Eastern Sierra - Bloody Couloir, Red Slate

This year would mark the third year in four years that I would make it out to the Eastern Sierra. Any time I have the opportunity to go, I go and this was to celebrate a buddy's re-entrance into adult life after graduating from grad school.

It was not the best year for snow, well anywhere, but in California in general. I recall one large 7' storm from January (or was it February) but that's all I could recall. As the Tetons were the only place to get snow, California got little, so we had to focus our efforts on North facing shots as the East to South shots were mostly dried up.

Our first line that we opted for was Bloody Couloir off of Bloody Mountain. If you are curious why it's called "Bloody" as I was, it's still TBD. Here's the entry from Wikipedia, "The origin of the name Bloody Mountain is unclear. Some hold it was named for the color of the rocks of the mountain, while others believe it was named for a bloody skirmish between the sheriff and escaped convicts in 1871."

At any rate, Bloody Couloir is a line part of the '50 Classics' and is a great line when you forget to bring your skins when you flew into California the day prior. It's roughly a 40-45 degree slope that mellows quickly, so it is a great line for day one!

Waking up in the morning we strapped our skis to our backs and started walking, and walked, and walked, and walked on a forest service road until we got to the base of the couloir, about 3 hours later. Finally hitting snow, still skis on back, we threw our crampons on and made semi-quick work of the couloir.

We initially thought we were dropping on time with the rising temperatures but realized that the top was going to be bombproof no matter what. The bottom 2/3s was good though. We finished the day off with a lovely 3 hour walk back to the truck. All in it took us roughly 8 hours car-to-car.

View from top of Bloody

After our long first day, we took a "break" on Tuesday and went climbing at Owens River Gorge in Bishop, then a proper rest day when we learned it was to snow in the Mammoth area on Wednesday. It was good we did because it gave me the opportunity to grab my skins so we could head to Red Slate, a line I had tried before. This time we would camp to somewhat ensure we would get the line.

The striations reminded me of Choco Mountain from Mario Kart

On Thursday, we headed up fully geared up with 50 lbs packs (camp, ski, etc) at noon with a goal to hit a camp spot below Red Slate before the sun went fully down. 3.5 hours later on 5 miles of dry trail just about the whole way we landed at our camp spot. It looked different from what I remember, since there was no snow in the marsh area which was a blessing knowing we would not be sleeping on snow. Downside, still sleeping on a wet marsh. We soaked in the last of the sun for a couple hours then headed to bed, alarms set for a 5:00am start.

The next morning we woke up at 4:00am-ish, ate a quick breakfast and headed towards our objective. I slept decent except for the sounds of rock fall nearby and random animal noises that when you hear them you think the rock is going to come crashing into your tent and the animals are like right there. Anyway, we headed up to the couloir on patchy snow and ice, gliding our way on hard and firmed surfaces from the cold night before.

We got to the base of the couloir, made our transitions and started booting up. The snow in the couloir felt good. That storm the night before produced about 2" of fresh and was clearly wind loaded more and more as you moved up the couloir. Not enough for a cause for concern unless it had warmed up dramatically which we were concerned about.

The couloir went surprisingly quick and we hit the dreaded traverse to complete the late 200' or so. My buddy took a few steps out onto it, with hang fire above and cliffs below and kicked/punched all of the way through the pack. We both decided it was a little too sketch of a pack to keep going and the consequences were too high if something were to slide down onto us. To note, this part of the line has more of an Eastern aspect so the sun hits it immediately after sunrise. That said, we were a little bummed but I was also just riding the high of what we were about to ski.

The skiing was great until it wasn't. On the way up, there was an ice section that was dusted with 2" of new snow and I must have forgotten where that part was. As I was riding down I was gaining confidence in the great snow we had. Picking up more and more speed carving bigger turns, then I hit that ice section and next thing I know I'm tomahawking down the couloir. My guess is about 50' of a tumble I made and fortunately came to stop after throwing my ax into the snow, my snowboard edge into the snow, but damn, that was scary! Also fortunately, I was not in any real danger as I was just falling the fall line. Still sucks though! Re-composing myself I finished the line, waited for my buddy to make some tele-turns and was stoked to be out of there.

This line was definitely one to remember for a couple reasons but with the 5 mile (+ a 7 mile skin to the couloir) slog back to the car, I don't think I'll be going back to get that last 200'.

That's it for this trip though as we did not go up to do another ski line. In hindsight, maybe we should of but I was also exhausted and the other part of the trip was to spend it in sunny San Diego, which I did not want to cut short by any means. So there is that too. Anyway, until next time California, I really love you, wish you were closer to the Teets.

You Might Also Like