I recently returned from a fantastic two week peak bagging trip to the Sierra. While I try to sort through the massive amounts of content I created on that trip (photos, GPS tracks, and journal entries), I thought I’d do some housecleaning by revisiting a climb I did back in July. I posted the pictures a while ago but never got the chance to write about it here, so here we go!
Laurel and Bloody Mountains are situated on the eastern side of the Sierra just south of Mammoth Lakes. Their rock is among the oldest in the range, and the colors and textures found in their landscape differs from elsewhere in the Sierra. Together, they make for a great double-peak day, and that’s exactly what we intended to do a few years ago when we started up Laurel. Unfortunately, rather violent storms decided to build up and we barely got off of Laurel after tagging the summit, let alone start on Bloody, before the skies opened up.
A few weeks ago we decided to head back into Laurel Lakes where David and Thor would fish while Robin and I hiked up Bloody. This is the fourth time I’ve done the drive, and I have to say that it’s an adventure every time! It’s harder than the hike to the peak! Do not, I repeat, do NOT drive this road without a very capable 4×4 vehicle, an even more capable driver, and nerves of steel.
Interested in this hike? Get a map and GPS track here.
It starts off switchbacking though boulders before a brief break in an aspen grove. Just when you think things are going well, you emerge onto a narrow shelf road with sharp, loose rocks making up the foundation. A few tight switchbacks and steep climbing get you to the top. There are very few places to pass and depending on the size of your vehicle, the steep hairpin turns can be tricky! The Tundra and David handle the road like a champ, but it’s definitely on the larger end of vehicles that can successfully negotiate that road.
After making it in along the road, the hard part is over! Well, there is still plenty to do on foot, but the route is straightforward. The Laurel Pass trail starts from near the high point along the road, and is evident from the pullouts that people use to park. There are so few places to pull out along this road that a small ~3 space trailhead is a huge obvious gap. All spots were full, so we pulled forward another ~1/3 mile to the highest point along the road and a larger pullout where we left the vehicles. David and Thor hiked down some switchbacks to Laurel Lakes for photography and fishing, and Robin and I backtracked to the trailhead.
The trail to Laurel Pass climbs steadily but is well graded and easy. Once at the pass, turn left to climb Laurel and turn right to climb Bloody. The route up Bloody simply follows the ridge all the way to the summit. It is steep in spots, and the rock isn’t always of the best quality, but overall I found the route enjoyable. We spent a lot of time taking in the view to the south – Mt Baldwin, Morrison, and the surrounding lakes have some mind-boggling colors.
An alternate route to the summit of Bloody is to take an old mining road from the lakes below, following the couloir to the summit. It’s a popular climb in the snow, but since everything is so dry this year the steep loose rocky chute wasn’t an option. I would love to go in this way someday – apparently the old mining ruins on the side of the peak are fascinating.
For simplicity and time, we descended the same route we came up, though it looks like there are a few options to make a loop. The photo captions below contain detailed route pics and info.