Bloody Bike & Ski — Page 4

Near Bloody Mountain

Off-Route Adventures

As dawn breaks I am headed up the western side of Laurel Creek Drainage, trying to quickly get on snow rather than hike up the road to the east.

Despite the fact that a road leads all the way to base of Bloody Couloir, it is not impossible to get lost in this area. The drainage curves in a giant "S", and Bloody Mountain's summit is not always visible. Ski tracks may lead in a variety of directions.

Camping in Laurel Creek Drainage Laurel Lakes Road Looking for the Road

Additionally, of course, there's always the possibility you might decide to abandon the road and strike off on your own. From my camp site I march due south through the bog, trying to keep my feet dry.

Once I reach the edge of the meadow, the snow is tantalizingly close—but the willows aren't going to allow any trespassing.

I bang around a bit in the thicket, get turned back, turned back again, and finally decide to cross the creek. That puts me on the western side of the drainage—opposite the road.

In general, it's not good to be on the opposite side of your route, but all roads lead to Rome, don't they?

The payoff is supposed to come right away as I step onto the snowfield that leads up the floor of the drainage.

I plan to snap on my crampons and hike right up the frozen spring corn. Instead, when I step on the snow, it's just absolute fracking¹ mush, bottomless mank that I plunge waist-deep into, filling my ski boots with snow and willow-twigs.

Did I mention I left my climbing skins at camp? I'm not even going to attempt to explain the thought process that went into that decision. Suffice to say, sometimes I really, really annoy myself. Thirty minutes in, it looks like this hike is over. I'm wallowing in snow and willows with all the grace of a legless gazelle.

My strength and determination succumb to sheer reality: I can't continue post-holing up snow this deep. The only possible way up is to abandon the snow, heading farther west toward bare talus. If all goes well, I'll gain enough altitude to reach harder snow, which I'll then be able to cross to rejoin the road and get back on route.

It's always a bad sign when talus is better than snow. But, talus it is—and finally, I'm making some upward progress. I pass ancient rusted cans and pipe sections—remnants, no doubt, of miners past. That, at least, explains who built the road. But where is the mine, I wonder?

By skirting the edge of the snowfield, I am able to top a small saddle roughly 500 vertical feet above the meadow where I camped. The saddle is snowbound, but the snow is indeed harder here, enough so that I can trudge across it without falling to my waist. Instead, I plunge to my boot-tops with each step. But it's enough to let me cross the drainage and regain the road.

¹ homage to the best show on television — Battlestar Galactica

next: Up the Apron

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

Pray for snow.