Skiing The Bloody Couloir On Bloody Mountain In California’s Eastern Sierra
Location: Bloody Couloir, Bloody Mountain, Eastern Sierra, California
Starting Point: Laurel Lakes Road – 7300′
Distance: 10.75 miles
Time: 6-9 hours
Top Elevation: Bloody Mountain – 12,544′
USGS Maps: Bloody Mountain
Guidebook: Backcountry Skiing California’s Eastern Sierra by Dan Mingori and Nate Greenberg
When I asked a Tahoe friend what ski lines I should ski in the Eastern Sierra, he immediately blurted out the Bloody Couloir. So I added it to my bucket list and started doing a bit of research on this classic couloir.
In Lou Dawson’s Wild Snow: A Historical Guide to North American Ski Mountaineering, he writes that the Bloody Couloir is “the local test piece for extreme skiing.” Add in the fact that Davenport added the Bloody Couloir to his list of the 50 Classic Ski Descents In North America and you have a ski line that deserves respect. It’s kind of a must ski if you’re into skiing, right?
As you drive south on CA-395, the Bloody Couloir is visible for miles. This prominent 45-degree, 2500′, north facing couloir is relatively easy to access depending on the time of year. After a monster winter, we turned onto Sherwin Creek Road and rumbled toward the Laurel Lakes Road. This was the end of the line for us. Later in the season, a rocky and narrow 4×4 road heads all the way to Laurel Lakes near the base of the Bloody Couloir. For those late season approaches it’s the perfect pedal to peak to ski adventure.
For us, we parked at 7300′ at the start of Laurel Lakes Road. Then started walking in ski boots over dirt at first light. The route is simple and as we veered south-southeast to follow the drainage, the Bloody Couloir came into sight.
Our plan was to skin up the headwall at the end of the drainage (before Laurel Lakes) and then use crampons to climb the snow field on the NE face of Bloody Mountain. Then we would follow the Ridgeline to the summit of Bloody Mountain at 12,544′.
As we came within striking distance of the booter, another group of skiers caught up to us. Funnily enough, it was a friend of mine from Jackson. What are the odds that you’d run into a friend from a different state while en route to a classic couloir in the Eastern Sierra? Pretty good in the ski mountaineering community. Got to love the mountains.
They had a similar plan to approach the couloir as us and soon left us in the dust. We kept up our slow and steady pace and soon found ourselves at the summit of Bloody Mountain. The views were extraordinary. After a quick break, we transitioned to ski mode and cruised west from the summit to the top of the Bloody Couloir.
Based on a few wind formations at the top, we didn’t expect the snow to be great. As we began skiing the Bloody Couloir, we were pleasantly surprised with the snow and the terrain. The Couloir is big enough (several cat tracks at the narrowest point) for easy, steep turns. We skied and regrouped in safe zones a couple of times.
The couloir opens up on the apron and the right conditions allowed for large, ripping turns to about 10,200′. At the bottom of the line, a group of 3 was gawking up at the couloir about ready to start bootpacking it. We chatted a bit and then decided to head on down the mountain and back to the van.
We essentially followed our uptrack back down the valley and then linked patches of snow to within 300 meters of the van. A short dirt walk later and we were drying out in the boiling California sun.
Skiing Bloody Couloir took us 7.25 hours. We covered 5000′ and 10.75 miles. The Bloody Couloir is a classic ski descent for good reasons – easy access, steep skiing, and easy to see.
See our route for skiing the Bloody Couloir on Bloody Mountain in California’s Eastern Sierra:
Here are additional photos from skiing the Bloody Couloir on Bloody Mountain in California’s Eastern Sierra:
This trip report from skiing the Bloody Couloir on Bloody Mountain in California’s Eastern Sierra is from April 25, 2017.