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Bloody Couloir, CA

3/27/24
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Posted by UpperSkagit_JC on 3/29/24 5:01pm

Still trying to find my flow in writing a good TR....thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading.

 

After checking and re-checking the forecast for Laurel Creek drainage in the Eastern Sierra, we realized that the forecasted blizzard would arrive a lot sooner than previously expected. 

On the Wednesday, we woke at 5 am and arrived at the TH for Laurel Creek by 6 am, leaving the car by 630 am or sunrise-ish. We were able to drive to about 1/2 mile from the TH before road snow became too deep for the Rav4 to overcome. The temperatures were the warmest all week, hovering close to freezing.

We travelled casually up a drainage, realizing that we had made a route error. We were following consistent patches of snow, but realized that the proper trail to the couloir was on the drainage climber's right at the fork. Up and over the moraine with a little bit of pow split skiing to the correct trail, and we were on our way. Much of the trail was hard pack with northwesterly aspect- only a few times did we have to take our skis off and walk. Most times, we gingerly walked over sage and cobbles with our skis on, unwilling to lose time in the race against an incoming storm.

When we reached a wide chute that was the same aspect as Bloody, we assumed it was representative of the couloir's conditions. In a long debate on whether we should bail (since the conditions seem verrrrrry firm), we decide to make a solid attempt but opt to boot up the couloir instead of approach the entrance of an easterly ridge. This way, we could at least ski some of the couloir...and certainly nothing was bound to slide down atop us given how firm everything was....

 

The road/trail ends leaving ~2 miles to the base of the couloir up a creek drainage. To travel up this creek, we switched to an easterly aspect and was pleasantly surprised at the 1 foot of fresh, cold snow. As we continued upwards (the snow did not bond well to the firm surface so skinning was not as efficient), we realized that Bloody was protected by immense walls, forcing snow drift to collect in and below the couloir. To our surprise, the snow was a mix between breakable wind slab, wind buff, cold snow, snow drift. After crossing two small lakes (the upper one starting to melt out a bit), we skinned up nearly 80% of the couloir. It was steep, but it was feasible (and incredible).

In raging winds pushing snow up the couloir and all around us, we continue to push for the top. The skinning is slow-going as we slowly assess which wind slabs to avoid. After reaching the Fin that divides two legs of the couloir, we decide to boot to the top and Higley kicks steps. He sinks to his knees as he boots, and tries to avoid the obvious wind affected snow in the center of the couloir by booting near the walls. As we near 15 feet from the top, Higley punches through to the moat between couloir snow and rock walls, and we immediately decide that it was time to descend. The storm was obviously coming in (~2 pm) and hurriedly navigating the short pitch wasn't worth potentially falling into a deep hole.

This is when I realized that I lost one of my splitboard bindings to my board on the approach, and that my only option was to split ski (without skins) down Bloody. I had failed to maintain redundacy when attaching the bindings to the outside of my backpack- a lesson freshly learned. I'm OK at split skiing, but it isn't my primary method of travel especially down a 35-40 degree couloir.

So, while yelling out lyrics to the first song in my head to keep my nerves calm, I managed to connect turns down most of the way until, behold! my binding just barely peeking out of snow. I was able to snowboard the alluvial fan at the base of Bloody with Higley. The rest of the exit was a mandatory split ski as it is either flat or shallowly pitched. The strong winds were at our backs, propelling us forwards on soft, corn-like snow back. I think this route would be a little frustrating for a snowboarder carrying only a solid board.

We made it back in time to the car before the blizzard engulfed the drainage behind us with (what felt like) 40 mph winds by 4 pm. Another trip of incredible timing and Lady Luck smiling down on us...

 

Thanks for reading and I wish you well on your next adventure.

 

x J

 

Spring skiing shenanigans

IMG_20240327_081348

Skinning to the Fin of Bloody

IMG_20240327_125032

Excellent conditions for skiing!

IMG_20240327_135925

Beautiful!  Great luck with the binding.


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bloody-couloir-ca
UpperSkagit_JC
2024-03-30 00:01:07