November 26-27, 2013
After a failed attempt of Bloody and Laurel the previous year at a similar time of year, Tommey and I decided to give it another go, this time settling on a more efficient-looking route. We planned to start at Convict Lake (7,600 ft), taking a trail for 0.8 miles along the lake's northwest side, then ascending a ridge that bordered the northwest side of Convict Lake. Once on the ridge, we would follow it southwest to the summit of Laurel, then drop down southwest to the Bloody-Laurel Saddle (10,770 ft). From there, we would ascend Bloody's class 1-2 northeast Ridge to the summit. We planned to do this climb as an overnighter, camping either at the Bloody-Laurel Saddle, or if we were up to it, on the summit of Bloody itself. Our return route from Bloody would involve ascending back up and over Laurel and retracing our steps to Convict Lake. (see map)
|Peak||Elevation||Topographic Prominence||Summit Coordinates (lat/lon)|
|Laurel Mountain||11,843 ft||1,050 ft||37.580263, -118.891296|
|Bloody Mountain||12,552 ft||1,234 ft||37.560537, -118.906954|
Getting to the trailhead: From Bishop, travel 34 miles on US-395 N to a turnoff for Convict Lake (marked by a sign). Turn left and travel 2 miles to a parking lot on the right.
Trailhead coordinates (lat/lon): 37.595085, -118.852514
Tommey and I departed from the trailhead on Saturday morning at 8:30 am, a late start. With this being our first winter-style hike of the year, we had taken longer than usual that morning to pack all our food and gear. In the end, both of our packs weighed approximately 45 lbs. This included items such as snowshoes, a 3-person 4-season tent, a snow shovel, and for Tommey- a container of Kimchi.
alpenglow on Mt. Morrison viewed from Convict Lake Trailhead
Laurel Mountain reflected in Convict Lake
views along Convict Lake
It wasn't long before we left the lakeside and began climbing northwest up towards the ridge (aiming for a saddle which I will refer to as "Saddle 9,100 ft"). The first third of the slope up to Saddle 9,100 ft contained semi-sandy terrain dotted with low lying desert shrubs. The remaining slope was composed of much loose scree, which shifted downwards with every step we took.
views from ascent
view of the White Mountains
From Saddle 9,100 ft, we turned left and followed the ridge southwestward. A large hump on the ridge (which I will refer to as "Point 9,830 ft") appeared ahead of us. Even though it looked close, getting up and over this hump with the icy rocks and heavy packs would take us about an hour to do.
The first half of climbing up to Point 9,830 ft was a straightforward walk-up with a few spots of very easy scrambling. Starting from ~9,300 ft, the bushwhacking and scrambling suddenly began to increase. The terrain was a mixture of shoulder-high chaparral and icy class 3 rock. More than once did we come to a sudden halt as our oversized packs became snagged up in the brush. Thankfully, this terrain did'nt last long, and beginning at ~9,600 ft we were able to locate a slight gully towards the left which contained smoother climbing with minimal bushwhacking.
Laurel Mountain looks a little closer
heading up towards Point 9,830 ft
Convict Lake from Point 9,830 ft
Crowley Lake and White Mountains
From Point 9,830 ft, the rest of the route up to Laurel was visible, looking pretty straightforward. All we had to do now was follow the soft ridge to the base of Laurel's Northwest Slope, the head up the slope.
amazing views from soft ridge
Laurel's Northwest Slope turned out not to be as pleasant as it looked. Underneath all the soft powdery snow were fields of loose scree, and I found myself several times slipping and falling on terrain that I could not see.
About a hundred feet below the summit, I decided to climb onto Laurel's Northeast Ridge to see if the terrain was better. And Wala! It was! Should've thought of this earlier.
Laurel's Northeast Ridge also contained magnificent views southeastward towards the ridge containing Mt. Morrison and Mt. Baldwin.
We arrived at Laurel's summit at 4:45 am. Even though the sun had dipped behind a layer of clouds making the surrounding terrain look grayish, the views were still pretty good. The summit register was a few crumpled scraps of paper which took a little patience to access since they were stuffed inside the narrow opening of a Gatorade bottle.
From Laurel, we descended its Southwest Slope towards Bloody-Laurel Saddle. This side of Laurel also contained a jumble of loose scree and talus, and we gradually made our way down. About halfway through the descent, we were treated to a spectacular red sunset.
We arrived at Bloody-Laurel Saddle sometime around twilight. The area was large and flat, a perfect spot to camp. We began setting up camp immediately, with Tommey setting up the tent while I began digging a foundation. Within 15 minutes, we were sitting in our sleeping bags cooking dinner.
Note: I recommend Bloody-Laurel Saddle purely as a winter campsite when there is a lot of snow. This is due to two reasons: First, the terrain is composed of sharp bits of scree which would uncomfortable to sleep on. Second, the area is well away from any reliable water source when there is no snow to melt.
With the long night ahead, we were able to get ample rest, and wake up in the morning feeling refreshed. As the sky began to lighten up, I pocked my head out of the tent too see that the sky was gray and overcast. The air was very calm with zero wind. We slowly crawled out of the tent and put on snowshoes, looking up at Bloody's Southwest Ridge.
The Southwest Ridge overall turned out to be a highly fun and enjoyable ascent. A few hundred feet from camp, the snow gave way to the same kind of loose scree that we had encountered on Laurel the previous day. We took off our snowshoes and would not need them for the rest of the ascent. This scree lasted for a few hundred more feet, and then gave way to semi-solid metamorphic rock which would last for the remaining distance to the summit. The ridge ascended gradually with slight undulations. It was like being on a giant staircase.
We arrived at the summit of Bloody at around 9:30 am, having taken approximately two hours to ascend from camp. After signing the register and eating a quick snack, we headed back down the ridge.
oldest register entry
As we descended, the sun finally broke through the clouds, bathing the surrounding mountains in glistening light.
looking southeast from camp
As we were breaking camp, Tommey mentioned that he was not in the mood to climb back up and over laurel, and suggested an alternate route back to the trailhead. His idea was to descend west to intersect the Laurel Creek Truck Trail and follow it down to Hwy 395. From there, we would walk along the road to Convict Lake, hopefully being able to hitch a ride along the way.
Since Tommey was pretty adamant about the idea, I decided to go with it too, not wanting to split up. So we put on our snowshoes and slogged down from the saddle, picking up an indent in the snow that indicated a trail was beneath us. According to the map, this trail would soon meet up with the truck trail, so we followed it downward.
looking west from Bloody-Laurel Saddle
views from descent
After intersecting the Laurel Creek Truck Trail, we followed it 4.4 miles to an intersection with Sherwin Creek Road. While the truck trail was definitely only 4WD accessible, Sherwin Creek Road was well graded and easily 2WD accessible. Tommey dropped his pack at the intersection, saying that he will drive back in to get it once we were back at the car. I was a bit reluctant to drop my pack at first due to what looked like a creek crossing ahead, but promptly did so as I saw the creek running under the road. It was a relief to have the weight off our backs.
Laurel Creek Truck Trail
last view of Bloody
Upon reaching Hwy 395 at 3:15 pm, we began attempting to hitchhike, sticking our thumbs up at each passing vehicle. It wasn't long before a truck pulled over, and we found ourselves back at Convict Lake a few moments after.
6,350 ft gain/loss
Laurel Mountain, Bloody Mountain (Bloody mountain has an elevation of 12,552 ft. Keep in mind that this forecast is for 11,247 ft)
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