Mt Dade
(North Face Route)

17-18 Jul 2004 - by Rick Booth

Over the weekend of July 17 and 18 Arun Mahajan and I climbed what we think was the North Face Route on Mt Dade. Or maybe it was the Cats Ears Couloir. Not too sure what the hell it was.

Arun and I had traded emails trying to set up a trip. My work load had gone from zero after I got laid off to 16 hour days working as a consultant and manager of a friends start up. This left me with just the occasional weekend for trips so Arun graciously agreed to a two day trip to climb Mt Dade via the North Face Route.

The trip started off in poor style. Stopping for the night Friday near Tioga Pass was fine until it started raining about 1 AM which went on for a couple of hours. Saturday morning it was cloudy already and Arun and I tried to improve our optimism with breakfast at TPR. This was further improved by getting a permit in Mammoth Lakes for the Treasure Lakes out of the Mosquito Flat Trailhead which we expected to be filled.

At the crackling alpine start time of 12 noon Arun and I headed up Little Lakes Valley. Within an hour it was raining and within three hours we arrived at the Treasure Lakes area. The cutoff for the Treasure Lakes is just past Long Lake after about 2.5 miles and then runs through a boggy area jam packed with mosquitoes. We found a decent campsite near the outlet of the upper Treasure Lake where it flows down into the lower Treasure Lake. The camping in this area is extremely sparse. Looks flat on the map but it is nothing but boulders.

Sunday morning Arun and I were moving by 6:20 AM. We headed up towards the North Face. This required moving up along a rocky ridge thing which ended at the base of about 300 feet of brutal scree. Above the scree we headed towards the snow field at the base of the North Face and went up towards the 'schrund with our crampons and ice axe. Above the 'schrund a rock rib stuck down into the snow field and while it looked pretty easy above us to get to the summit ridge it looked like the topo in the Monier and Fiddler book indicated we should be somewhat further to the right so off we went. The snow ended in short order and we were in a class 3 to 4 gully that went all the way to the skyline. This was "Sierra loose", as usual, and treacherous. Arun found a somewhat easier path up the right hand side but it was still kind of nasty.

We arrived at the top of the couloir about four hours after leaving camp. We were blocked from going toward the summit area by a serious looking gendarme on the ridge heading to the south from our place at the top of the couloir. We thought this would be fourth class but it was about 5.7. This went up to the right about 60 feet to a rappel anchor which allowed us to rap down to a bunch of second to third class junk. We headed from there to the summit which was approximately 50 yards away arriving at the summit about 11:45. This was uneventful, however, the weather was starting to deteriorate. We perched on the summit blocks for ten minutes or so and then beat it down to the top of the Hour Glass Couloir. We sat and ate lunch there and enjoyed the non stop hail which was now falling. The Hour Glass Couloir had about fifteen minutes of snow left in it so it was mixed scree and snow heading down towards Treasure Lakes. Two hours after leaving the summit we were in camp at Treasure Lakes and a little over two hours after packing up we were back at the car.

Final notes:

The approach to Treasure Lakes is uneventful. The decent camping seems to be near the outlet from the upper Treasure Lake.

Route:

Well, that is a good question. No real idea if we were on the North Face Route. I would put my money on the Cats Ears Couloir as indicated in the Moynier reference. We used one 50 M rope and a small rack. We used maybe three pieces in the technical end of things but it isn't clear if we were on route. Bring sling to back up the junky rappel.

References:

Jim Curl adds:

A group of us climbed this route in June 1997. Kai Wiedman wrote it up (web reference). I'm pretty sure we were in the correct gully, along with a low angle rib to our right. We sure didn't do any rappelling either, so maybe you were on Cats Ears.

Arun Mahajan replies:

The photograph in Fiddler/Moynier (2nd ed) seems to have been taken looking at the north face of Mt Dade from the Abbott-Mills area whereas we came over to the base of the couloir from the left (Treasure Lakes) so perhaps that threw us off, one couloir to the right although it sure did not seem so when we were at the top of the 'schrund.

Getting over the schrund was interesting and a lot more vertical than the rest of the cuoloir but the snow was soft enough to punch through and get good steps.

The gendarme was a lot harder than we had planned for. We were wearing mountaineering boots since we had expected to get into no more than class-4 terrain (after all, both the editions of Fiddler/Moynier say class-4). We had two options to get over the harder initial section of the gendarme. A longer finger crack and a shorter awkward crack. Rick made climbing that shorter crack look easy in his mountaineering boots but I had a harder time. After the crack, we had a choice of going straight up to the top of this tower which would have been a longer climb of unknown rating (5th class for sure) but we went right and over via the right shoulder and there Rick found two slings around a solid looking boulder. We rapped from this point, backing up these slings and then we were at a notch that is between the gendarme and the summit. The summit was partly class-2 and partly class-3 from here. We later speculated that we could have gone straight up on the gendarme and continued on to the summit as a ridge climb.

Funny thing is, we were not the first people to have done this, er...variation, which we called the Booth-Mahajan In-directissima :-)


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