The Sierra Nevada hasn't received a major dump to officially kick off the 2011-2012 ski season yet, but you wouldn't know it from the unreal mid-winter conditions currently found in the Mammoth Lakes area classic, Bloody Couloir. As one of the 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America Bloody Couloir is a prominent ski line in a range that holds uncountable quality ski descents. It's also arguably one of the best early season ski descents in the Sierra. Full-On Pow Skiing in Bloody Couloir Nov. 9th 2011 | 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America | Unofficial Networks

Full-On Pow Skiing in Bloody Couloir Nov. 9th 2011 | 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America

Full-On Pow Skiing in Bloody Couloir Nov. 9th 2011 | 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America

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Full-On Pow Skiing in Bloody Couloir Nov. 9th 2011 | 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America

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The Sierra Nevada hasn’t received a major dump to officially kick off the 2011-2012 ski season yet, but you wouldn’t know it from the unreal mid-winter conditions currently found in the Mammoth Lakes area classic, Bloody Couloir. As one of the 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America Bloody Couloir is a prominent ski line in a range that holds uncountable quality ski descents. It’s also arguably one of the best early season ski descents in the Sierra.

After making a recent trip to the Rock Creek region for a little early season skiing off Pipsqueak Spire it was clear Bloody was holding old snow from our monumental winter last season, and would probably be a pretty enjoyable run soon after a new layer of fresh snow fell.

I also knew that a local Tahoe friend, a bonafide legend in terms of Sierra Nevada backcountry skiing had already laid tracks down the infamous line after the first storm of the season in early October. This piece of knowledge combined with the small disturbance that hit the Sierra last weekend meant chances were good that it would still be holding good snow, and make for a potentially amazing early season day out in the High Sierra this week before the next storm rolled through.

The trick with Bloody, which also holds a few other exceptional lines beyond the main couloir proper, is timing. Not so much in terms of catching it for perfect snow quality, which is always relevant, but more in terms of nailing the most user-friendly approach. Without the help of a snowmobile or a high clearance 4wd vehicle to drive up the bumpy access road you’re looking at about 6.5 miles from the starting point at 7,180 feet to the top of Bloody Mountain at 12,522 feet. The line itself runs about 2600 vertical feet and is roughly in the low to mid forty degree range at its steepest part. While I’ve never used a snowmobile for the approach I have hiked the full distance, which is totally doable, but nowhere near as fun as driving the road up to Laurel Lakes cutting your approach down to about 3,000 vertical feet.

I’m not sure how this next storm will effect the access road as it sits at present, but  for this most recent mission we were able to drive almost 5 miles up the road with a high clearance Toyota Tundra. Joined by a pretty cool combination of one Squaw’s best ski patrollers, Tom Waclo, and one Alpine Meadows best patrollers, Duncan Sisson, the three of us left Tahoe at the casual hour of about 5:30 a.m. to start our adventure.

The top of the Bloody Couloir can be seen at roughly 11 o'clock.

We were all pretty fired up hoping that we’d be able to drive most of the access road and hopefully find quality snow in the Bloody Couloir. Not only were our expectations met, they were dramatically exceeded. On a side note, it was pretty cool to rap with Tom and Duncan about some of the changes going on with the historic merger of Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. All I gotta say about that is there are some very exciting potential developments on tap for us Squaw/Alpine skiers this season, and looking ahead, so long as the whole business transaction part of things pans out.

Even though there’s not that much snow in our greater area right now it was both interesting and beautiful to catch snow caked into the 11’s of Job’s sub peak with sunrise on the drive down.

After negotiating the access road, and walking just a few minutes from the car, it was time to skin. We were actually able to skin a good ways up into the couloir before changing over into crampon mode. Truth be told, although the snow quality in Bloody was exceptional the lower reaches of the couloir are still very thin. I’ve skied this line in previous seasons, early, but this time it was evident that the very lower reaches were more shark infested and warranted us to ski these stretches gingerly.

Skinning and booting conditions were pretty bomber, made a bit easier from some old tracks left by a few previous takers.

But as we got higher in to the couloir and were fully breaking trail things slowed down as it was deep, really deep in spots. In fact, we opted to continue climbers left out of the couloir and onto the adjacent ridge since there was zero evidence of anyone having gone up or skied down Bloody Couloir proper, my ice axe placement at the base of the couloir went all the way up to my elbow, and at that point in time it seemed like our most efficient way up was using the ridge.

It was still deep and slow breaking trail with the ridge option, but eventually we made it back into the sun,

and were treated to the views you can only find in the High Sierra. The Minarets, Mount Ritter, and Banner Peak,

and my favorite view from the top of Bloody, one of the raddest peaks and lines in the whole Sierra Nevada, Red Slate Mountain and its glorious North Couloir.

A couple of summit shots were taken as we collected ourselves and got ready to drop in.

Since Duncan and I had already skied Bloody in the past, and it was Tom’s first time, he got the nod for first tracks, and completely sent it. 

One quick shot of beta before the following shots of ridiculous early season powder follow, the old snow in the top of the Bloody Couloir proper sitting underneath the new snow was reasonable firm. If anyone’s planning to head down there in the near future just take caution that an uncontrolled turn that makes contact with this old snow could be an unwelcome one. Just be cautious. It wasn’t really that difficult to stray away from these spots and lock into bottomless powder turns, and know that there may be some of this old snow found in similar lines as the season progresses.

After Tom slayed the top portion of the couloir I got second dibs. Here’s a nice POV shot showcasing the aesthetics of the top corridor along with the exceptional snow conditions.

Duncan dropped in third and laid into the line like it was his 100th day of the season.

The rest our run was almost dreamlike it was that good. I’m fully claiming the two face-shots I got, and beyond the overall stoke and laughing the three of shared skiing down, dumbfounded by how perfect the conditions were, it was pretty amazing to watch these two Alpine and Squaw patrollers kick up spray after spay of powder in pure mid-season form.

Here’s a few choice shots of Tom,

and a couple of Duncan.

Back at the car the three of us were about as fired up as we could possibly be! We relished in what we were just able to experience for the past several hours, packed up the gear, and let the glorious Sierra sunset do its thing as we started the bumpy ride out to 395 and back home to Tahoe.

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