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North Peak via North Couloir - Vertical Nomads

North Peak via North Couloir

North Peak via North Couloir

AI2, Ice, Alpine, 800 ft, 6 pitches, Grade III
Sierra Nevada/ Tuolumne County, California
12,248 ft (3,733 m)


Those who travel to mountain-tops are half in love with themselves and half in love with oblivion.
~ Robert Macfarlane


Scott climbing up the North Couloir

The Climb

The hot summer weather had Scott and I yearning for simpler days when it is cold in the mountains and you climb ice! The North Face of North Peak provided such an opportunity and as soon as the conditions allowed we were out to climb it. Like true weekend warriors we drove 8 hours on a Friday night through insane SoCal traffic and bivied in the car at a spot that shall not be revealed. We started on Saturday (10/13/2018) morning at about 5:30 am from Saddlebag Lake trailhead. The approach is described with great details in Chris McNamara’s guidebook High Sierra Climbing. The approach was supposed to be pretty easy and straightforward but during the hike, we realized that the summer had made us weak. The light packs, light approach shoes, and less metal which you carry for summer climbing trips made boots and packs with crampons and ice tools strapped on a little heavier. This combined with only 3 hours of sleep made our approach a little longer than we had anticipated. We hiked past, beautiful high country, frozen lakes, alpine meadows and were greeted by High Sierra alpenglow which made the North Face of North Peak even more striking and inviting.

Soon we had made it to the base of the couloir (North Couloir #3) and started climbing. I started us out by leading the fun, schrund pitch after which Scott, “Ueli Steaked” past the rest of the route! The ice in the couloir is in perfect condition! Each swing and crampon placement provided music to the ears during our winter dance. All ice screws placements felt bomber and screws could be placed almost anywhere on the route. Most of the couloir has beautiful blue ice covered in a dusting of snow giving it a true alpine feel. While inspecting the couloir from a distance we did not see any signs of an avalanche, wet slide or any rock debris. While in the couloir we only experienced stable rock and plastic ice. The cold has kept everything stitched together nicely. I would recommend every Sierra climber to GET AFTER IT before the couloir gets buried under snow! 

In no time we made it to the top of the ice section, where we rested and ate and hydrated. This is when we saw a second party starting the climb. From the top of the ice couloir, we climbed on easy rock which brought us to the summit ridge. Here we dropped our packs and tagged the summit. Since we still had a lot of daylight left, the thought of climbing the North Ridge of Mt Conness for a classic Sierra link up did cross our mind but we were a little too tired to entertain that notion and decided to head down instead.


Technical Gear

A single set of Black Diamond Camelots C4s #.5 – #3
A single set of Black Diamond Stoppers
6 Ice Screws
70 m Rope (8.2 mm)
5 Alpine draws



The North Face of North Peak covered in High Sierra alpenglow

Stoked to get on the ice


Leading the bergschrund pitch, considered the crux of the route


Scott “Ueli Steaking” his way up!!!


Resting in the sun, atop the ice couloir


Soloing up the rock section


A little after this point, I could no longer climb any higher


Scott’s Verdict

“The climbing ice and rock on this route are really fun! The views are fantastic but the descent f#@%ing sucks!”




                                                                         Scott climbing up the North Couloir



Extreme dishwashing on top of North Peak at 12,248 ft (3,733 m)


Summit selfie!


2 thoughts on “North Peak via North Couloir

  • October 20, 2018 at 2:20 am

    wow. amazing climb. I’m very interested in doing ice climbing. do you guys ever treck up Baldy Bowl above Rancho Cucamonga when theres snow and ice?

  • November 6, 2018 at 9:12 am

    I wanna go ice climbing…! Didn’t realize there is a season to it, but I would guess multiple feet of snow would make ice climbing much harder.


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