on the class-3 rock on the left as the snow was hard and icy near the top.

Finally, I topped off, glad to be off it, but still a little below the ridge line. Believing the summit to be the one on the right I traversed below the ridge line over some horribly loose rock till I reached my destination. Turns out that this is not the summit even though it gives the illusion of being so. So, I walked the ridge to the bump that is on the left of the cuoloir and that had the register on it. A popular peak, considering the number of entries this year, though I met none climbing it that day. I headed down by the north east ridge following a faint use trail. The ridge walk was very pleasant but I still had to encounter the shabby scree when I dropped down to meet the road again and some more brisk walking for little over an hour got me back to the car. It had been an eight and half hour day starting at 7:45 am. Five and half hours to summit, thirty minutes at the top and two and half hours to get back to the car.

Some notes:

Carry crampons and axe for the cuoloir. There is some rock fall in the cuoloir so a helmet will be good. To get to the peak, make a right on the Sherwin Creek Road on Highway 395, just south of Mammoth. On this road, take the second left (Road 4S86) which is the road that gets you almost to the base of the peak assuming that you have a high clearance vehicle. I only dared take my sedan a mile up and stopped, thus increasing the hiking distance.

Lastly, thanks are due to Joe Kelsey who provided me with useful information on Bloody Mountain after his climb of it this spring in a round trip time of only six hours!

Arun answers:

> At what elevation did you start hiking?

By my none-too-detailed Mammoth High Country topo map, I can say that it was 8500 ft, definitely below 9000. Elevation change up to the Laurel Lakes is very clement. This peak is best done in spring, with more snow on it. It was absolutely miserable on the scree, luckily I did not have a lot of it going up as I was mostly on the cuoloir.

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